Polyglot for a Month

Curious to know what my life as a polyglot would be like, I immersed myself, day in, day out, for one month in learning a foreign language. These are my stories and experiences from my month as a polyglot told through a series of questions.

Last edited: January 2, 2015

Young woman sitting on table looking at wall

SPECIAL THANKS TO MR.G

For your patience: thank you

1. Why did you want to be a polyglot for a month?

I am fluent in 3 languages: Dutch, Bosnian and English. Unfortunately, however, the first two are pretty useless across the globe and English can only take you so far.

Someday, I would like to work and live abroad again, moving around from one place to another. Knowing how to learn languages fast and being able to speak a couple more widely spoken languages would be useful.

2. What language did you choose to learn and why?

My family-in-law is from Spain and most of them don’t speak English. I chose to learn Spanish because I couldn’t imagine not getting to know Mr.G’s culture and the people closest to him.

Taking into account that Spanish is the 2nd most widely spoken language in the world, I consider it a win-win situation overall.

3. What was it like to be learning a language every day for a month?

In the beginning it was overwhelming. I wanted to know and understand everything right from the start. However, once I acquired a decent foundation, learning Spanish became something I was looking forward to do.

Studying every day became deeply rewarding because every new word, verb conjugation or grammar rule that I learned, meant a great deal in terms of my progress.

4. If you could do this month over, what would you do differently?

Instead of jumping straight into grammar and vocabulary, I would first take the time to research what the best and fastest way to learn a language is.

Recently I discovered Fluent Forever, a guide to rapid language learning, by Gabriel Wyner. Had this book existed when I was doing my polyglot spin-off, I would have certainly used it as my primary guide to learn Spanish.

5. What are your favorite tools and resources for learning languages?

  • Linguee is an online dictionary and a great tool for finding example sentences that contain your search term.
  • WordReference is an online dictionary that shows you a list of words that are closely related to your search term. It gives only one example sentence per word though.
  • Using recordings from native speakers, Forvo shows you how a word should be pronounced.
  • Google Translate is a machine translator. The translations aren’t perfect, but sufficient for informal use, such as when texting with a foreign friend.
  • Readlang is a web reader that makes it super easy to read web pages in any language. With the help of a browser extension, you can simply hover over words and sentences that you don’t know and Readlang will instantly translate them for you.

Side note: for learning Spanish in specific, I like to listen to the podcast Notes in Spanish and to use Mark Davies’ frequency dictionary, A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish

6. What lesson did you take away from this month?

To become fluent in a language, we need to immerse ourselves in it as much as possible.

At the moment I am setting apart 45 minutes a day to go through the language-learning methods as outlined in Fluent Forever.

I need to purposely schedule these 45 minutes because I work from home and I don’t have any commute time to use for learning Spanish.

If you do have commute time, excellent. Use it to learn a new language. 30 minutes a day will get you there.

However, even if you need to make time, it isn’t that difficult if you’re only willing to give up some TV and social media time.

More importantly, language immersion is all about squeezing in moments of language learning throughout the day. This is how I do it:

I listen to Spanish music and podcasts  . .
– in the car, on the bike and the plane
– every day when I go jogging
– while I brush my teeth, curl my hair, put on my make-up
– when walking and shopping
– while making the bed, cleaning the house and doing the dishes
– when preparing and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner
– whenever I am waiting for somebody while standing

I watch TV Series and YouTube videos, read blogs and magazines in Spanish . .
– on the plane
– whenever I am waiting for someone while sitting (for example, in a restaurant, at the doctor, dentist and beautician)
– in bed in the weekends when I want to relax

In addition to the above, I talk once a week with Mr.G’s parents on Skype; Mondays I text with his sister; and I try to speak with Mr.G himself in Spanish as much as possible.

This is definitely a time when a Spanish family-in-law comes in handy, but chances are that you don’t have one so try italki.com. I haven’t used it myself because I don’t need to, but I do keep hearing that is a great website for finding a conversation partner.

7. What do you like best about learning languages?

How a language transforms from being unreadable code to being a tool that we can use to open new doors, hearts and life stories.

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Tell me what you think. Connect with me on FacebookTwitter or Instagram (links match discussion pages for this post) and let me know: Would you like to be a polyglot? What tools and resources do you use for learning languages?


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For the next 2-4 months, studying only 45 minutes a day, I hope to become an advanced Spanish speaker using Wyner’s language-learning methods. I would recommend you to join me. Get a copy of Fluent Forever and start learning a foreign language today.