Judith Meyer is well-known in the language learning world for co-founding the Polyglot Gathering event and writing several language books and courses. She's consulted by many and freely shares her own tips and experiences from learning over 14 languages.
Listen to my interview with her on the Creative Language Learning Podcast:
We covered a lot of ground in this interview, and as a language learner you will be delighted to hear her excellent advice.
One Thing You Need to Know About This Episode
This is a bilingual podcast.
If you are not an experienced German learner, there will be some parts of the podcast that you don’t understand. But like all language learners, you’re not alone in that feeling. Try to stay with us, trust that we will come back to English again and again, and challenge yourself to become comfortable with not understanding everything.
The Learning is The Goal
Some people learn for practical reasons like travel or employment. to me is how both Judith and I come from monolingual households. There was no focus on languages, we both started at age 10, and yet this "late start" did not mean that it was impossible to do.
She says she used to try and invent her own writing system as a child because she found Chinese so fascinating.
Use Your Language Early
Judith says that it's important to do something that is NOT studying all the time. She says
I get easily demotivated if it's just studying a textbook
Judith books early lessons with tutors and uses her language in all kinds of ways so she can stay interested.
The Importance of Goals and Tracking
Even though Judith doesn't struggle with the general motivation to learn a language, she does keep track of her progress.
She's kept a spreadsheet on her computer for many years, and maintains a goal of doing a little more each year.
I absolutely agree with her on this, and found myself doing more with my language in the same amount of time when I started tracking. If you're interested in how learning languages works with my system, check out the Language Habit Toolkit.
How to Get Over an Intermediate Plateau
As someone who can hold a confident conversation in over five languages, Judith knows what it takes to go from a plateau to a much higher language level.
The trick is this: Your language level adapts to what you're doing in that language - in other words, you will grow with your challenges. You have to start trying to do something you cannot do.
The hard part is to start before you are ready. Judith describes how new Chinese challenges like presenting and debating tasks helped her get off the intermediate plateau.
But as Judith puts it:
If your lifestyle is such that you don't use C1 German, then good luck learning it.
You might get there for a short while, but to truly stay there you have to keep using your language.
Why Your Reason to Learn a Language Won't Be Enough
Finally, we chatted about the big reasons for learning languages. As a card-carrying member of "the tribe of those who learn a language because it's awesome", Judith has remarkable thoughts on why learning languages is important.
I don't need a reason to learn a language. I need an excuse.
By this she means that if you're looking for a reason, unless you're learning English there's often not a deep seated REASON that will keep you going for long enough to become fluent. Instead, make use of the good excuses out there, like learning for travel or for work.
But if you're just starting a language because you're fascinated, that is perfect.
After all, why would anyone learn so many languages if not for the love of them?
As the German part of a German-American couple, Judith knows that understanding other languages is a key part of learning other cultures.
She writes the blog "Understanding Germany", where she offers insights into what the Germans are like, how they think, and what's shaping the German mindset right now.
I look forward to hearing your feedback. Did you enjoy this bilingual podcast episode? Did you understand anything...and how did you feel if you did not?