If you haven’t heard the term before, a polyglot refers to someone who knows and is able to use several languages. These are people who are passionate about language learning and dedicate lots of time to practicing multiple. In addition to his native language English, Olly Richards speaks a whopping 8 languages- French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Thai, Arabic, Cantonese and Italian.
In an interview, Richards shares some of his best tips on learning a language quickly, efficiently, and thoroughly. Put some of these tips into practice at home.
Even a polyglot starts slow
It might sound obvious, but Richards recommends starting with short and simple dialogues. If you try and use materials that are too difficult, you won’t retain them. Worse, you might be put off and lose motivation. Start by reading and listening to short stories that are extremely simple. You’ll learn lots of important vocabulary words right off the bat.
Work on pronunciation early on
Richards believes that it’s much easier to learn pronunciation early on because it’s much easier to fix at the beginning than years down the road. If you practice good pronunciation, you’re setting very important foundations for much harder topics. In addition, pronunciation and reading ability are actually connected, so you’re strengthening your reading skills without even knowing it. He also explains that it’s important to start speaking early as well.
It can be difficult to immerse yourself, but it’s a challenge worth facing. Immersing yourself forces you to practice speaking and gives you much more input than you could get from anywhere else. While immersed, you’ll be amazed by how much you retain. It might take some creative thinking to figure out how you can add Spanish to your everyday life, but it’s the best way to learn Spanish quickly at home.
In addition to these tips, Richards offers lots more ideas and anecdotes about his own experience learning 8 languages. Most importantly, he stresses that language learners need to have a strong “tolerance for ambiguity” which means that you need to learn to be okay with not knowing everything that is going on. It’s a part of the language learning process, and it’s completely normal. If you focus too much on what you don’t know, you don’t give yourself the chance to practice what you do know.