The secrets of learning a new language | Lýdia Machová


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 space 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)

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100 thoughts on “The secrets of learning a new language | Lýdia Machová

  1. What an amazing video! I've studied english for 8 years in a language school and sometimes I feel that the fluency is too far…But , I won't give up, I'll discover my method !

  2. I usually listening English on Youtube, on apps. But it seems not effectively. I haven't improved my English skills yet. Can everyone share with me how to learn English effectively? Thank you

  3. They said that Chinese is the most difficult language to learn in the world.Luckily I'm Chinese, or I wouldn't know how to speak Chinese, lol

  4. Interesting you should mention taking pleasure in learning. I managed to teach a Lao village woman English to the point of legibility in three months, spending no more than two hours a day over five day periods as she was Mayban (Maid) in the house I was sharing.
    It was a fortuitous accident really, Keo (Pronounced Gyow} was from a subsistence village in Northern Laos and this fascinated me to have access to this uneducated but intelligent womans knowledge. She on the other hand was happy that I was obviously and actively interested in her life and that I valued her insights. I agree entirely with your learrning a bunch of words remark, I am sure that you are right, find a way to gain pleasure from learning to speak another language and it will happen quickly, We laughed a lot and at times she bought me to tears, for the most part I never added unnescessary words if she got stuck, I would encourage her to find another way to say what she wanted to get across. Only then would I suggest that there is an easier way and perhaps introduce a word. As she learned more I introduced more of course but it was always fun. She was Illiterate by any useful standard, but a very intelligent and determined young woman, it was not my brilliance that allowed such progress, I just happened to stumble onto that, which you have thought out.

  5. Lydia Machova zni jako ceske prijmeni, ale nikde jsem nevidela ceskou vlajku mezi ostatnimi ktere reprezentuji jazyky kterymi jste schopna mluvit. Mate ceske predky?

  6. I've been learning English for a long time, but i still have a lot of work to do to improve my communication skills, i have a nice american accent, and i can understand native speakers, but obviously i make a lot of mistakes. One day insha'allah i'll be able to speak it fluently and write correctly. (From Algeria)

  7. Yeah but there are damnable thousands words. I'm intermediate, I know words used in daily life. But its not sufficent
    (I have been learning English by the way)

  8. Personally, i like to watch videos with sub. Thanks to that, after 5 years of watching anime, i sometimes don't have to read subs and can do other things while watching/listening ;D
    Probably, if i'd start to watch… hmm… Winx Club in italian and had subs in Polish(native) or English, then after.. what, 6 seasons, i'd probably understand some of the words and even grama.

    That's probably my enjoyment and method (yeah, i like cartoons and animations xd). Add to that my immense patience and the fact that i watch cartoons and anime daily… And that i like to use google translate to one word translations, and bam, i know basics in that language ;d

  9. Since native speakers don't exist for the language I'm trying (latin) I labeled objects and rooms in my minecraft house and ive learned alot of object and room names but its not enough, I need to learn conjugation

  10. Thật sự được truyền cảm hứng từ chị. Tôi cũng rất thích tiếng Anh,Thái Lan và tiếng Hoa.Mong rằng tôi có thể sớm thành thạo những ngôn ngữ mà tôi muốn.

  11. This is why schools are so bad at teaching languages—and every other subject for that matter. They suck the joy out of everything.

  12. Im an indonesian. Now im on my way to learn egyptian arabic, since 1 month ago. I listen to egyptian arabic song everyday, write down the lyric and translation. And…when i finally able to hear and understand just a little words on another song, i felt so happy.

  13. My english learning method is open the english subtitles and while i am listening i am following subtitels with my eyes and i really understan everything about it.
    İf i could not catch a word from subtitels i am trying to take mean of the after sentences.
    And i think it iproved my english level.

  14. Do u know what? English is my second language..before this, i used to get bad result in english examinations. Then i learnt english through kpop lmao. I almost understand nothing that time. I wanted to know what those korean singers were talking bout in english. Then i needed to communicate with many kpop fan from another countries to know many new news about my idols. My english was so broken at the time but i don't care and pretended like i didn't see any mistakes in my english. But my cousins and the other people who used to make fun of my english eventho their english also suck. That's what made me in this level… Now, english is a subject that i scored the highest marks betweeen among all the students for all english exams .Not only A- or A .. But A+ … now they respected me for my english . Especially my cousins…until now, their english so bad… My feelings that time ….. Dang it…! So hurt lol.. But i changed from BAD COMMENTS to GOOD COMMENTS. And i still learning english now cause i know my english is still not good enough. I'm still not satisfied with my english.. My grammar.. Eyuck!.. My ambition is i want to be an english teacher and teach many students who has the same probs as mine. I hate those such bad and hurtful comments to english learners

  15. Oh thank you) I am actually Russian and now I'm watching the video in english! So I've almost learned one. And it's awesome for me! In the future I'm going to learn more languages, for example Chinese or Korean

  16. The best and fast way is..find a girlfriend from England..Irish maybe is better 😉 you know..redhead..freckles…😂

  17. Although there's nothing quite like spending time with people of the language you're learning. Those subtle nuances that all languages have make the difference between speaking and understanding, and real fluency.

  18. Learning another skills in general tends to be a little bit difficult at the beginning, but once we recognize our improvements the enjoyment starts. I’ve been learning English two years ago by writing a daily memos, and I still do. it’s very helpful method, cause I can see my improvement. Also, watching Ted videos and ALOT of English series help too. I hope that one day I can speak English Language fluently with error free 🧚🏻‍♂️

  19. I love this teacher..she's smart..competent and sooo sweety..i learnt a lot from ur videos..thank's a lot…greetings from algeria

  20. english is the most difficul language for indonesi. we learn english for 12 years in formal school but hard to speak. no indonesian speak english like native speakers hehe

  21. BRIEF [email protected]

    Professor Daniel Vergara Peláez, during his 20-year stay in Greece, for family reasons, studied Hispanic Philology at the Kapodistriako National University of Athens Greece. Then, for 20 years he taught the Spanish language in the city of Athens,at various institutes and in particular to hundreds of students of all ages, from 9 years to 90, to everyone fresh, agile and eager to learn not only a language, but the relationship with its history and culture, at least to many who wish to know the cultural elements, given the enormous geographical extension that the Spanish language covers in the World.

    His experience is wide because he not only he dedicated himself to the common teaching of the Spanish language, at levels A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2, but also its use, phonetics, forms, styles and in addition to the whole grammatical framework, so that anyone can face a conversation fluently and confidently with any Spanish or Latin American in the world. Furthermore, he dedicated himself to the preparation for DELE exams, tthe Exams International Spanish Officials of the Spanish Language. Thus, preparing dozens of students to pass with guaranteed success such exams, allows them to receive an official and International Diploma of the Spanish Language. This certificate is endorsed by the Government of Spain and each Latin American country, including the United States of America and allows anyone to prove their knowledge of the Spanish language at an international level.

  22. She has a lot of money not to work or just have to spend free time to study. If you were born in developing countries, priority is to earn money to live.
    Like more than 12 hours of work everyday.

    Good for you, you have that kind of lifestyle. 😌

  23. Is it okay if I start to learn French while my English fluency in speaking and grammar still in lower level? 😿 been learn English for my entire life but still difficult to speak fluently 😭.

  24. Finding this video is a miracle for me. Abt to take on a new struggling language student n had wanted to say exactly what this vid said, to him .Thank you. Now I hv solid backing😂😂

  25. Initially take up grammar pronunciation lessons in some first weeks. Learn the script if it is different. It makes a basic software in your brain, now watch movies, read articles, news etc. Go on grasping……
    Directly start with the phrases ignore everything.
    Any method u use, listen more and more and more…

  26. I had happened to watch this video by chance and I immediately get started to learn English. What a motivating speech!

  27. It is impossible for a dyslexic person to learn a new language. I can't even read or write my own language without text to speech software.

  28. Hi, I'm learning English and I'm from Brazil, I'm still in the basics, I feel I need a conversational friend who can help me learn better, would anyone help me? I would be very grateful

    I would be happy to help you learn Portuguese if you wish🤭

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  30. You say all and nothing.
    These are abstract explanations – not really useful.
    You want make people dream, but it's not effective.

  31. I'm Indonesian,the best scenery in Asian,i was learning English 3 months untill now,right now i still learn English every day for improving my skill English –

  32. the fact that you’re from slovakia inspires me a lot. i’m a slovak native speaker myself and your ability to speak 8+ languages is truly admirable. i could also hear that you’re slovak from the way you talked! thank you for sharing your knowledge with us, this will definitely boost up my language learning.

  33. I want to recommend you to learn Korean.
    I'm korean. And I think korean is the most beautiful language all around the world.
    I agree about your opinion and I also polyglots.
    I'm 14 years old now but, I can speak 5 languages.
    I can speak Korean English Spanish German and even Chinese though but, I think most beautiful language is Korean.
    Do you know how to write Hello to korean?
    We write hello 안녕하세요.
    Our Alphabet is unique than other languages alphabets.
    That is reason why I recommend you to learn Korean.

  34. No pain no succes no pain no achievement no pain no money no pain no future no patience and have a fun and use the language every day no speak English…so .. when pigs fly but you piece of cake u can do it man

  35. I just wanna ask if someone here is a polyglot that can being a polyglot become the main source of my finance?

  36. Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring video! I absolutely agree with your points!
    People need to understand the fact that they can't just learn a new language overnight, but there are so many YouTube videos' thumbnails stating "You can be fluent in 30 minutes" or "Simple Tricks to Become Fluent" and trick people. It takes time and effort. Language learners need patience, effort, time, and passion! Just wanted to share my thoughts. Anyways, good luck with whoever is learning a foreign language! Have a great day!=)

  37. Yes. it's not a genius it takes to be a polyglot. IMHO, they must have some mental diseases which make them stronger.

  38. If you cant talk to yourself, or if you havent any friends, maybe you can watch short videos and you can try to answer the person or the animal in the video. I am using voscreen for this.

  39. There are NO SPECIAL WAYS OR METHODS yours is the best one!
    Because everyone is DIFFERENT and what works with you doesn't with someone else.
    That's just the way it is. I teach English for years to children, teens or adults and I NEVER HAD someone who was the PERFECT COPY of somebody else.
    Yes, all of them have something in common, they all want to learn English because they know this language is the key of many many things: travel, business, Internet… But everyone of them is completly different than the others.
    I don't know if I'm right or wrong and that's not the point, but I can assure you one thing, they all learn at a different speed and no one look alike someone else. Good and interesting video.

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