“Everybody is a genius. but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” – – Albert Einstein

All the notes were taken directly from the source mentioned.

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My initial tangential motivations for learning a language were replaced by a direct motivation to live that language and use it as a means of communication and connection.

Did you think something like, If I learn this language then I’ll get this benefit some benefit that had nothing to do with intrinsically communicating in that language or getting to know a foreign country’s culture or people?

Benefits, like career advancement, impressing people, prestige, passing an exam, crossing something off your bucket list, or other similar reasons, are examples of tangential motivations that have nothing to do with using the language itself.

For a start, seek out movies and art, and history from the country where your target language is spoken, listen to music in that language, read books and magazines, find as many sources of audio, video, and text online as you can, and absolutely spend time with native speakers.

You don’t know a language, you live it. You don’t learn a language, you get used to it.

Moses McCormick is a well-known polyglot

I kept going because I wanted to keep going.

But I kept going because I wanted to keep going. I had a passion for language, and that’s how I’ve been able to learn to speak twelve languages and counting.

The first step in language learning is to make the commitment to do whatever it takes to make your project a success.

Adults struggle with new languages most especially because of a misguided learning approach, their learning environment, or their lack of enthusiasm for the task, all of which can be changed.

The true advantage children have over adults is that they are naturally less afraid to make mistakes.

Spending more time with native speakers.

It’s all about making time.

Progress happens if you set aside the time to allow it to happen. Way too many of us waste endless hours watching TV, browsing Facebook and YouTube, shopping, drinking alcohol, and countless other activities.

All those moments when you’re simply waiting: waiting for an elevator, waiting in a shopping line, waiting for a friend to arrive, waiting for a bus or subway or any other type of public transportation. I always try to squeeze as much as I can out of these free moments. I whip out my smartphone and go through a few flash cards, or take a phrase book out of my pocket and review some essential basics. Or, if I’m feeling social and adventurous in a different country, I’ll turn to the person behind me and try to strike up a quick conversation.

When I asked him about how on earth he keeps focused with all of these things going on, he told me that it’s very simple: focus on one major project at a time.

Plateaus themselves are not myths. The fact that we have to be stuck on them is.

One of my favorite definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Applying higher standards to your target language than you would to your native language is overkill.

Aim for a conversational level (or lower) first and then strive for fluency.

Way too much emphasis is put on speaking with no accent, as if being a spy is the ultimate point of your language project rather than communicating with other human beings.

What would that successful language learner do to get around this challenge if faced with it?

There are systems that may work well for particular people and (many!) systems that may work poorly for others.

It’s never you who’s broken, but your current approach. Fix the approach, discard what doesn’t work, and you will be much more successful.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can you’re right. — HENRY FORD

Momentum is essential to both beginning and maintaining good progress in language learning,

People who look at fluency this way sometimes go overboard and demand that you should be able to participate in a debate on a complex or philosophical topic, speak with no hesitations, use complex vocabulary and advanced expressions, never have any serious miscommunications, and be able to participate in a discussion that any typical native might have.

The problem here, though, is that if you have such high criteria for fluency, then I have to confess I am not fluent even in English, my native language!

Speaking a language accurately and with facility is precisely what I have in mind when I aim for fluency.

Fluency starts at level B2

More specifically, a person who reaches the B2 level on the CEFRL scale, relevant to the conversational aspect, is defined as someone who can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party.

You simply have to put in as much work as you can, as intensively as you can, with as much emphasis on solving immediate language problems as you possibly can in order to progress.

However, be careful not to use the even small successes count perspective as a crutch to rationalize slacking off.

Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.

Decide precisely what you are aiming for.

Pay careful attention to both what is required and what is not required at that level.

Set aside a specific period, whether it is one, three, or six months, and make sure your language learning project is.

Set aside a specific period, make sure to focus on the biggest issue you have and try to solve it.

Announce your mission to the world, which establishes a chain of accountability.

What really keeps it there? We make memories by association. Sights, smells, strange and powerful images, stories, and the like are what make the most memorable events in our lives stand out.

I generally only need to recall a story three or four times before I just know the word.

You can write out your script in English first, then talk to a native speaker (see the next chapter) to translate your answers for you precisely, so there are no mistakes.

I would highly recommend that you write out a script.

The expat bubble is a protective shell of friendships that forms when a group of people live or work abroad for any length of time, and everyone within that bubble speaks your native language.

Getting used to a new country, trying to make friends, dealing with loneliness, and facing the frustration of cultural differences are all distractions from learning the language.

Couch-Surfing for Language Practice

All you need to do is search for the city you live in and limit the criteria to profiles listing the language you are learning (or maintaining).

Over the span of a few years I’ve hosted almost two thousand people. Each profile has references, so you know you can trust the person, and nothing in my house has ever gone mysteriously missing.

As well as inviting people to coffee or lunch and hosting people, I have gone to Couchsurfing.org’s many meet-ups, where I always find an international crowd, many of whom speak the language I want to practice.

InterNations.org hosts social events in major cities, which draw a very good mixture of people from many different countries.

Another great site is Meetup.com, which may not have as international a crowd, but does have specific meet-ups aimed at practicing particular languages.

You need virtual immersion by surrounding yourself with the language. The first thing to do is find streamed radio broadcasts from the country where your target language is dominant. Next, you can find dubbed versions of your favorite TV shows in the language you’re trying to learn.

My favorite way to do language exchanges is on a site dedicated to that purpose, such as Italki.

An hour of Chinese lessons from a good teacher who doesn’t live in a major city, such as Beijing or Shanghai, can be easily found for five dollars or so an hour on Italki.

Speaking the language out loud with a real human being, whether in person or online, every single day is the best way by far to zoom forward toward a conversational language level and onward to fluency.

The biggest mistake is not getting your message across. Since the goal of a language is communication, your top priority should not be to sound perfect, but to make yourself understood.

Now that you have scheduled your first conversation, you have a deadline in place to work toward. This makes it much more real than learning random words and grammar rules that you may need someday.

Phrases to start with:

I don’t understand. Could you repeat that? (Or the shorter Again, please.) Can you speak slower please? What does [fill in the blank] mean?

It’s okay to think of what you want to say in English first and then translate it.

If you use words like want, need, would like, should, may, can (able to) in their standard present-tense conjugation with, say, I (I want, I can), you can follow them up with the dictionary (infinitive) form of the important verb you wish to use, such as to travel.

Remember that you can convey the meaning of what you want to say as long as you are flexible about how you say it.

It’s more interesting to find out what the person did that day or if that person has plans, and then to talk about my plans for the day.

Feedback is essential when you start inventing your own phrases.

All of your study attempts should be about making that next spoken session a little bit better.

Listen for any particular words or segments of a person’s speech that you can understand, and extrapolate what is being said from that.

So rather than thinking I don’t understand, imagining that what you just heard could be anything, realize that it can’t be anything;

I have a strange suggestion for you: spend two weeks learning Esperanto.

Since Esperanto is so easy, you can get much further in it in a very short period and focus on using the language,

You must eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, any other language use during the time you are focused on your target language.

If you are paying for a teacher, explain very clearly and sternly that you are paying that person to speak your target language, not your native language.

For me, the mark of a good teacher is how imaginative he or she is while making sure that English is only ever used as a last resort.

If you say (again, in that language) how very interested you are in learning this beautiful language and how much you would really appreciate any help, even with just a couple of minutes’ practice, most of time you’ll find this person appreciates your passion and will stay in the right language.

We need this time to gather our thoughts, translate what we are thinking, remember a mnemonic or the word we want to say that’s on the tip of our tongues,

It’s far better to try to enjoy yourself, or at least look like you’re enjoying yourself, and then there will be no awkward pauses.

There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t yet met.

Don’t make your language learning all about studying; make it about using your target language.

Maybe cheat by having a piece of paper with some words written on it you didn’t have time yet to learn,

When you have enough words and phrases to start with, find ways to rephrase what you may want to say with alternative words.

Rather than going through a language course designed to try to teach you everything, make your study sessions relevant to your spoken sessions.

One of the first things I do when I am learning a language is find a list of these cognates or similar-looking words.

Modal verbs are helper verbs (action words) that help us to express a concept, without having to worry so much about the grammar of conjugation.

With any language, I suggest learning the following modal verbs: can (able to) should would like to must / have to want to

Since my conversations tend to be mostly one-on-one as a beginner, the I and you (singular) conjugations are my first priority.

I suggest you focus on the polite form of you and ignore the more intimate alternative, at least at first.

Romance languages! That is to say, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian (as well as Romanian, Catalan, Galician, Sardinian, Corsican, and many others).

You see, even though English is not a Romance language, since England was occupied by the Normans in 1066, the aristocrats and royalty in England spoke Norman French for several centuries after that.

In Spanish, the ending becomes -cion; in Italian, it’s -zione; and in Portuguese, … There are plenty of words like this: action, application, communication, destruction, fiction, frustration, information, inspiration, invention, invitation, nation, option, perfection, population, protection, solution, tradition, and many, many more.

For more tips on Italian, see fi3m.com/italian.

Portuguese is also very phonetic and similar to Spanish in the way you recognize noun genders.

You need only three conjugations

The third person is rendered as a gente, similar to French’s on (one, as in one does not like this).

A little closer to home, we have the Germanic languages. This is the branch of the linguistic family on which our own English rests. As such, there are a lot of things we share in common with German, Dutch, Norwegian, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, and Afrikaans.

Slavic languages, including Slovakian, Ukrainian, and Serbo-Croatian.

I would recommend that those with a spoken focus choose a specific Arabic dialect they have a preference for based on the country they would like to visit most.

Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which most courses tend to focus on, is essential if you want to read newspapers and books or watch or listen to news broadcasts. But dialects, in every country, tend to be much more useful for conversing with people in the street or understanding most Arabic movies and TV shows.

A language that doesn’t use the same written alphabet as the one you are reading now can seem very intimidating. However, languages like Arabic, Russian, Korean, Greek, Thai, and others that use a phonetic script essentially require that you learn only a small set of characters, which represent particular sounds, and doing so will allow you to read that language as you would read any western European language.

When it comes to languages like Thai, Mandarin, Cantonese, or Vietnamese, many people quickly say they could never speak these because their tones make them too hard.

It’s not about mastering tones in your first week or two but just making sure you are doing them well enough to be understood.

When you are ready to read Chinese, it may seem as if there are too many characters to process, but keep in mind that a smaller number of frequent ones are used a lot and with just five hundred you will already recognize 80 percent of the characters you read and certainly those on most menus and signs.

Many Westerners have successfully learned the language, so you can too, if you are dedicated.

Japanese has three phonetic alphabets (Hiragana, Katakana, and Romaji),

Note that Irish, or Gaeilge, is the standard name for the Celtic language of Ireland (not to be confused with Gaelic, the language of Scotland); our dialect of English is actually referred to as Hiberno English, or Irish Englishnever Irish.

One of my favorite languages is American Sign Language. It is indeed different in each country; British Sign Language (BSL) is vastly different, although ASL took a lot of inspiration from French Sign Language (LSF, Langue des Signes Française).

Whenever you come across a sign you don’t understand, you simply ask the person you are signing with to finger-spell it for you,

My priority is to communicate live in the language, so I need to practice that interactive communication first, much more than I need to be able to read or understand movies well.

I also read newspapers, listen to radio debates, and enjoy novels in my stronger languages to bring my levels toward mastery.

I sometimes watched The Simpsons while trying to learn Spanish. Because I had already seen every episode in English and pretty much knew what each character was saying, I could learn new Spanish words and understand them as they were being said,

But hearing a constant stream of noise or needing to look up every single word in a dictionary can be terribly frustrating. It’s also an inefficient learning experience.

This is ultimately why it takes years for so many people to reach a conversational level, when others do it in a few months. The former are simply not practicing conversations enough for that aspect of their language skills to improve.

Expecting to learn a language while doing something else is lazy and counterproductive.

If you are listening to audio, don’t do something else at the same time; instead, take notes to make sure you are following what you’re hearing, or try to repeat it over to yourself, making sure you understand each word. The less attention you give to it, the less efficiently you will learn.

When I’m jogging or driving, I review past audio I have already focused on while sitting down and in study mode, or alternatively, I listen to audio I am going to go back over later, now that I’ve heard it all through a single time without pauses.

I recommend you consider aiming to take an officially accredited examination for your language that is one level higher than where you feel you are now, which will force you to work up to that level.

Rather than devoting 25 percent of our energy to each of the four aspects, I think it’s wiser for beginners especially those who want to travel to a country and interact with people or use the language with friends and family to devote most of their energy to improving spoken skills, which in turn naturally improves listening skills.

I would devote just 10 to 20 percent of my time to reading and (non interactive) listening in my initial A1/A2 beginner stages of language learning. For writing, as a beginning learner, I am simply not going to write letters or complex messages, but I do write short text messages on my phone.

I’ve met others at my same general level, with vastly superior writing, reading, and listening skills, but who are way less confident and versatile in spoken situations because of the lack of practice.

Thinking in the language for most people refers to your inner dialogue, and I force myself to do this from the start.

We form a sentence in our mind in English and then try to search our minds, word by word, for how to say it in our target language. Not only does this slow us down, but our native tongue also influences our word order and grammar.

Thinking in the language is a decision you make.

Something about my outward appearance helped keep the conversation in the right language.

There are certain traits that each culture is likely to have, and you can find these by observation or time spent with natives.

Many Spanish speakers (depending on which country and region) don’t pronounce the d in words with ado in them; when spoken quickly and naturally, something like pescado becomes pescao. While this may not be proper Spanish, it is how many people speak and should be emulated if you are aiming to mimic the accent of a native in.

You can only become a polyglot if you are passionate about each language, and not because you want to collect a large number of languages.

While it may sound impressive to know Chinese, Arabic, French, and German, if you are not eager to live your life through each language or discover different cultures, fascinating literature, or wonderful and interesting people also in each individual language then it’s clear you are interested in the wrong things.

Someone who already has several languages under his or her belt may be able to take on a couple of new languages simultaneously.

Of course, you can still get rusty with lack of practice at a B2 level and above, but within a very short time you can get back to where you used to be.

Generally, a true polyglot is quick to avoid giving simple answers.

Some would dismiss them as geniuses, but to me it’s more a question of passion. In talking to them in person I can feel this passion and appreciate that they are mere mortals, with their own challenges in language learning, but I could see the passion they have as they use and talk about languages.

The reason for this is that when you start to learn as many languages as I have, you reach a limit in the number of hours you can put into them. You have to make some tough decisions.

It’s always due to pull factors rather than push factors.

No matter how many languages I learn, however, there is a saturation point. I may eventually reach a certain number of languages I maintain and then stick to that number, even if I decide to learn a new language temporarily for travel purposes.

There comes a point when you have to accept that taking on a new language would hurt maintaining your current ones too much. You only have a certain finite amount of time and should use it wisely.

The only way to reach fluency, he maintains, is through practice. Granted, a lot of practice, but this type of pure exposure and time with a language and intentional, focused work toward improvement are key to learning a new language.

Richard says that he has rarely met someone with eight or more languages at a fluent level.

More numbers may sound cool, but we never need more than just a few languages in our professional and personal lives.

I had to relearn the definitions of article, conjugation, adjective, adverb, declension, case, pronoun, determiner, possessive, participle, subjunctive, preposition, and so many other things.

The point is that you start to appreciate a language on a meta-level of how the pieces fit together in this grammatical and linguistic way. You also start to see how language families blend together and evolve apart, and to predict logically how and why a rule should work even before you ever come across it written down, based on your previous experience with other languages.

Laddering, or learning one language via another.

For about the same amount of work, you learn a new language while effectively maintaining one of your current languages!

For an absolute beginner (phrases and words, with very brief grammatical overview), I suggest a Lonely Planet, Collins, Berlitz, or Assimil phrase book.

Colloquial and Teach Yourself are two basic book courses that provide very good representations of the dialogues tourists are likely to have, and they introduce you to some basic grammar.

Assimil also creates excellent language learning courses, and I especially like how they indicate the level you are aiming for on the CEFRL scale.

Even if there is theoretically a perfect course out there for you, it would be wiser to spend your time on an okay course and really make progress, than spend all your time and energy searching for that perfect course.

Other audio-based courses include Pimsleur and Michel Thomas, both of which don’t rely on visual cues at all and get you more focused on the sounds of the language, which has huge advantages for communication-focused learners.

The initial examples Anthony gave me that can be applied in a versatile manner were to answer the two questions How is your food? and Where are you from? He suggested that we answer the first not with Good, but with Thanks for asking. To tell you the truth, I must say that the food is good. Let me ask you the same question: What do you think of your food?

As you can see, we are using the exact same connector phrases, which are not directly relevant to the current conversation but are very effective in keeping the conversation flowing and establishing intimacy.

In English we have many filler words, like you know, well, so, which don’t actually add any information to a sentence, but they make the interchange sound more relaxed. I always try to learn these as soon as possible to help with my sentence flow.

Apologizing Don’t be upset, but …It was a slip of the tongue. I said it by mistake. I am sorry that …(Dis)agreeing One hundred percent. Without question. Exactly right. Most certainly. Without doubt. In no way …That isn’t true at all. That is an exaggeration. I really can’t believe that. In principle that is true, but …Admittedly that is true, but …That’s one way to say it. Only up to a certain point. Certainly. Why not? I agree. Closing That is all there is to say. That is all for now. To sum up …And there is the problem. I hope it is only a matter of time. That remains to be seen. Filler Understandably. Frankly speaking …Between you and me …Anyway …Well then …Well, as a matter of fact …How can I put it? I must say that …First …Second …I would like you to know that …I am afraid that …Now and then it seems to me that …After all …As far as I am concerned …More and more …Actually …All joking aside …Now seriously …Elaborating To be more precise …And what’s more …Since I am already talking about it …I would like to emphasize that …Should I explain in greater detail? Allow me to say it another way. That is to say …Nevertheless …Even though …That sounds like …And that is why …Opening Thank you very much. That is a good question. That is such a difficult question. Once upon a time, long ago …Passing Can you tell me please …? Would you be interested in us talking about something else? And what do you think? Qualifying To tell you the truth …I presume that …I hope that …In my opinion …If that is true …I don’t know exactly. I would like to think that …The way I see it is that …As you may know …I don’t have a big interest in that. If I understand correctly …As you already know …That isn’t such a big problem. That is a matter of opinion. As far as I know …I have the impression that …It is usually true that …You never know, but …I haven’t thought about it before, but …If I am not mistaken …I am not certain whether …Like every other man/woman …I have my own opinion on it, but …I am not an expert, but …Quoting She said something like …My wife/husband pointed out that …Recently, I heard that …My better half said …Switching Now it occurs to me that …By the way …I have an interesting story about it. And besides that …Oh, I nearly forgot …And one more thing …On the other hand

When reading or hearing words, though, once you pass a certain level (usually for me, it’s from B1 and up), you should opt to use monolingual dictionaries:

While many people think that the course or tool you buy is what decides your success in language learning, I hope I’ve shown you in this book that the greatest tool of all is your persistence and willingness to use the language with real people.


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