I first started The Language Mastery Show in 2009 as a short-term experiment. My initial goals were: ① To test drive the new medium of podcasting. ② To serve and empower independent language learners. ③ To have a good excuse to meet some of my linguistic heroes. Now eleven years later, I am happy to say that the podcast has exceeded all initial expectations. I’ve reached hundreds of thousands of people, interviewed 50 of the world’s best language learners, and befriended many in real life. Before kicking off Season 3 of The Language Mastery Show next week (launching on Friday, July 24, 2020), I wanted to go back and highlight some of my favorite lessons from the amazing guests that have shared their time and wisdom with us over the years, including polyglots, hyperpolyglots, linguists, professors, teachers, and passionate enthusiasts. I’ve learned countless lessons on how to make my own language learning more fun and effective along the way, and I hope you have gleaned some useful strategies, methods, and resources, too.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” Here are 7 essential principles you can follow to get fluent in Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, or any other target language. You can play with lots of different methods to find what works best for you, but violate these universal principles at your own perel!
A clear purpose is essential in any long-term undertaking like language learning. As Friedrich Nietzsche put it, “If you know the why, you can live any how.” But this WHY needn’t needn’t be something extrinsic or practical. In fact, intrinsic and emotional WHYs are often far more motivating and sustainable. All that matters is that your WHY motivates you day in and day out. Nobody else needs to know your real purpose.
My Japanese language learning journey has been anything but smooth or linear. Sure, I eventually figured out what works best for me, but it took a lot of trial and error. If I were to go back and start learning from scratch, I would certainly do things very differently. And I certainly have done exactly that as I’ve started other languages. At the same time, I am grateful for my missteps as they have proved to be one of the most effective teachers one could ever ask for. As Brazilian Jiu Jitsu legend Carlos Gracie, Jr. put it, “There is no losing . . . You either win or you learn.” I’d now like to share my “trail map” with you and point out my five biggest blunders so you can avoid them on your Japanese journey. You can then save your mistakes for practicing the language itself instead of “wasting” them on selecting your methods, materials, or beliefs.
Every so often we make seemingly small decisions that end up changing the course of our lives forever… For me, one such choice was taking an introductory linguistics class, which ultimately led to changing my major to Linguistics three years into an Industrial Design degree and launching me on a love affair that still consumes me to this day. I suspect that if you’re reading this blog, you too may be interested in linguistics, at least as far as it can aid your approach to mastering foreign languages. While a college degree in the subject can certainly help in this regard, the good news is that you can learn all the core principles you need from a small list of books, saving yourself four years and thousands of dollars! Read on to see the three linguistics books you need to understand how languages work, how they’re acquired, and how best to learn or teach them.
After two decades of learning foreign languages and one writing and podcasting about them, I’ve decided to quit this absurd undertaking. It turns out that the monolingual naysayers and forum trolls have been right all along. Life is short, so it’s high time I accept the truth about foreign languages, stop trying to empower independent learners, get a REAL job, and spend whatever leftover time I have on a more worthwhile habit. Read on to see the top three reasons I am throwing in the towel and shutting down Language Mastery.