How long does it take to become a polyglot? Some prodigy people like William James Sidis can master a new language in just a year. Unfortunately, for many of us even learning one language becomes a challenge. The most popular excuse to quit or do not begin learning a new language is saying you have no knack for it. Other frequently used excuses are the lack of resources and time for the profound learning.
Thankfully, we live in the era of revolutionary technologies and fast information distribution. Today it’s easy to find a good English tutor on such services as Preply in less than an hour and gain new knowledge not even leaving your room. With all the tools and apps available today, you can develop new skills and become more competitive in the job market.
However, you will need a few surefire techniques that have been successfully applied by those people who also had doubts about their linguistic abilities.
We decided to gather those learning tips that had helped talented polyglots around the world become fluent in more than ten languages.
Country of origin: the US
Claimed languages of fluency: 20
The reason we begin with Timothy Doner is that he is the youngest of polyglots in our list. He is a well-known YouTube star, TEDx speaker who features using different languages online like in this famous video. Although he demonstrates different levels of fluency, yet the video itself has gathered millions of views. So, here are Timothy Doner’s the most useful learning techniques.
– Do not focus on cramming unfamiliar words right from the textbooks. It is better to memorize conversations from movies, books or articles. Doner points out that an authentic piece should be at least interesting. Do not take difficult classic books such as “Anna Karenina” with the help of which Timothy tried to learn Russian.
– Memorize words through games and associations. Name objects around you with the targeted language.
– Practice your language when you travel and chat with natives. However, if you can’t afford to buy a $900 ticket to China just to have a little practice, you can attend speaking clubs or go to such places like stores or bars where this language is mostly used. Living in New York with a variety of language communities Tim Doner takes this chance to interact with native speakers every time he goes outside.
– Use mnemonic method to memorize phrasal verbs or specific expressions.
Country of origin: Italy
Claimed languages of fluency: 11
Luca Lampariello can boast with fewer languages than Tim Doner, yet he has managed to show good fluency of all mastered languages. Also, he has formulated seven principles to help learners master a new language.
– Study on the daily basis and vary methods of learning. Use different exercises for memorizing and retaining information. Find interesting content to keep being passionate about a new language.
– Choose 1-2 resources as your essential guides for learning.
– Always return to the goals and reasons when you find it impossible to tackle a specific language.
– Build the network of the targeted language first. Do not focus on the words outside the context but sentenсes, expressions, and frequently used phrases you meet in different texts.
– Learn how to talk applying a top-down approach. First figure out how to build sentences (affirmative, negative, and interrogative). Only then move to smaller units such as sounds and pronunciation in general.
– Train your memory with the space-time repetitions. Say what you are doing at the exact place connecting actions to the objects around you.
– Use direct translations so that you could see the main differences and similarities between a new language and the one you speak fluently.
Country of origin: Sweden, Canada
The claimed languages of fluency: 17
Unlike Timothy Doner, Steve Kaufman knew only English when he was seventeen. However, these two polyglots have something similar proving that you are never too old or too young to learn a new language. Here are the most helpful learning strategies from Steve.
– Get to know your targeted language mostly focusing on listening, reading, and speaking activities. Begin with the short audio recordings not longer than 30 seconds. They should also have transcripts so that you could see the visual representation of what you hear.
– Listen to the same content more than once even if it’s too boring. Before this, you should review new words from the transcript. As a result, it will help you discern all the parts of speech not only in a particular dialogue but in all the following texts.
– Keep the flame of interest to a new language with the authentic materials like books of renowned authors.
– Make a separate notebook for frequently used expressions that you come across in different contexts.
No matter how many breaks you’ve made trying to learn a new language you can finally master it using particular techniques and strategies. Finally, it is also worth to mind a formula of efficient learning created by another notorious polyglot Kato Lomb: Invested Time × Motivation/Inhibition = Result. She believed that a fear to use a new language (Inhibition) can be diminished with stronger Motivation and enough amount of Invested Time. All this will lead to the actual possession (Result) of a new language.
Summarizing this article, we consider all the described techniques as each polyglot’s personal experience. Analyzing it, we can see many similarities between some activities and approaches. It proves that some techniques can be universal and applied to any learner and language. However, the differences in techniques can be used as new ways to upgrade your language skills.
Glen Allard is an experienced blogger, copywriter and an English tutor of Preply. She has 4 years of teaching English to students in class and by Skype. Since her college, Glen has been studying various methods of language learning to become a polyglot. By now she is fluent in 4 languages: English, Spanish, German and French.