I’m always a tad reluctant to use the term ‘polyglot’, as it seems to imply a kind of born talent for languages that honestly, I’m not sure I have; but among my friends, suffice it to say that I’m known as the languages guy. Although I only speak four languages (three of them being incredibly similar to each other), I’m enthusiastic about language in a way that people find difficult to understand. ‘How do you do it?’ is a question I’m often asked, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk you through just that. Which resources I use (online, I’ll go into offline resources in a later post) and any methods I’ve found to be particularly helpful in my quest for polyglottitude (shut up, that’s definitely a word).
So, as a bit of background, I’m currently working on Czech as my main target language. As I’m still at a very basic level, I’m mostly trying to build up a background using online resources:
If you’ve ever tried to learn a language on your own, you’re probably familiar with at least the first one. I like Duolingo, I like the interface, and I even love the passive-aggressive owl mascot. I’m not sure it’s great for learning grammar, though, so keep that in mind while you’re using it. It’s great if you want to learn a few phrases before you go on holiday and get a general feel for how the language works, but if you’re like me and like getting a grasp on the nuts and bolts of a language, it might be worth using this one in moderation.
HelloTalk is a really interesting concept… it’s kind of like Facebook for language learners. You create posts which native speakers will then be able to see and leave corrections on, so you get to see a real-world application of your language learning and hopefully learn from your mistakes at the same time! It’s also a good place to meet people to practice with. My only complaint is that I get a warning that it isn’t supposed to be used for dating every time I write the word ‘six’ in Swedish (which is sex) and for some reason, my phone has defaulted to the Danish translation of their interface (which is absolutely terrible). But despite these minor flaws, it’s definitely something I’d recommend.
Mango is a really interesting one. You have to pay for it if you want full access to all of their materials, but their style is really interesting. You learn your target language through a sample conversation, which is then split up and explained. You learn what the words mean individually and what the sentences literally mean, which can be really helpful when you’re just starting out in a language. When you get past the idea of two mangoes talking to each other, that is. Even if one of them is called Daniel, it doesn’t make it any less weird.
And lastly, honourable mention to Mondly. Again, this is one you have to pay for to get full access, but I’m definitely on the cusp of buying it – their daily lessons cover such a wide range of topics and are brilliant for learning new vocabulary. The format is basically the same as Duolingo, there are language games to help you memorise the vocabulary and then you use it in a sentence. Not sure how good this is for grammar, but I have no complaints about what I’ve learned from it so far!
I guess when you get me talking about language resources, it’s hard to get me to stop. I’m making an executive decision to cut this post into two parts and talk about offline resources I’ve found useful another time. Before I go, though, I want to leave you with my top tip when it comes to language learning. Once you’ve learned a new word, and how it fits into a sentence, take a note pad and pen and write it down in as many different sample sentences as you can think of. And then just keep doing it. I can’t watch a film these days without a notebook and pen, absent-mindedly scribbling nonsense in Czech while I’m watching the film. Honestly, it’s just a little thing but you would be surprised how helpful it is!
And that’s all from me for this month. Don’t forget, next month is Polyglot NaNoWriMo month so my post for December will be all about how that went. As for next month’s post… well, you’ll just have to wait and see, won’t you? As always, thanks for reading, I’ll see you next time.