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The secrets of learning a new language | Lýdia Machová

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)

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

  1. This video just motivated me to learn languages. Especially english that I currently learning. Hope someday I'll be able to speak english fluently and sounds like native. I just need a partner to improve my skill:) the best way to start is ignore mistakes, just do it. Bcs we're learner, not native speaker. Have a good day everyone :)x

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring video!! I'm sure a lot of people out there like me are willing to learn a new language, and this kind of content demonstrates that it is possible if we perseverate and enjoy what we do!! Never give up 🙂

  3. im brazilian and thanks to god, im here with a little bit of english but , i understood almost everything that you said, thank for give us inspiration, and i really hope some day, who knows some day we will find each other

  4. I knew Chinese Cantonese English and one Chinese dialect
    But I naturally learnt it because of my living environment
    But I found I live learning new languages
    So I tried to learn Korean and Thai on my own, although I just knew little of both languages, I still feel happy with it. Because she is right, I am just enjoying the language learning progress.

  5. How I learn english… Because my college mate lough on my english….plz anyone help me….or suggests any online coaching plzzzz..I speak little bit of english

  6. you don't try about the chinese and japanese, what you have learnt are just dialects of your mother language.

  7. Everything is really thrut, everyone need to enjoying the process when you are learning a new language. I remember when my teacher said me the same thing, damn, he had all the reason. Now, after 6 month since a beginning with English lenguaje, I can enjoy the results, and I'm still learning about this amazing language 😉😁

  8. This lady is absolutely right – the secret of learning a language is to enjoy it, finding fun ways to study it. 👏👏👏

  9. what really helped me to start speaking in english was stop being afraid of commiting to many mistakes and just comment on youtube videos in english

  10. I'm trying to learn Japanese. Currently still trying to get the hang of ひらがな I have a long way to go.

  11. The secret to learning a language: 1) spend a lot of time memorizing, 2) spend some time speaking it.

  12. I don't understand the story about Benny and Lucas at the end of presentation . Which message do speaker want to convey ????🤔🤔

  13. I'm learning my fourth language which for me is easy: the language is Spanish and I'm Italian so I can skip a lot of preparatory work. I am already reading unabridged texts and listening to you tube videos not made for learners.

    Enjoyment is key. If you don't find a way to enjoy the learning process you will never learn anything.

    Then comes discipline. Each of us is different and we all learn in a different way. What doesn't change, though, is that we have to put some effort into it. You need to practice and the more you practice the more you learn (don't overdo it, though: better one hour of grammar exercises every day for a week than seven hours in a single day).
    There is no easy way to learn a language. Methods implying that are lying to you. Language learning is always difficult and there are only two secrets: finding what works best for you and enjoying yourself while doing it.

  14. There is a funnies in Turkey; a tourist has came who can speak 7 languages except Turkish and asked a Turkish man (Temel) an address. But Temel couldn't understand him so his friend has adviced him to learn a new language however Temel replied him; Never mind! The tourist knows 7 languages but nothing works 🙄

  15. Ich habe vor 3 Jahre Deutsch gelernt, und letztem Jahr habe ich eine kurze Austausch in Deutschland gemacht! Ich komme aus Brasilien und spreche nur 2 Sprache (Portugiesisch (natürlich) und Deutsch) jetzt lerne ich Englisch (ich spreche ein bisschen, aber ich kann alles verstehen). Deutsch ist es für mich immer noch schwer, aber ich kann ein gute Deutsch spreche und ich bin stolz mich auf! Heutzutage bin ich Deutsch Lehrerin von Beruf, und das hat mich sehr geholfen, weil ich jeden Tag Kontakt mit dem Sprache habe! 💙 Dieses Videos hat mich sehr sehr sehr inspiriert, Dankeschön!

  16. I love you !!!!!!!!
    You motivated me.
    I'm learning English in the institute, I feel happy when people like you motivate
    Congratulation

  17. I do some tips from this video. I speak to myself in car, and listen to the YouTube. For me all her speach clear, and I'm happy 🤗

  18. but nobody has mentioned Arabic, i think that's obvious why it's the most difficult language ever a lot of people give while just starting learning the letters

  19. I love learning languages 😍 I'm 17 years old and I can speak to 4 languages…my mother tongue is Turkish and talk with my family in turkish and I'm Iranian so I speak persian in my daily life with friends amd I'm learning English and almost Korean right now and as I planned it will be over for 2 years.next I plan to learn Chinese and maybe Italy😍😍

  20. Love this TED Talk! The only question I have is how did she use subtitles to watch Friends in German, if she used them?

  21. I'm indonesian and love learn foreign language. I'm majored japanese literature and learn korean by my self when i'm bored 3 months waiting for start a university life. I start learn english when i was junior high school but the method in school was suck. So, i learn by my self from watching korean drama, movie, or variety show with english subtitle and it's help me a lot and i don't realized it until i start have a little conversation with my self and with my friend who fluent in english for practice. Now, i interest to learn spanish and thai. So i sign in some application which help people like me to learn or have a conversation with native. Now, i'm learning thai. Some of my friends ask me what is the key or what is your tips to learn foreign language, and i always anwer it with " i don't know, i just love it" 🙂 and i agree when the spokerperson said, "you have to know what your own method to learn with enjoyfull".

  22. Damn I love this girl
    I speak 4 languages English Australian Spanish and bullshit
    Señora tú eres muy guapa me gusta muchísimo y creo que te amo también
    Amor de Australia 🇦🇺
    Señor David

  23. Learning English with Ted is difficult but so exciting.
    Now, this is my first English comment!
    Is it correct?

  24. People need to understand this, for many years I always thought there is a special/easy/very fast way to do something. I tried being rich very fast, getting a lot of girls in a very short time, learning a language in a very short time. And my conclusion there is no easy way. You have to work hard and you have to have patience. Everything takes time and you can just choose which one will take your time or valuable to spend your time.

  25. There are so many methods because none of them work. Only those with inborn talent can learn foreign languages.

  26. I've NEVER understood a joke in Spanish. I never will.

    It's just like grade school math. I didn't have the knack, but sometimes I was able to learn the lesson, and "master" the concept, but when it came to the extra problems at the end of the chapter, the word problems to demonstrate comprehension, I always failed. I chose the wrong parents.

  27. A very inspiring video, which actually suits to any activity to succeed in. (Hope the sentence is arranged correctly:)

  28. People think that motivation is necessary for success.

    In fact, (small) successes are essential for motivation.

  29. Hola! I'm trying to learn spanish, and I need a good TV show that is PG, that helps with learning spanish.
    Thanks!

  30. Really this is a very useful video and her speech is very true .I try to learn english daily from youTube and reading some posts in english .This is my first comment in english and it's really a good feeling .

  31. I'm so glad! I really can understand clearly what she's saying. Then I learned new words, what it's amazing! I intend to improving my english turning me a confident person and practicing news methods! Thank you! <3

  32. 📣📣📣Hello helllooooo guys attention people
    Amazing news you know all of us try to learn new language but ,🎉🎉🎉🎊🎊🎊🎊🎊I have something 🎁🎁🎁🎁🎁🎁🎁for you what you think learn Holly Quran 🎉🎇🎆😃😃😃😃💘💘💘💘💘🌸🌸🌸I swear this is the most incredible thing exist ever 😍😍😍🌷🌷your life will Chang 100%believe me just go to my channel or any channels have parts of Quran and listen and you will know what really happiness is🎊🎁🎉😍🌷🌸💘😃😃😃🙏💐🌹

  33. Amazing as a foreign language teacher I agree completely you have to learn it yourself with your own methods nobody can force you to learn or make you memorize an entire language

  34. After that video i just decided to play Pokémon in spanish, after all that’s the way I’ve learned English

  35. I have been learning English for almost 4 years and I still remember the moment I suddenly started to understand what people at school are talking about and to enjoy to join their conversations. Since then, I started to have sooooo much fun of learning English!!

  36. Great talk! If only real English sounds like you talk it it will be much more easier to understand it. Thanks for inspiration and motivation! Moc pekne djakujem!

  37. Come on guys! Learning languages is easy. I am italian and I loathe italian people who even aren't able to speak Italian. This is not a joke, because even though Italian is similar to many languages such as Spanish, French, Romanian, etc. there are not so many italians who can speak fluently different languages… I am fed up!

  38. Thank you this method I will try use them untill I will speak English fluently .i have watched a more video in YouTube with subscribers ,it really help me🙂🙂

  39. "I started reading Harry Potter in Spanish and at the beginning I couldn't understand almost anything yet I kept on reading because I loved the book, and by the end I was able to understand everything almost without any problems." This makes absolutely no sense on so many levels. I'm getting really tired of people claiming they just keep reading then by the end of the book they understand everything. I mean at what point are they going to mention how they looked up/studied every word/grammar structure, re-read things over and over, found audio to accompany it, listened to said audio repeatedly, read and listened to LOTS of other material – beginner text books etc. YOU DON'T JUST READ UNTIL (as if by magic) IT SUDDENLY MAKES SENSE! Please stop making up these BS stories and omitting the real effort you had to make, and time you had to devote to allow that book to make sense. End of rant. 😁

  40. this video made my day. thank you for sharing all those wonderful techniques for learning a new language. bay the way i'm learning English at this moment by trying to write a comment :)))

  41. She is so strong with her words! Her speech really inspired me! Right now, i just want to find a person who can speak English with me.

  42. Очень круто! После видео стало не так страшно учить языки. И я интуитивно учил так, как хотел, а не так как в книге написано. Я смотрю интересные ролики в ютюбе на иностранном языке. Теперь услышал что это тоже эффективно. Спасибо!

  43. 可惜她的这些学法仅仅适合原始印欧的语言,没有字母的外语就不能从零开始阅读,她要是听了好几天的中国电视剧里的对话基本上也没啥用,因为年龄大的学习者需要专门学中文的声调才能背下来单词的发音。
    It's a shame her learning methods are (mostly) limited to Proto-Indo-European languages. For languages without alphabets, one can't simply start reading from scratch. Even if she listened to dialogues in Chinese TV shows for a few days, it would largely be useless. This is because older learners of Mandarin need to specifically study the tones of language before they'll be able to memorize the pronunciation of new words.

  44. You are right somewhat. Learning language depends on passion, people and intelligence. Every single ppl has its own capability to aquire sth. So we can judge to other if they still pursuing own task….surely y'd have got it

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