Learn Spanish Faster! 10 Things Polyglots Do Differently
Have you ever met someone who seems to learn foreign languages effortlessly and speaks three or four? How about seven? While it appears that these multilingual people, called polyglots, have super powers, the truth is far less intimidating. In fact, I’m here to say that YOU can easily learn Spanish in less than a year—and without leaving the comfort of your home. Then maybe you’ll be inspired to seek out the next foreign language you’d like to conquer and speak fluently.
It sounds insane, but it’s actually possible.
Let me introduce to you Lýdia Machová, a native Slovakian who is fluent in seven languages. She’s been learning foreign languages since the tender age of 11, but she admits that most of her foreign language experience has been during adulthood. On average, she masters a foreign language every two years while also living, working, and building her own business.
The methods that Ms. Machová uses are so simple and straightforward that she actually created her own profession—as a language mentor—to teach people how to teach themselves a foreign language!
Get ready, because this will blow your mind.
How to Learn Spanish the “Polyglot Way”
You probably know what it’s like to sit in a classroom, waiting for your foreign language teacher to teach you a language. You diligently take notes, repeat key phrases, bookmark your textbook, follow all the instructions, and complete the exercises. The years go by with much of the same, and suddenly you’re telling people, “I studied Spanish for four years, but I don’t really speak it.”
Why is that?
Is it because you should have been immersed in the language?
Is it because your school didn’t have the resources to teach you the language correctly?
Is it because you didn’t really pay that much attention?
(Lýdia Machová refers to these types of people as “time keepers.” They know how long they’ve studied Spanish, but they avoid jumping into a Spanish conversation.)
So, why don’t you speak the language yet?
Because you expected someone else to teach it to you.
Machová argues that language cannot actually be taught to a person for them to reach fluency! Along with many other polyglots like her, she’s convinced that “a good teacher can help you on this journey—but they cannot give the language to you on a silver platter.”
A good quality Spanish teacher is important, but the magic formula is within you—requiring you to actively listen, practice, speak, and learn Spanish on your own.
How Do Polyglots Learn?
Not only do polyglots do things differently when it comes to learning a foreign language, they have certain characteristics and habits that set them apart from the rest. Luckily, these traits are skills that can be cultivated over time and simply require that you have a deep personal passion to succeed. As you proceed to learn Spanish on your own, you’ll notice that you are:
- Autodidactic (a self-directed learner)
- Highly self-motivated
- Enthusiastic about self-education
- Full of passion and thirst for knowledge
- Conscious about self-imposed activities that lead you to your goal
The practical aspect of learning Spanish comes in many forms. Which method will you use? Let’s take a look at the language hacks that some of the most popular polyglots use!
Polyglots and Their Language Hacks
Olly Richards is fluent in 8+ languages and uses an innovative story-based approach to learning. He is the founder of I Will Teach You a Language. Two common hacks he uses are:
- “No English for 1 Hour,” where he forces himself to use his target language no matter what obstacles he comes up against.
- He writes mini-speeches in his target language and rehearses them over and over. For example, he will focus on a coherent and descriptive paragraph about hobbies in Spanish instead of isolated sentences or verbs.
John Fotheringham created Language Mastery where he trains learners to create an immersive environment at home. He is a big believer in:
- The “Spaced Repetition System,” which systematically presents you information that you’ve previously studied so that you don’t forget it. It works to keep the material constantly fresh in your mind.
- Listening to audio that is just a little bit above your level to regularly introduce you to new words, phrases, and ways of expressing yourself.
Benny Lewis is the genius behind Fluent in 3 Months, which is the largest language learning blog on the web. He champions one single idea over all others as the precursor to success and that is:
- To demolish mental blocks and psychological limitations that stop you from speaking as often as possible and making millions of mistakes.
To learn more about polyglots and get the inside scoop from Lýdia Machová, watch her talk at the 2017 Polyglot Gathering!
Now let’s get into the details on 10 things polyglots do differently where you’ll discover how to prepare yourself to learn Spanish the right way!
10 Things Polyglots Do Differently
1. First of all, polyglots don’t have a special talent.
Of all the polyglots that Machová has known over the years, she noticed a pattern: none of them had learned any foreign languages successfully as children. Most of them started gaining fluency in other languages after the age of 23! This is clear evidence that most multilingual people aren’t simply born with a gift, but instead learn a highly efficient and specialized method of language learning as adults.
2. Polyglots use their own methods.
Is this the part where we learn the magic method that works wonders on everyone? Not quite! As it turns out, polyglots become experts in the method that works best for them. In fact, there is no single “best” method that ensures language learners succeed. Instead, you’re most likely destined for success if you can develop the method on your own by fielding and testing what works best for you.
Four example methods that polyglots have used include:
- Learning the verbs first
- Speaking from the first moment with native speakers
- Writing everything down to boost memory
- Looking for cognates (similar words with similar meanings across languages)
3. Polyglots learn mostly by themselves.
Consider this—many of us endeavor to learn Spanish by enrolling in a language school or signing up for an online Spanish class and then we wait to be spoon-fed the information. Naturally, we see it as an exchange: I give the teacher money, so the teacher gives me fluency.
News flash! It doesn’t work that way. Polyglots consistently enroll in language courses, sign up with skilled language teachers, and connect to language exchange partners. But this isn’t the only thing they do.
If you assist Spanish classes with skilled native Spanish-speaking teachers a couple times a week, but you spend most of your time honing your own method of learning at home, then you’re one step closer to fluency.
Think of it this way: You hold the power to learn Spanish. Your high-quality, certified teacher can only do so much to get you to your end goal. The work is ultimately yours and yours alone. But you already know that you can do it!
4. Polyglots create their own language material.
Instead of relying entirely on another source to present them with language materials, polyglots jump in headfirst and start creating their own. They make flashcards, keep language journals, and gather language books and textbooks. Polyglots collect YouTube videos and podcasts. They constantly seek out more information and consolidate it in a way that makes sense to them.
5. They learn one language at a time.
If you’re interested in learning more than one foreign language, Machová recommends that you spend 80% on the principle language of interest and 20% on the other one. While some say it’s possible for you to learn more than one language at a time, it seems logical to concentrate all of your efforts on one for up to a year before you begin to switch. This will guarantee that you retain more information and have less of a chance of forgetting all the words you spent a year learning.
6. Polyglots practice listening and speaking most of all.
More than any other skills, polyglots focus their efforts on listening and speaking. Yes, they read and write in their target language, but that is not their priority. Machová makes it clear by saying that “nothing in your language learning will ever bring you forward faster than speaking.”
By speaking and seeing the exciting results of your hard work, you become even more motivated to master the language. From that point forward, the momentum continues to build and carry you to fluency.
Additionally, listening is a skill that is painfully overlooked in traditional language classes. (Does your high school Spanish class ring a bell?) To learn Spanish, you need to listen to the language as regularly as possible. Find podcasts you want to listen to, watch movies in Spanish, listen to Spanish news and weather forecasts. Search the internet for Spanish audio you enjoy and listen to it every chance you get.
Check out 5 Spanish Podcasts for Beginners and Spanish Podcasts to Learn Intermediate Spanish on Your Way to Work to get started now!
7. Polyglots are not afraid to make mistakes.
A defining difference between a typical language learner and a polyglot is that polyglots are not afraid to make mistakes. How do you feel when you’re about to say a Spanish phrase to a native speaker and you’re almost sure you’re going to make a mistake? If you’re lucky, you’re cool about it. But if you’re like most of us, you’re biting your nails. Oh, the tragedy of a wrongly conjugated Spanish verb! It mustn’t ever come to pass!
The truth is, mistakes are your friend. They are the fastest way to make progress while you stumble your way to fluency. It sounds slightly painful—and for many of us, it is—but this is the reason polyglots float through all of their broken Spanish. They don’t mind the errors since they understand it’s a small price to pay for achieving fluency fast.
8. They have mastered the art of simplification.
Since polyglots are total beginners of the newest foreign language they’re trying to learn, they’ve come to understand the art of simplification. Machová tells a story of when she first began to learn Spanish and she met with some native Spanish-speaking students who were studying in Slovakia. She wanted to take them out for some food at a local food-court, tucked deep inside a neighboring mall. Clearly she couldn’t go into such detail with her limited Spanish and so she simply said: En esa casa, hay comida. Her friends laughed at the simplicity of her sentence, and she laughed along with them, knowing that she’d made her point despite her lack of Spanish knowledge!
9. Polyglots learn every day in small chunks.
Any polyglot will tell you that “30 minutes a day is better than 8 hours every Sunday.” It’s much more effective to enjoy the process step by step than to try to cram too much information into your brain at once. By carving out 30 minutes to an hour of your time every day to listen, speak, write, read, or actively practice your language skills, you can easily learn Spanish fluently within one year.
10. Polyglots learn in an enjoyable way.
If you consider “language learning” or “learning Spanish” to be your hobby, then you’ve got the golden ticket to Spanish fluency. The point here is to be yourself and do what you like while actively engaging with Spanish. Were you really into the show Friends? Watch it with Spanish audio. Do you love healthy lifestyle magazines? Look for online magazines of this genre in Spanish. Do most of your podcast subscriptions discuss how the mind works? Look for Spanish podcasts dedicated to discussing psychology. The possibilities (and the sources of fun) are endless!
Learn Spanish Now, Start Speaking Today!
You’re highly motivated to learn Spanish. You’re ready to make a thousand mistakes on your quest to speak it fluently. Now it’s time to sign up for a free trial class with one of our certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers to bring forward to your language skills faster than any other method! By believing in yourself, you’re halfway to your goal. Start speaking Spanish today as you gather up your other resources for successful language learning!
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