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Are polyglots – speakers of many languages – a certain category of genius? Or do they know a shortcut that the rest of the world lacks? According to language mentor and polyglot Lýdia Machová, these multilingual whizzes have simply found a way to make the learning process joyful and energizing while consistently applying three principles. Although Machová’s thesis focuses on languages, her basic premise – find the joy in learning – is broadly applicable to education in general. Her TED Talk is a good starting point for those who’ve hesitated to start learning a new field.


Polyglots, or speakers of many languages, don’t share a single approach to learning.

What’s the best approach to becoming a polyglot? Interviews with attendees at polyglot conventions uncovered varying and distinct strategies. One multilingual Irishman makes an effort to speak a new language immediately, on the first day of study. After memorizing a few entries from a phrasebook, he leaps into conversations with native speakers. Naturally, he makes many mistakes, but learning from them expedites his fluency. By contrast, a Brazilian man started learning Russian by randomly selecting a hundred Russian speakers as Skype contacts. He’d begin a chat with one of them by typing “hello” in Russian, and then would copy the person’s response, word for word, into a conversation with a second Russian-speaking Skype contact. When that second person typed a response, he’d copy the text back into the conversation with the first Russian speaker. This method...

About the Speaker

Language mentor Lýdia Machová coaches people toward being self-taught learners of any language. She has taught herself nine languages and learns a new one about every two years.

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