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  • 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?"

  • And to be honest, for many years, my answer would be,

  • "I don't know. I simply love learning languages."

  • But people were never happy with that answer.

  • 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.

  • They wanted to know the secret of polyglots,

  • people who speak a lot of languages.

  • And that made me wonder, too,

  • how do actually other polyglots do it?

  • What do we have in common?

  • And what is it that enables us

  • to learn languages so much faster than other people?

  • I decided to meet other people like me and find that out.

  • The best place to meet a lot of polyglots

  • is an event where hundreds of language lovers

  • meet in one place to practice their languages.

  • There are several such polyglot events organized all around the world,

  • and so I decided to go there

  • and ask polyglots about the methods that they use.

  • And so I met Benny from Ireland,

  • who told me that his method is to start speaking from day one.

  • He learns a few phrases from a travel phrasebook

  • and goes to meet native speakers

  • and starts having conversations with them right away.

  • He doesn't mind making even 200 mistakes a day,

  • because that's how he learns, based on the feedback.

  • And the best thing is, he doesn't even need to travel a lot today,

  • because you can easily have conversations with native speakers

  • from the comfort of your living room, using websites.

  • I also met Lucas from Brazil

  • who had a really interesting method to learn Russian.

  • He simply added a hundred random Russian speakers on Skype as friends,

  • and then he opened a chat window with one of them

  • and wrote "Hi" in Russian.

  • And the person replied, "Hi, how are you?"

  • Lucas copied this and put it into a text window with another person,

  • and the person replied, "I'm fine, thank you, and how are you?"

  • Lucas copied this back to the first person,

  • and in this way, he had two strangers have a conversation with each other

  • without knowing about it.

  • (Laughter)

  • And soon he would start typing himself,

  • because he had so many of these conversations

  • that he figured out how the Russian conversation usually starts.

  • What an ingenious method, right?

  • And then 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.

  • Everybody seems to have a unique way they learn a language,

  • and yet we all come to the same result of speaking several languages fluently.

  • And as I was listening to these polyglots telling me about their methods,

  • it suddenly dawned on me:

  • the one thing we all have in common

  • is that we simply found ways to enjoy the language-learning process.

  • 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 colorful grammar charts

  • and their carefully handmade flash cards,

  • and their statistics about learning vocabulary using apps,

  • 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 realized 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,

  • and sure enough, I didn't understand almost anything at the beginning,

  • but I kept on reading because I loved the book,

  • and by the end of the book, I was able to follow it almost without any problems.

  • And the same thing happened when I was learning German.

  • I decided to watch "Friends," my favorite sitcom, in German,

  • and again, at the beginning it was all just gibberish.

  • I didn't know where one word finished and another one started,

  • but I kept on watching every day because it's "Friends."

  • I can watch it in any language. I love it so much.

  • And after the second or third season,

  • seriously, the dialogue started to make sense.

  • I only realized this after meeting other polyglots.

  • We are no geniuses

  • and we have no shortcut to learning languages.

  • We simply found ways how to enjoy the process,

  • how to turn language learning from a boring school subject

  • into a pleasant activity which you don't mind doing every day.

  • If you don't like writing words down on paper,

  • you can always type them in an app.

  • If you don't like listening to boring textbook material,

  • find interesting content on YouTube or in podcasts 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,

  • or even take a random picture from your phone

  • and describe the picture to your imaginary friend.

  • This is how polyglots learn languages,

  • and the best news is, it's available to anyone

  • who is willing to take the learning into their own hands.

  • So meeting other polyglots helped me realize

  • that it is really crucial to find enjoyment

  • in the process of learning languages,

  • but also that joy in itself is not enough.

  • 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 spaced repetition.

  • You can use apps which are based on this system such as Anki or Memrise,

  • or you can write lists of word in a notebook using the Goldlist method,

  • which is also very popular with many polyglots.

  • If you're not sure which methods are effective and what is available out there,

  • just check out polyglots' YouTube channels and websites

  • and get inspiration from them.

  • If it works for them, it will most probably work for you too.

  • 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.

  • There are so many things we can do without even planning that extra time,

  • such as listening to podcasts on our way to work

  • or doing our household chores.

  • The important thing is to create a plan in the learning.

  • "I will practice speaking every Tuesday and Thursday

  • with a friend for 20 minutes.

  • I will listen to a YouTube video while having breakfast."

  • If you create a system in your learning,

  • you don't need to find that extra time,

  • because it will become a part of your everyday life.

  • 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.

  • I vividly remember the moment

  • when I understood the first joke in German when watching "Friends."

  • I was so happy and motivated

  • that I just kept on watching that day two more episodes,

  • and as I kept watching,

  • I had more and more of those moments of understanding, these little victories,

  • and step by step, I got to a level where I could use the language

  • freely and fluently to express anything.

  • 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 this is the whole polyglot secret.

  • Find effective methods which you can use systematically

  • over the period of some time in a way which you enjoy,

  • and this is how polyglots learn languages within months, not years.

  • Now, some of you may be thinking,

  • "That's all very nice to enjoy language learning,

  • but isn't the real secret that you polyglots

  • are just super talented and most of us aren't?"

  • Well, there's one thing I haven't told you about Benny and Lucas.

  • Benny had 11 years of Irish Gaelic and five years of German at school.

  • He couldn't speak them at all when graduating.

  • Up to the age of 21, he thought he didn't have the language gene

  • and he could not speak another language.

  • Then he started to look for his way of learning languages,

  • which was speaking to native speakers and getting feedback from them,

  • and today Benny can easily have a conversation in 10 languages.

  • Lucas tried to learn English at school for 10 years.

  • He was one of the worst students in class.

  • His friends even made fun of him

  • and gave him a Russian textbook as a joke

  • because they thought he would never learn that language, or any language.

  • And then Lucas started to experiment with methods,

  • looking for his own way to learn,

  • for example, by having Skype chat conversations with strangers.

  • And after just 10 years,

  • Lucas is able to speak 11 languages fluently.

  • Does that sound like a miracle?

  • Well, I see such miracles every single day.

  • As a language mentor,

  • I help people learn languages by themselves,

  • and I see this every day.

  • People struggle with language learning for five, 10, even 20 years,

  • and then they suddenly take their learning into their own hands,

  • start using materials which they enjoy, more effective methods,

  • or they start tracking their learning

  • so that they can appreciate their own progress,

  • and that's when suddenly

  • they magically find the language talent that they were missing all their lives.

  • 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.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

I love learning foreign languages.

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【TED】Lýdia Machová: The secrets of learning a new language (The secrets of learning a new language | Lýdia Machová)

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    林宜悉 posted on 2019/07/18
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