How to become a polyglot: 12 tips for learning languages

Some people think that there is a special gene that allows you to learn several foreign languages ​​for your life. In fact, knowing five or eight foreign languages ​​is not a special gift or even years of hard work. Believe that everyone can do this, and follow the 12 rules from experienced polyglots.

1. Learn the correct words in the right way.

To learn a new language is to learn new words, a lot of new words. Some people think that they have a bad memory for words, surrender and stop teaching. But here’s the point: you do not need to learn all the words of the language to talk on it.

In fact, you do not know ALL of the words of your native language, but you speak it well. Only 20% of the effort to memorize new foreign words will provide you with 80% of the understanding of the language. For example, in English, 65% of the written material includes only 300 words.

These words are used very often, and such a scheme works for all other languages. You can find these commonly used words or a specific topic and often used words for it.

There is a program for PCs and smartphones Anki. Here the method of cards is used, when on one side the question is written, and on the other – the answer. There are no cards as such, only questions and answers that will appear until you remember the word. You can use real cards, for example Vis-ed for learning different languages. You can buy them or make yourself.

2. Study related words

You already know a lot of words of the language that you are going to teach. Whichever language you begin to learn, you know at least a few words, so it’s impossible to start learning from scratch. Related words are “true friends” of words from your native language, which mean the same.

For example, in Romance languages ​​- French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and others – there are many related words with English. English originally borrowed them from the Normans during the conquest, which lasted several hundred years. Action, nation, precipitation, solution, frustration, tradition, communication, extinction and thousands of other words with the ending “-tion” sound exactly the same in French, and you can immediately use them, getting used to pronunciation.

Just change “-tion” to “-ción” and you will get the same words in Spanish. Changing the ending on “-zione” is Italian, “-ção” is Portuguese. In many languages ​​there are words with a common root, which sound a little different. But still you have to try hard to not understand what is at stake. For example, hélicoptère (French); porto, capitano (italian); astronomía, Saturno (Spanish).

To find common words in the language that you are teaching, you can search for borrowed or related words. This method is suitable for European languages, but what about the rest, for example Japanese? It turns out that even in the “far” language one can find fairly familiar words. This works especially well if you know English and want to learn another language. Many languages ​​borrowed words from English and adapted to their pronunciation.

So include borrowed and related words in your first list of new words. It will be much easier for you to learn them than completely new words, not like the words of your native language.

3. It is not necessary to travel

Another reason (or justification, this is how to look) is the refusal to study a foreign language in the fact that people can not visit another country in which they speak this language. No money, time, etc. Believe me, there is nothing in the air of another country that would make you suddenly speak in a foreign language. There are cases when people live in another country for several years and do not learn the language.

If you need to immerse yourself in a foreign language, you do not need to buy a plane ticket – you can do this via the Internet. If you want to listen to conversations in a foreign language, here is an online resource of with over 100,000 current radio stations from around the world.

There is a similar application for smartphones on iOS and Android (free), in which you can find several radio stations in the language that you are studying, and listen to them every day anywhere. If you prefer watching videos in the language you are learning, find the most popular videos in the country you want on YouTube Trends Dashboard.

Go to Amazon or Ebay of the country you want to learn the language of (for example,,,, etc.), and buy your favorite movie or series in a foreign language. You can use the news online services of different countries, for example France24, Deutsche Welle, CNN Español and many others.

To read materials in a foreign language, in addition to the same news services in different countries, you can add reading blogs and other popular sites, and you can find them on the Alexa website. If it’s hard for you to translate foreign articles right away, in Chrome there is a special plugin that will help you to gradually learn different expressions in a foreign language by translating parts of the text. That is, you read the text in your own language, and some parts of it – on a foreign language.

4. We train on Skype and not only

So, you already have what to listen to, what to watch and even what to read, and all this in warmth and comfort, in other words, at home. Now comes the time for the next stage – a conversation with native speakers. In general, if your goal of learning a language includes talking on it, this point should be one of the first.

Let’s say you start learning a foreign language. It takes a little time to learn the basic words and repeat what you already know. And then immediately contact the native speakers and start talking to them.

For the first dialogue, you do not need a lot of words, and if you start the conversation immediately after learning them, on the same day there will be gaps in the vocabulary and you can add the missing expressions to your vocabulary.

In four to five hours you will have time to learn a few words in another language, and it is desirable to include such words and phrases as “hello”, “thank you”, “can you repeat?” And “I do not understand”. All the words for the first dialogue can be found in phrase books.

Now about how to find a native speaker and impose his own society on him. And it’s not as difficult as it seems. For example, on the site you will find professional teachers, informal training and even just interlocutors.

Moreover, the training is quite inexpensive, for example, you can find Chinese and Japanese courses on Skype for $ 5 per hour. If you still think that one day of preparation is too little to start communicating with a native speaker, consider that communication via Skype does not prevent you from opening a file with basic phrases in a foreign language that you have not yet had time to memorize well.

In addition, you can use Google Translate and in the course of the process learn the words needed in the dialog. It’s not cheating, because your goal is to learn how to talk and do it well.

5. Do not waste money. The best resources are free

For the constant attention of native speakers is worth paying, but, as you can see, the courses are generally a penny. As for the other facets of training – it is unclear why to pay hundreds of dollars, if all this can be obtained for free. At Duolingo there are excellent free courses in different languages.

Here everything is presented in a game manner, so learning the language will be more interesting. If you already know English and want to learn some other language, a number of free courses are provided by FSI and Omniglot. In BBC languages, you can learn the basic phrases of more than 40 languages, and on the site in the Languages ​​section there is information about specific aspects of different languages.

With the help of the Interpals service you can find a correspondence mate from another country, and on My Language Excharge you can find a person who also wants to learn the language, and to correspond with him in the language of study. And here are a few more resources to help you learn languages:

  • a huge database of words with voice acting for the correct pronunciation is waiting for you on Forvo;
  • in the Rhinospike community, you can offer phrases and words that you want to listen in a foreign language, and they will be voiced by native speakers;
  • if you can not find the voice acting of the desired phrase, in extreme cases there is Google Translate;
  • on the resource Lang 8 you will find proofreaders – native speakers who will correct your texts, and you, in turn, correct the texts of people who are learning Russian.

As you can see, there are enough opportunities for free education, and what is better – to buy lessons with a tutor or to study independently – decide for yourself. Probably, for someone like.

6. Adults are better given foreign languages ​​than children

Now that you know so many resources to begin learning the language, you need to deal with the biggest problem. This is not grammar, not vocabulary and not the lack of personal resources. This is a question of self-doubt and an incorrect assessment of one’s potential.

The most common misconception followed by the phrase “I give up” is this: “I’m too old to learn a foreign language and have a good command of it.” There is good news. One study by the University of Haifa has shown that older people are better able to learn a foreign language than children.

Unlike children, adults intuitively understand grammar rules that have not yet been explained in foreign language lessons. In addition, there was not a single study that would prove otherwise.

With age, people do not acquire any special hindrances to the study of a foreign language, except, of course, surrounding factors. In adults, a lot of time goes to work, and you have to reduce the hours of training.

In addition, no one will allow a child to drop a foreign language course if his parents wrote it there. Adults do not have this restriction, and they often give up. So, we found out three good news for those who want to become a polyglot:

To quickly learn a foreign language, you do not need money, travel, or return to childhood.

As many as three excuses will not work again.

7. Refill your vocabulary with the help of mnemonic

Mechanical repetition is not enough. Despite the fact that numerous repetitions can literally burn out a word in your memory, you can still forget it. In addition, there are words that do not want to be remembered, despite constant repetition.

For such “stubborn” words you can use mnemonics – the art of remembering. You come up with some short funny story about the right word and with the help of associations firmly remember it.

You can invent yourself or use special resources, for example On this resource, users come up with different stories for easier learning of languages ​​and sciences. You can freely use ready-made stories and create your own.

8. Love your mistakes

About half the world’s population knows more than one language. This means that monolingualism is a merit of culture, and not of biological factors. It turns out that if adults suffer defeat in the study of foreign languages, the reason is not in genetics. The real reason is that their training system is faulty.

The traditional system of teaching foreign languages ​​is similar to all other academic disciplines. The difference between your native language and the language that you are going to teach is represented as a combination of grammatical rules and rules for writing words that you need to memorize.

When you learn all the rules, you will know the language. Sounds logical, right? The problem is that you can not really “learn” the language, you just start using it. This is not an object that you know or do not know, it is a means of interaction between people.

Languages ​​do not acquire to store them for themselves – languages ​​need to be used. And when you are just starting to learn a language, it’s important to start communicating right away, while in a rough way, with an accent, using that lean vocabulary that you managed to acquire.

Of course, you can postpone conversations with foreigners until you can say on the foreign phrase “Excuse me, could you please generously tell me where the closest restroom is?”, But “Do not tell me where the toilet is?” Carries the same information, only without unnecessary twists.

You are forgiven for being straightforward, you just learn a foreign language, and all are treated with understanding. Do not think that the native speakers will be angry with you because you have the courage to speak with them in their native language so clumsily.

The best thing you can do is not try to talk perfectly. Instead, love your mistakes. When you learn something, you make mistakes all the time. You practice, improve your knowledge and go forward.

9. Create Reasonable Goals

Another mistake of most approaches to learning foreign languages ​​is the lack of a specific and reasonable goal. For example, if you have decided to learn English since the new year, when you learn that you have achieved the goal, have you “learned” it? Goals like this bring only endless chagrin, something like: “I’m not ready yet, I have not learned the whole language.”

Reasonable goals have five mandatory characteristics: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-limited. To begin to strive for its reasonable goal of learning languages, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the European classification by levels of ownership.

This will help you set a specific goal and track your progress. Now many schools for the study of European languages ​​introduced the same classification, so that, probably, many of you are familiar with it. A – beginner, B – intermediate (intermediate) and C – advanced (advanced).

And in each level there are two more subdivisions – weak (1 lower) and elevated (2 upper). So, for example, the beginner who advanced in language learning is A2, and the weak advanced C1. And most importantly, all these levels are easily determined using tests.

Official educational institutions can test you and give a diploma about the level of language skills. Such tests can be conducted in English, German, French, Spanish, Irish and other official European languages.

Despite the fact that this classification is not accepted for Asian languages, you can still pass similar tests for Chinese and Japanese. So what will you strive for? And what do the words “possession” and “perfect possession” mean to you if you translate them into real levels?

As a rule, “possession” begins with an increased average level (upper intermediate, B2). This means that in social situations you can speak the same way as in your own language. You can communicate without stress with a friend in a bar, ask a person how he spent the weekend, and talk about his aspirations and relationships with people.

Of course, this is not the level of language in which you can conduct professional activities. This requires a higher level – C2 (advanced advanced). But you will not work in all the languages ​​you teach?

To make your goal achievable, lower your requests. For example, if you work in English, aim at level C2, and German, French and Spanish learn only to B2, which is enough for talking, reading, watching movies and programs in these languages.

If you focus on conversational (maybe, also on reading) while learning the language, you will be able to fluently master the language in a few months. And, finally, to make your goal limited in time, it is better to set yourself a limit of several months.

Three or four months to get a new level is the ideal time. Tie the ending of the goal to some event that will be relatively soon, such as summer vacation, your birthday, the arrival of guests, etc. To track your progress, you can use special applications, for example Lift. But a selection of goals for those who teach languages.

10. From conversational (B1) to perfect possession (C2)

To constantly improve your level of spoken language and learn to speak fluently in just three months, you need to train constantly. At least an hour a day you must speak a foreign language, and it is advisable to choose different topics to learn more and more new words that are used in the conversation.

For example, you can start daily workouts, asking the interviewee how he spent the day, and talking about his experiences. Then go on to discuss what you have been told, talk about your thoughts and opinions. Talk about your hobby, about your aspirations and goals, about what you do not like, about how you plan to spend your vacation, etc.

Moving from B1 to B2 in a short time is difficult enough, and you will make so many mistakes. But, as was said before, mistakes are your progress and forward movement. After regular training in colloquial speech, you will begin to understand grammatical rules better. However, this approach does not work with everyone: it is more convenient for some to learn grammar from the very beginning of the training.

When you move to level B2, the real fun will begin. You can already get a high-grade buzz from communicating with native speakers. But to skip to the next levels, there is not much talk.

You will have to read newspapers, professional blog posts and other articles that you will not call “easy reading”. You can train yourself every morning to read news from famous foreign newspapers, and it is desirable to take topics from different categories.

To achieve perfect command of the language (C2) is even more difficult. If you take the exam at this level and fail it, pay attention to your mistakes. For example, if you passed the conversation and grammar, but the hearing was ruined, it is clear what to look for in the future. Your training should include listening to foreign radio stations, interviews and other audio materials.

11. Learn to speak without accent

At level C2, you know the language as well as the medium, but you can still have an accent, and you can make some mistakes. It depends less on your level and more on two factors.

Factor 1. Your accent and intonation

The accent is obvious. If you can not pronounce “r” correctly in English, any native speaker will recognize the foreigner in you. You are not used to making such sounds, and the muscles of the tongue are not developed in the right way. But this can be changed: a good video on YouTube with a detailed description of the pronunciation will help get rid of the accent.

Much more important intonation, although it is often missed. Step, rise, fall and accents in words. In order for your speech to be similar to the speech of native speakers, from the very beginning one can follow the musicality and rhythm of speech and try to copy them. You can practice copying intonation on a special resource The Mimic Method.

Factor 2. Social and cultural integration

No matter how well you know a foreign language, people of a different nationality do not recognize you for their own. Perhaps you will not even be spoken in your native language, and you will have to use either Russian or English (provided that you have learned a different language, it will be a little offensive).

And the point here is not even that you do not look like an inhabitant of this country outwardly, to a greater extent you are not like behavior. You dress differently, behave differently, go, gesticulate, hold hands – it’s not like foreigners do.

What to do? As with intonation, you can simply copy the behavior. Observe people, pay attention to all the features of behavior, and you will very soon notice the differences. If you copy behavior, pace of speech, gesticulation and other factors, foreigners will begin to talk with you in their native language.

12. Become a Polyglot

If your goal is to learn several languages, you can start learning everything at once, but it’s better to stop at one until you reach at least an intermediate level and can confidently talk on it. Only then go to the next language.

Despite the fact that you can achieve significant success in a few months, to speak the language you have learned for the rest of your life, you must constantly practice and improve your skills. But there is good news: if you learned to speak fluent in a foreign language, he will stay with you for a long time.

How many languages ​​do you know and did you easily study them?