Got a whole bucket list of languages to learn, and no hope of ever getting it all done? Fear not! Here are some simple ways to help you streamline that list and re-focus on learning what you need without distraction.Read more
An Interview with Chuck Smith, creator of an app connecting people speaking 7000+ languages, Duolingo course author, co-founder of the Polyglot Gathering.Read more
Learn languages in YOUR local community, and to meet others who share the same passion. Want to know where and how? This article has the most recent events you should check out.Read more
When you reach the higher language levels, it's not enough to just study. How does it feel to reach a level where you are looking for ways to go beyond fluency? How can you move towards mastery?
There's no Lindsay in this episode (don't worry, she'll be back very soon!), so I found myself two experts who know what they are talking about:
- Tristan Foy, an American polyglot who's currently my advanced German student
- Gareth Popkins from How To Get Fluent
The episode is full of tips and strategies for reaching the very advanced levels and getting better even after years of study.
It's Not About Fast Progress
Of course you want to start off feeling like you are making fast progress, but at the advanced levels you're no longer looking for that. Approaching and chasing "mastery" means that the time you spend studying a language isn't relevant anymore. In other words, a truly advanced learner has long stopped counting the time they spent.
Advanced Level Means Finding "More" In The Language
Once you get to a point where having a conversation in your target language is no longer just a crazy dream, it's absolutely essential to find something more to connect to. Call it culture, call it personal connections, whatever it might be.
At the advanced level, you're guaranteed to have found what Tristan calls "the language speaking to your soul" - grammar and vocabulary becomes secondary.
"Learning a language is a bit like hugging a cactus - you can never get entirely comfortable"
It Takes Work To Progress
It's entirely possible to plateau at an intermediate level even after you have moved to a country. If you've got enough language to chat to people and fill in forms, that doesn't mean you're approaching "Mastery" yet but it does mean you're okay. So in order to improve ever more, you need to put in the work, set new goals and engage in every single one of listening, reading, speaking and writing, vocabulary, and grammar.
Turns out that you're never ever done - Gareth for example has just passed the C1 German exam and he says he has endless scope for improvement.
Enjoy the journey, stop for a breather whenever you feel like it and keep going.
Fluency - No One Cares!
Tristan sums this up with a wonderful sentence: Don't worry about getting fluent. Worry about getting better.
Everyone is always looking for a label, it could be "fluent" or "C1" or "conversational". But at the end of the day, you're never really done and get closer and more comfortable.
You Need Humility
Having areas of weakness in your language is not a sign that you are weak overall, but it's a valuable hint.
Gareth highlights that your potential for making errors gets bigger as you improve, so you'll need to keep aware that it will get ever more difficult to find and revise the most advanced grammar points. He recommends you work with textbooks, grammar exercises and advanced tutors.
Links and Resources Mentioned In This Episode
- How to Get Fluent, Gareth's blog - highly recommended
- Ellen Jovin, a highly recommended blog here too
- > Wade's Russian Grammar
- > Hammer's German Grammar
Learning another language is a long, hard process, requiring a lot of dedication (..) After all, as an adult trying to learn a new language it’s all about “overcoming human nature”. You need, erm, “need”: you’re either surrounded by the language, you know somebody who speaks it, you have an unusual interest in the country or culture or the language will benefit you at work
Thanks for our good friends at Flashsticks for their ongoing support of the Creative Language Learning Podcast. They have a free app, awesome vocab post-its, and more.
Our good friends at Flashsticks are back as podcast sponsors - go check out their awesome new app Flash Academy (it's free), their post-it notes in 8 languages, and claim 10% discount using code KERSTIN10.
An organization dedicated to raising awareness of language diversity.
"This is one of the most important things that we can do as humans - to constantly strive to learn about things that we don't understand."
We all know that language is important, but after listening to this episode you'll be amazed at the enormous variety of perspectives on this topic. Non-profit organization Wikitongues looks at languages from all points of view - as a metaphor for life.
Listen to the new podcast episode now to find out all about Wikitongues and how Lindsay and I are connected to their mission.
When a language is lost, the individuals in that community lose a part of who they are. Language death is both a loss of history and a loss of identity.
If you oppose racism, mysogyny, genocide and oppresion, you must support language diversity!
And if you thought language discrimination was a thing of the past, think again: Languages like Occitan and Cornish are experiencing it right now.
Links from this episode
- Youtube Channel of Wikitongues
- Language or Linguistic Rights is the summary of human rights that cover our rights to speak and choose our languages.
- Poly, the app by Wikitongues
- The World in Words podcast: Who in Japan speaks Ainu?
- The World in Words podcast: Welsh is considered a model for language revitalization, but its fate is still uncertain
- Yvonne Treis's Book about Moselfränkisch: "Ein Kaffee zum Mitholen, bitte!"
Some cool languages documented on Wikitongues:
Note for pedants: In the interview, the Universal Declaration for Human Rights was mentioned, but the speaker may have meant the Universal Declaration for Linguistic Rights. I researched this but could not find the exact quote in either one. If you know more details, go ahead and leave a comment or itunes review to help us out.
This episode comes with a bit of a difference, as Lindsay and I were reporting live from the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin.
We bring you reports and impressions from what's going on at the event.
There are opportunities to listen in to the fabulous language introductions. We had the opportunity to learn about all kinds of languages, from Indonesian to Greek.
It’s about people coming together and accepting each other for who they are. It’s a life philosophy, in a way. - Jordan
I also brought my microphone to several new people - hear the personal language learning stories of Tristan, Jordan and Stephen who are allEnglish native speakers learning over 5 foreign languages. It's possible!
The Polyglot Gathering is sponsored by our own podcast sponsors, so this time there's a double shout out for italki - you can get started learning languages with native speakers on there. Get started with a "Buy 1 Get 1 Free" Offer at www.fluentlanguage.co.uk/italki
Strange Items That Were Part of The "Qu'est-ce que c'est??" Game
1) Che cosa è?
2) Was ist das hier?
The Kafka referenced after I heard Lindsay's story is "Die Verwandlung" (metamorphosis).
Languages heard on this show: German, Esperanto, Spanish, French, Indonesian, Greek, English...I think that's it!
Catch up with Lindsay's video blog from the Polyglot Gathering.
How Did You Like This Episode?
The live reporting format was great fun, but of course we want to hear if it worked for you! Would you like more episodes like this in the future?
You can get in touch with us and tell us what you thought by
1) leaving us an iTunes review by visiting our itunes page and clicking "Ratings and Reviews"
2) using hashtag #cllp on Twitter (I am @kerstinhammes and Lindsay is @ldlanguages).
And once again, thanks so much to our sponsors Italki - please support our show by visiting that link today.
Episode 35 of the Creative Language Learning Podcast is brought to you with support from HelloTalk. Go visit them NOW!
Do you remember when you first heard the word "polyglot"?
And what does this word mean to you?
Show Topic: What Is a "Polyglot" and Should You Be One?
In this episode, Lindsay and I went deeper into what's changed in the emerging community of internet polyglots. A few years ago, the YouTube landscape in particular was a nasty place. But things are looking up!
What does the word mean, and is being polyglot desirable?
Far from being entirely opposed to polyglots as a barrage of braggards and internet trolls, we are able to bring you many positive thoughts and perspectives.
Polyglot Guest: Alex Rawlings
In this episode, we have a special guest who is a famous fancy polyglot and known for winning the prestigious Harper-Collins award of being [Britain's Most Multilingual Student]. It's Alex Rawlings, co-founder of the [Polyglot Conference] and "full-time language guru dude".
Polyglots have existed a lot longer than YouTube.
Alex did an amazing job of describing how the polyglot community has changed and also why it wasn't a great place to start out in. It's fascinating how much YouTube comes up in this discussion. He shares the story of bringing a bit of offline magic into the online world, and we agree that the internet is now a nicer place for language learners, and thank God for that.
Takeaway of the Week
"It is what you make it."
There is still a personal challenge to readers, but also a real sense of permission to make the word mean what it means to you. Polyglots might be online, offline, nice, nasty, multilingual or just really curious.
For me, the biggest update to the polyglot label was the idea of it being all about the intention of learning languages, and the interest, and the passion. I love that!
Links and Tips from This Episode
- Alex Rawlings writes at Rawlangs
- Lindsay on Youtube: What's a Polyglot?
- Kerstin speaks (reads!!!!) 25 European languages - the best part of making this video was finding native speakers of 25 languages in one week. I even rang the Icelandic and Luxembourgish tourist offices. ^__^
- My Blog Article from May 2014, summing up all the polyglot negatives
- Polyglot Conference - this year in Greece and the Polyglot Workshops or just search for any of these things on Facebook
- Polyglot Gathering in Berlin
Are you going to claim the polyglot title this year? Or still not convinced?
Today I want to go a little bit deeper into the content of all our Language Book Club interviews from 30 January. As you saw last week, the event was truly epic and delivered some wisdom from no fewer than 11 multilingual people (polyglots! yes they are!).
Between me and Chris Broholm from Actual Fluency, we had the chance to interview a great bunch of people about writing, language learning and challenges on the day, so here are the most important things that Language Book Club taught us:
1) Forget Fluency
Fluency is not a word that most polyglots or language teachers love. Yes, we all call our blogs after it, but fluency is truly a concept that you need to define in more detail. It certainly doesn't help when you are working on your goals. Instead of aiming to define fluency, try setting short-term goals such as reading a certain book in the next month. I admit that I’m pretty pleased with myself for my own definition, which goes a bit like “if you can avoid communication breakdown and keep a conversation flowing, you’re pretty fluent."
2) Learn Vocabulary in Context
Flashcards and vocab are hot property, but there are lots of different ways of doing them. From detailed Anki interaction to paper-based systems like my simple Write-Look-Cover-Repeat system, the biggest key is in creating a rich context for whatever you are learning. In fact, you can develop this all the way to creating language memory palaces. Anthony Metivier believes that the memory palace is great for simple grammar principles and vocabulary, and emphasises that it is the most fundamental way of developing your memory (read here for my own mini palace attempt).
3) Don't get hung up on Accents
No matter where you go and speak a native language kinda badly, you'll still be welcome and accepted. this message was reinforced by Jared Romey and the girls from Russian Step by Step. Jared talked about how easy it can be to become disoriented even within the same language as he recounted his experiences of embarrassing Puerto Rican shopgirls. You might be feeling self-conscious or embarrassed when you step off the plane and have to open your mouth and “talk foreign” for the first time. But Jared says: “The most important thing is that you learn Spanish. Afterwards, you can adjust it, but don’t let dialects stop you."
4) Appreciate how big the World is
Language learning is not just about remembering words and grammar structures. It's about a whole different world view. Becky Morales shared the story of American high schoolers who met their first Mexican in their teenage years and enquired whether she had ever seen an orange. When you learn a language, she said, you become a world citizen and that's what really enriches your life.
5) Look Beyond the Idea of Hacking
There is no language hack and no single method of making language learning easier for all. From Benny Lewis and the emphasis on speaking and communication, to Gabriel Wyner's intense pronunciation focus, no polyglot can promise you the answer to getting things entirely right. Many share what works for them, and all of us hope that it will work for you too. In that sense keep trying, because you're not getting things wrong any time soon. Looking for a shortcut to better language skills is fine, but every one of our experts on the day has been a language learner for many years. The tips that you get are honed through years of experience, discipline and habit-building. What is the key to good language learning? Enjoy the journey!
6) See and Believe the Impossible
It's all right to be a fan boy! In Teatime with Chris, my Co-host Chris Broholm talked about his own journey of self-development and finding a purpose. It’s a pretty inspiring story and really does stand out as proof of how language learning as a personal challenge can help with even the biggest challenges. Chris started his own podcast as a means of learning from the people he admired. He says “It’s been such a big motivation for me when I see people doing things that didn’t even seem possible to me, and once you see what you think is impossible then it becomes possible."
7) Chill out at least some of the Time
When you feel overwhelmed, it's fine to slow down. Instead of trying every method of language learning all at once, just chill out and reconnect with your own preferences. Language learning is about what you do best. It has to be in sync with your own learning style. Not only did I discuss this as part of my own hour of Language Book Club Live, but I actually built this principle into the entire concept of The Vocab Cookbook. It's a cookbook: a collection of recipes to inspire and inform. Like with every other collection and every other blog, I want you to try out the ones that sound nice. You'll still get your time's worth.
Join Language Book Club
You can join Language Book Club on Facebook to stay up to date with news and discussions around language learning and books, and of course the updates on our next event when we make it happen later in 2015!
Get 50% Off the Fluent Box Set
If you haven't yet got a copy of The Vocab Cookbook on the day, don't forget that you can get the set of my 2 language learning guides, Fluency Made Achievable and The Vocab Cookbook together now.
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