"I love learning foreign languages. In fact, I love it so much that I like to learn a new language every two years, currently working on my eighth one. When people find that out about me, they always ask me, "How do you do that? What's your secret?" They wanted to know why they are spending years trying to learn even one language, never achieving fluency, and here I come, learning one language after another. And that made me wonder, too, how do actually other polyglots do it? I decided to meet other people like me and find that out.
I met polyglots who always start by imitating sounds of the language, and others who always learn the 500 most frequent words of the language, and yet others who always start by reading about the grammar. If I asked a hundred different polyglots, I heard a hundred different approaches to learning languages.
And as I was listening to these polyglots telling me about their methods, it suddenly dawned on me: All of these polyglots were talking about language learning as if it was great fun. You should have seen their faces when they were showing me their colourful grammar charts and their carefully handmade flashcards, or even how they love to cook based on recipes in a foreign language. All of them use different methods, but they always make sure it's something that they personally enjoy.
I realised that this is actually how I learn languages myself. When I was learning Spanish, I was bored with the text in the textbook. I mean, who wants to read about Jose asking about the directions to the train station. Right? I wanted to read "Harry Potter" instead, because that was my favorite book as a child, and I have read it many times. So I got the Spanish translation of "Harry Potter" and started reading. I didn't understand almost anything at the beginning, but I kept on reading by the end of the book, I was able to follow it almost without any problems.
If you don't like listening to boring textbook material, find interesting content on YouTube for any language. If you're a more introverted person and you can't imagine speaking to native speakers right away, you can apply the method of self - talk. You can talk to yourself in the comfort of your room, describing your plans for the weekend, how your day has been. This is how polyglots learn languages. It’s available to anyone who is willing to take the learning into their own hands.
If you want to achieve fluency in a foreign language, you'll also need to apply three more principles.
First of all, you'll need effective methods. If you try to memorize a list of words for a test tomorrow, the words will be stored in your short - term memory and you'll forget them after a few days. If you, however, want to keep words long term, you need to revise them in the course of a few days repeatedly using the so - called space repetition.
The third principle to follow is to create a system in your learning. We're all very busy and no one really has time to learn a language today. But we can create that time if we just plan a bit ahead. Can you wake up 15 minutes earlier than you normally do? That would be the perfect time to revise some vocabulary. Can you listen to a podcast on your way to work while driving? Well, that would be great to get some listening experience.
And finally, if you want to learn a language fluently, you need also a bit of patience. It's not possible to learn a language within two months, but it's definitely possible to make a visible improvement in two months if you learn in small chunks every day in a way that you enjoy. And there is nothing that motivates us more than our own success.
This is a wonderful feeling. I can't get enough of that feeling, and that's why I learn a language every two years.
So if you've also tried to learn a language and you gave up, thinking it's too difficult or you don't have the language talent, give it another try. Maybe you're also just one enjoyable method away from learning that language fluently. Maybe you're just one method away from becoming a polyglot. "
SOURCE: TED Talks - Lýdia Machová
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