by Jason Cane
Across the web, there are a number of incredible polyglots you should follow to learn the best methods for picking up a new language. While you’re trying to learn a single language like English, many polyglots- people who know and can use multiple languages- are busy dabbling in language number 8 or 9!
So how do they make it look so easy?
These people are often so good at ‘language-hacking’ that you might be wondering:
Do they have an extra-large brain or superpowers that help them pick up languages so quickly and easily?
Of course not! But they have figured out strategies to overcome language-learning obstacles, and they want you to use them, too!
Let’s meet these masters of tongues!
Benny Lewis-The Irish Polyglot
We’ll start our list of incredible polyglots with a familiar name:
You might remember some of Benny’s tips from our article about how to learn English and optimize your study time.
Benny has become fluent in seven languages, can have confident conversations in four others, and has experimented with many more, all of which he did after graduating college at age 21! He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s “not naturally gifted at language learning, and [he] struggled with languages at school.”
But he clearly found an effective system for learning languages. This, combined with his list of accomplishments, gives him the credibility to claim in the very title of his website that he’ll help you become Fluent in 3 Months.
One of my favorite tips from Benny is to use mnemonics (funny/memorable stories related to the words you’re trying to learn) to help build your vocabulary.
This Irishman uses methods like this so to be able to converse with anyone he meets during his constant traveling. You can do the same if you want to open doors to meeting new people and experiencing different cultures abroad!
Donovan Nagel-Dialects Down Under
Next up is Donovan Nagel, founder of the Mezzofanti Guild. Donovan is originally from Australia but, like Benny, he’s been learning languages while traveling nonstop for over 14 years!
Also like Benny, Donovan was only able to speak English until his early twenties. Luckily for language learners, he took note of what worked for him through “failure after failure” so that you don’t have to go through the same struggles!
So, how did he do it?
Part of his success stems from living in the countries where his target languages are spoken, immersing himself in its usage and the culture of the people using it. He writes about it on site’s blog, including what you can do from home to start learning, and has set himself a goal to learn one new language each year!
Donovan suggests using the Chunking Method- the more you try to cram, the less you’ll learn, so attacking small amounts of information at a time is key.
Donovan researched the manner in which people learn their first vs second languages while earning his Masters in Applied Linguistics, which solidifies the Mezzofanti Guild’s reputation as an excellent source of tips and strategies on how to learn your target language.
Just try not to get too distracted by the entertaining stories of his experiences living abroad if you’re trying to study!
Lindsay Dow- Lindsay Does Languages
Our third incredible polyglot you should follow is Lindsay of Lindsay Does Languages. She doesn’t just learn them she “[learns, teaches, blogs, vlogs, eats, sleeps, breathes] everything language”.
Lindsay’s sense of humor and awesome editing skills make her YouTube videos a popular and entertaining means of learning a language. She also offers readers of her blog great insight into this process, as she’s done it many times herself!
There’s a good chance you’ve seen Lindsay somewhere before around the web:
She’s been featured everywhere from blogs to podcasts, and she’s even won a number of awards for her YouTube channel and blog. My favorite tip from Lindsay is to use a language planner to actively prioritize language-learning and help hold yourself accountable.
Whether you decide to check out her own podcast about language and culture during travels with her husband, or sign up for her free resources, you’re sure to gain valuable information from this prolific polyglot in a way that gets you excited about language-learning!
Olly Richards-He Will Teach You a Language
While he has traveled quite extensively, Olly Richards has learned several of the 8 languages he speaks (yep, 8!) without ever studying them in the countries where they’re spoken! This is useful for many of us, as we can’t all jump on the next flight to China to study Mandarin, for example.
Much of what he teaches focuses on having the right mindset to learn the language, so he’ll teach you the small changes to make in order learn efficiently and avoid losing motivation!
Olly is a proponent of ‘training with increasingly heavy weights’ when learning a language-you’ve got to challenge yourself and ‘make your brain sweat’, or you’ll stay at the same level.
One of my favorite tips from Olly?
Stop slowing down the audio when practicing listening, use material that’s at an appropriate level, and make sure it has the full transcript. That way, you can read along!
You can check out all his courses and blog posts at I Will Teach You A Language.
Kerstin Cable: Do you want to be Fluent?
Our final incredible polyglot that you should follow speaks 8 languages (not a surprise at this point, right?) and runs her own company called Fluent. My favorite strategy of hers is to label objects around the house so you can recall them later using a modified Memory Palace technique.
Kerstin is another proponent of starting with and maintaining the right mindset when learning a language, and her strategy starts with setting SMART goals to optimize study time.
You want to speak English fluently, right?
Well, Kristen and I both advise our students to set their sights on the core components of receptive language (listening and reading) and language production (speaking and writing) first instead of on such a large and vague goal like ‘fluency’, or you’ll quickly lose motivation and give up.
Not only do smaller goals allow you to maintain a consistent study habit, but you’ll also start enjoying the process! With the right tools, which Kristen provides learners on her email list and through her blog and courses, you’ll be on your way to mastering English.
Maybe one day, you’ll even be fluent in as many languages as Kerstin!
Final Word: How to Harness the Powers of Polyglots
You’ve probably noticed that there are some similarities between each of these 5 incredible polyglots you should follow.
They suggest setting manageable goals so you don’t lose motivation, immersing yourself when you can, and beginning to use the language as soon as possible. Most of them love using mnemonics, too.
But perhaps the most significant consistency you’ll find when it comes to polyglots and language learning is this:
Their methods will always differ.
Each individual found through trial and error the strategies that worked best for himself or herself. Since no two people learn effectively in exactly the same way, here’s my advice:
- Follow these 5 polyglots, browse their blogs, and see if you like what they’re presenting and the way they are presenting it.
- Pick one of them to dig deeper into their articles, sign up for their email list, and get the most you can out of their free resources.
- Stick with this one polyglot so that you don’t spread your focus too thin or mix up strategies. That way, you’ll stay motivated with your learning,
- Consider signing up for a paid courses once you’ve consumed the free material so you can start applying what you’ve learned in class.
If you get through their free material and you realize you’re not into it, don’t worry:
You’ve got 4 more incredible polyglots on this list to choose from!