12 Successful Polyglots Share Their ‘Secret Sauce’ to Learn a Foreign Language

We all had to start somewhere, and before I started learning languages online, I had been searching the web for tips/hacks/tutorials how to quickly manage a foreign language, and become fluent as soon as possible.

First of all, there were lots of paid content but when I got through it, I found the true gold – language blogs where polyglots, language experts, and avid language learners share their tips, tricks, guides, and much more – they share their knowledge and dedicated attitude.

I immediately fell in love with the knowledge they shared, and I promised myself that one day, when I make a blog I want their tips on it!

And here it is. I asked them two questions that will help you endure the learning process, and make things easier for you:

  1. “What is the quickest way a beginner can learn the foreign language?”
  2. “What was your motivation to keep on learning and not to give up?”

Introducing… My 12 Favourite Language Experts, Bloggers and their answers!

Kristoffer Broholm

Kris is a twenty-something year old Dane, who found language learning when hopelessly drifting around trying to look for a path to follow. Now he is a language blogger and the person behind ActualFluency.com​

What is for you the quickest way a beginner can learn a foreign language?

Unless you have real reason for learning the language quickly, I would say that focusing on how fast something can be done is a relatively bad attitude to begin with.

Of course we all want to be fluent as soon as possible, but learning a foreign language, especially as a beginner, takes a lot of time and effort. You can speed up the process by investing more time and money but at the end of the day this is not possible for many people in these busy and economically strained times.

What was your motivation to keep on learning and not to give up?

I think it's important to work with this before you even learn you first word, so when I start learning any language I subconsciously tell myself that I'm going to keep going until I can speak it.

At no point during the 2 years of Russian studies I've done so far did I consider quitting. Breaks, sure but never quitting.

Olly Richards

Olly is the founder of I Will Teach You A Language and he actually speaks 8 languages. He is desperate to help others, so if you have any questions regarding learning, then go ahead and ask him!

What is for you the quickest way a beginner can learn a foreign language?

Most people want to be able to speak with others, and yet speaking is the one thing people often put off for a long time.

After studying a beginner textbook in the language you're learning, spend some time finding speaking partners or tutors who you can practise the language with. Speak regularly with them, and you'll quickly gain confidence.

What was your motivation to keep on learning and not to give up?

I only ever start learning a new language in order to speak with people - usually a new group of friends, or a new country I live in. When you base your learning around a strong human motivation, you'll always have the desire you need to keep going.

olle-linge-language-expert-and-polyglot

Olle Linge

Olle is a passionate language learner, who shows people how to manage Mandarin Chinese on his blog Hacking Chinese. He loves writing, sports and games. What's more, Olle has a degree in teaching both Chinese and English language.

What is for you the quickest way a beginner can learn a foreign language?

I think the best way to get quick results is to learn high-frequency vocabulary and memorise good example sentences for basic grammar. If you can get those sentences with audio, practise mimicking until you can say them exactly like a native speaker.

Apart from that, let communication with real people (online or otherwise) be the main engine behind learning; use textbooks for basic information and explanations.

What was your motivation to keep on learning and not to give up?

My strongest motivation for learning has always been to be able to communicate better. I want to understand what people say and I want to be able to express my own ideas with ever increasing accuracy and fluency.

Whenever I feel that I'm unable to accomplish something to my satisfaction, I become motivated to learn more.

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Artiom Nazarov

Artiom is a student of International Relations in Russia. He got involved into language learning after his trip to Europe. He speaks Russian, English, Italian, French, Spanish, and he learns German and Portuguese. He shares his knowledge on his blog called Yaziky.

What is for you the quickest way a beginner can learn a foreign language?

First, learn some basic grammar, but don't go into details.

Second, focus on the most frequently used words.

Third, attack the language from different angles: listen, read, write, and speak.

That’s more interesting and easier for you to memorize words and grammar concepts. And lastly, be in contact with your target language every single day. A little bit every day. And don’t miss two days in a row. This way you can reach B2 level in 6-10 months.

What was your motivation to keep on learning and not to give up?

What motivates me most when learning a language is speaking with native speakers. It’s always a fun experience and it gives me a great boost of motivation to improve.

When I don’t really want to do anything with a language, I usually turn on easy mode, i.e. I do very easy things like listening to podcasts or watching YouTube videos. After a week or so I am ready to do more complex exercises.

olle-linge-language-expert-and-polyglot

Polyglottando

Polyglottando is a very experienced polyglot with 30 years experience in language-learning and blogs about languages, especially the less popular and ‘minority’ ones, and about cultural diversity and the culture behind the various languages.

What is for you the quickest way a beginner can learn a foreign language?

The fastest way for a beginner to learn the basics of a language is to listen to audio tapes every day for some weeks, and to learn the most useful phrases from a phrasebook.

What was your motivation to keep on learning and not to give up?

My motivation to keep learning has been the reward at the end, namely to be able to read books and magazines in my target languages (without needing a dictionary!), and to understand conversations and movies without any problems, and to be able to make myself understood; a further incentive has been the greater understanding of culture that comes with the ability to speak a new language which allows one to see a different culture from an ‘insider’ – perspective.

olle-linge-language-expert-and-polyglot

Cristóbal Camus

Cristóbal originally comes from Chile. He speaks Spanish and English, and he is learning Polish and Hungarian. When he is not working as a Historian, he usually blogs at Linguablog.org.

What is for you the quickest way a beginner can learn a foreign language?

Personally, there should be a combination of things in order to learn a language efficiently and quick. First of all, inform yourself about the language and culture.

Some languages have a strong backbone in grammar (for example slavic languages with declension systems) whereas others need more vocabulary. Inform yourself first and then think about your needs and set yourself realistic goals.

What was your motivation to keep on learning and not to give up?

I have had different motivations throughout my language learning. With English, I was studying in the US, so I had to run errands and understand what I was told at school. For Polish, curiosity led me to it and then I found Polish music through friends.

Whether your motivation is your circle of friends, your significant other, education... you must use that rush in a good way and connect with others in order to feed yourself from motivation.

olle-linge-language-expert-and-polyglot

Brian Powers

Brian Powers is the creator of the language enthusiast community and blog Languages Around the Globe. Brian lives in Hamburg, Germany where he works as a technical writer for PhraseApp, a translation management software platform.

What is for you the quickest way a beginner can learn a foreign language?

The fastest way to learn a language is to shed the notion that language learning is a quick and easy process. It may seem counterintuitive but instead of focusing on brevity, focus instead on quality and proficiency.

By comparing our progress to the progress we've been told to expect we set ourselves up for disappointment, demotivation and ultimately failure. Don't think about speed, think about motivation.

What was your motivation to keep on learning and not to give up?

My greatest motivation is the expansion of my understanding. Studying a new language creates waves of critical thinking, new opportunities and connectivity between diverse people.

olle-linge-language-expert-and-polyglot

Teddy Nee

Teddy is an avid language learner, blogger, engineer, and a collector. He has a dream to make this world a better place through language learning. He shares his language knowledge at Nee's Language Blog

What is for you the quickest way a beginner can learn a foreign language?

Anyone, including you, can learn any languages quickly only if you use the languages as often as possible. By using the languages, I don’t mean that you need to understand perfectly the content and context but simply make yourself accustomed with the pronunciation, emphasis, sound, accent, or any characteristics of the language being used.

You can do anything, such as reading, listening, writing or speaking in your target language. As you do this activity repeatedly, your skill and knowledge will be accumulated unconsciously and eventually, you will become better in your target language.

What was your motivation to keep on learning and not to give up?

My passion is reading and knowing several languages has allowed me to get access to read information that is available only in some certain languages, such as Wikipedia. If I don’t find a Wikipedia article of a certain topic in English or in my language, at least, I can read it in other languages that I know.

Thus, my first motivation to learn languages is to get access to more information. The second motivation is, knowing more languages lets me explore new cultures of countries, especially those that I might never have the chance to visit because of several reasons, such as geographical distance and cost.

With the power of internet and languages, I can experience these new cultures in form of articles, videos, songs, or even conversation with the people.

olle-linge-language-expert-and-polyglot

James Granahan

James is an English teacher, language enthusiast and travel fanatic from Ireland. He works with business executives all over the world, helping them to learn or improve their English. He is the creator of Lingua Materna, where he shares his tips/tricks/guides.

What is for you the quickest way a beginner can learn a foreign language?

The fast way to acquire enough language to be able to use it is to focus on learning the vocabulary necessary for the most common conversations they're likely to have. Step 2 is to go out and use that knowledge to start speaking and practice conversation. That's the fastest way to using the language.

The fastest way to fluency is to be really persistent for a long period of time. There are no shortcuts in that sense.

What was your motivation to keep on learning and not to give up?

That rush of positivity you receive when you speak a language and people understand you and respond. That's the most powerful motivator for me.

olle-linge-language-expert-and-polyglot

Ulrike Rettig

Ulrike comes from Austria, lived in the Netherlands and Canada. Taught college German in Boston, and now she blogs on language learning; co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com

What is for you the quickest way a beginner can learn a foreign language?

Best way for beginners: learn common words and build them into simple sentences; prepare these to use with a tutor or friend; listen, listen, listen to podcast, radio, tv.

What was your motivation to keep on learning and not to give up?

I grew up with 4 languages, and I continue to learn others. I cannot imagine being trapped in one language.

olle-linge-language-expert-and-polyglot

Chiara Grandola

Chiara is the founder of Runaway Daydreamer. She’s a native Italian speaker and is passionate about all things languages, travel and entertainment. On her blog she shares her favourite, tried and true, language learning tips and tricks along with some discoveries.

What is for you the quickest way a beginner can learn a foreign language?

Learning a foreign language can be a bit daunting when you're first starting out. The trick for me is to enjoy the process of learning it.

Just enjoy yourself. Welcome the language into your life. Gracefully. Don’t force yourself into following some tedious lessons or studying complicated grammar rules at the very beginning.

Try to incorporate the language you want to learn into your daily life instead, so that learning it will be as effortlessly as watching your favourite TV series. In fact, you should watch your favourite TV series dubbed in your target language. You’ll easily pick up tons of new vocabulary while enjoying every minute of it. What’s better than that?

What was your motivation to keep on learning and not to give up?

Language learning is a journey of discovery. It opened a whole new world for me and it allowed me to understand the world around me better.

Every time I get discouraged and I feel like giving up I remind myself of how it changed and truly enriched my life. Not only have I gottten in touch with new cultures – which is always a thrilling experience – but I also discovered more about myself.

olle-linge-language-expert-and-polyglot

Bartosz Czekała

Bartosz is the polyglot speaking 9 language and the man behind UniverseOfMemory.com. He specializes in memory improvement and accelerated learning with emphasis on language learning.

What is for you the quickest way a beginner can learn a foreign language?

I would divide the process of rapid learning into two steps. Firstly, you should know the most important elements of your target language - i.e. so-called functional grammar.

Once you know them, place them on your grammar cheat-sheet. You will be able to use it as a crutch every time you forget how to use some grammar construction.

The second step is activation. I can't stress its importance enough. Most learners, even advanced ones, like to play with different apps or websites like Duolingo. Don't get me wrong - any form of learning is good.

But the best learning is the one which requires so-called "effortful recall". You have to actually put effort into recalling some piece of information to create a durable memory trace in your memory.

That's why you should try to to speak as much as possible (with help of your grammar cheat-sheet). Don't have any language partner or teacher? Talk to yourself! It's that easy!

What was your motivation to keep on learning and not to give up?

I am definitely a weirdo when it comes to maintaining my motivation. You see, my main motivation was never to learn yet another language. Sure, I do love language but definitely not even half as much as other polyglots I know.

My main focus has always been the memory improvement and languages have been my "laboratory" for many years. It's only logical since they are one of the most complex skills one can acquire.

So my first motivation is to see to what degree my backed-by-science theories can accelerate language learning, especially vocabulary acquisition.

The second one would be definitely so-called "negative motivation". Learning a language to the communicative level takes about 200-600 hours.

Now, if you start learning a language and you give up at any moment, you can say goodbye to this time. It's as if you flushed it down the toilet! Sure, there are a lot of benefits of language learning, even if the process itself is short-lived but still - what a waste! I would rather prefer to spend my time elsewhere than to see it snuffed out by my laziness!

I hope you liked all the answers, if you have any other questions or you want to be added to this round-up, don’t hesitate to contact me. And make sure you have visited these polyglots’ language blogs! They share great stuff every day!

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