Steve Kaufmann is a well-known polyglot who has been learning languages for over 50 years. He can speak 17 languages fluently and is currently learning more. He has a strong social media presence with over 100,000 subscribers to his Youtube channel, maintains a language learning blog and is the author of books to teach people how to learn languages successfully. Steve kindly agreed to answer a few questions that language learners frequently ask:
1. What motivated you to learn languages?
I was first motivated by my interest in French culture and civilization. This took me to France as a student. I then travelled to other countries in Europe and was interested in learning those languages. Once you achieve success in learning another language, that just carries you forward into learning more languages. In the last 10 years I have had a lot more time to devote to language learning.
2. How can you learn a language as quickly as possible?
The more committed you are to learning the language, the more you enjoy the language, and the more time you spend, the faster you will learn. To me language learning is a matter of acquiring the language through lots of input, listening and reading, as much as possible with content of interest. When I have sufficient vocabulary I look for opportunities to speak. There are no shortcuts. But the journey itself should be enjoyable and rewarding.
3. How can language learners stay motivated even when it gets very difficult or they reach a plateau?
I think it’s important to be motivated by an interest in the language, its culture and the history that surround the language. If you find something of interest related to the language, music, film, books, a friend, all of this sustains you as you slowly acquire the vocabulary and the familiarity with the language that you need in order to achieve fluency.
4. What tips do you have to help people overcome their fear of speaking the language?
The key is to communicate and to want to communicate. As long as you are communicating, you are doing fine. People don’t want to judge you. However in order to be able to communicate, you need a sufficient level of vocabulary. This means spending a lot of time on input activities, listening and reading, in order to prepare for speaking with people. Once you start speaking just go for it and don’t worry about performing.
5. How do you think Britain should view language learning as we approach Brexit and which languages should we be learning to compete globally post-Brexit?
We should learn the languages we are interested in. Language learning cannot be a matter of national interest or national policy. I don’t see it as related to Brexit. We live in a globalized world. We can connect with people everywhere in the world in their language.
You can find out more language learning tips via Steve’s website: The Linguist