We all have days when we’re unmotivated to put in the time. We all endure embarrassing linguistic and cultural gaffes that can make it hard to get back on the horse. And we all encounter learning plateaus when lots of effort leads to little perceived progress. All normal, but frustrating nonetheless. When such challenges inevitably arise, I find it helpful to read the accounts of experienced language learners who have faced (and overcome!) similar hurdles. While reading about language learning is certainly no substitute for actually learning a language, we can gain a great deal of vicarious wisdom from these linguistic “Yodas” who have journeyed before―and farther than―us. To that end, here are five of my favorite language learning blogs that can help keep you motivated through the ups and downs of language learning and provide useful tips to overcome the most common obstacles.
In today’s show, I talk with Kris Broholm of Actual Fluency, an excellent podcast and blog boasting an impressive number of interviews with brilliant language experts, zany polyglots, etc. (over 50 episodes as of writing), including many of my heroes and a few guests who have been on the Language Mastery Show. In his own words, Kris is not an expert on languages, linguistics, or learning, is not a great student, and is not gifted at language learning. While I think he is certainly being humble, I love how he shows that anyone can learn a language regardless of one’s level of introversion, aptitude for learning, location, age, etc. Unlike many who come to language learning as just a hobby, languages helped pull Kris out of severe depression and transform his life.
In today’s show, I chat with the man, the legend, the one and only, Italian polyglot Luca Lampariello. Over the past 20 years, Luca has reached a very high level in 9 foreign languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Swedish, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Mandarin Chinese. Luca is full useful tips and strategies, which he shares in depth at his blog, The Polyglot Dream. In the interview, we discuss: 1) How Luca got interested in languages. 2) Procedural vs declarative memory. 3) The weakness of rote memorization. 4) How to train your brain to learn better. 5) The myth that you have to be a genius to learn lots of languages. 6) The myth that you have to learn a lot of words to become fluent. 7) The myth that just reading or listening a lot will make you a better speaker. 8) The ability to translate and communicate are very different things. 9) Whether there is a proper order of acquisition for foreign language skills. 10) The myth that polyglots can speak all their languages perfectly. 11) The importance of maintaining previously learned languages as you take on another. 12) Luca’s daily language learning and maintenance routine. 13) The myth that intensity always equals speed. 14) Luca’s favorite tools for different stages of learning.
On August 28, 1963, The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., an American activist, humanitarian, and pastor gave what would become one of the most famous speeches of all time and a defining moment in the Civil Rights Movement. The masterful address, usually known simply as “I Have a Dream”, was delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in front hundreds of thousands of people who had joined the “March on Washington”. If you haven’t watched the speech in a while, please take a moment now to relive a bit of history and honor King’s memory. And for extra points, read the speech in 12 different languages.
Ellen Jovin is variously described as a “linguaphile,” a “language-crazed writer,” a “grammar freak,” a “former freelance writer,” and a professional trainer specializing in communication skills. On the first of July in 2009, Ellen began a impressive language and culture project called “Words & Worlds of New York” with the goal exploring the myriad languages spoken in The Big Apple.
Arkady Zilberman, creator of Language Bridge and a former simultaneous interpreter in Russia, addresses what is perhaps the greatest impediment to adult language learning success: cross-translation to and from one’s native language. Few learners are probably aware this sub-concious process goes on at all, but Arkady’s extensive experience learning languages, interpreting, and experimenting on himself and other learners have proven that it does indeed occur. As he points out in our interview, even many seemingly successful foreign language learners still translate to and from their native language, but can just do so at such a rate that they can’t perceive the process.