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How to Identify Your Best Way to Learn a Language

Updated: Feb 5

I took six years of French in secondary school, and I loved it, but I didn’t really get good at speaking French—confident, functionally fluent—until I went out on my own. As a “language nerd,” I have developed a template for learning a new language that works for me. My template involves compulsively using Pimsleur CD’s any time I’m in the car for oral language development, doing DuoLingo for 5–10 minutes every day for building a foundation, and Podcasts for building listening skills. My method works well for me and has led to marvelous experiences speaking and reading Portuguese in Brazil and Spanish in Mexico—and occasionally in Cleveland. Accordingly, I was planning to write this post telling you to do what I do. But then I listened to a January 2019 TED Talk by the polyglot and language learning mentor Lýdia Machová. In her TED talk, Ms. Machova, who teaches herself a new language every two years, made a persuasive point: each language learner has to do what’s best for him or her. She’s right. If you want to learn a new language, check out this short TED Talk, and get some ideas for what approach might work best for you.

The Whole Kid’s founder Tim Tibbitts’s most recent language-learning obsession—Dutch—was rewarded with his being briefly mistaken for a local in an Amsterdam café.


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