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Steve Kaufmann

Canadian polyglot Steve Kaufmann speaks 20 languages and counting and believes that anyone can learn a new language. You just need to be motivated, willing to put in the time[…]

    STEVE KAUFMANN: People are patient. People aren't judging you.
    How do you get to speaking? We are all nervous of course when we start speaking. Of course, you haven't done it before. You don't know what you're going to be able to say. To me I think there are a number of things that we can do. First of all don't start with grammar because if you have a grammar heavy type of learning process you're going to be forever thinking about grammar rules when you try to speak and that's very bad. Because it's very difficult to speak and get your ideas out and at the same time try and refer back to your recollection of what the grammar rule was. You have to develop habits naturally so I get back to this idea of listening and reading. And in particular I find to sort of make it easier to get into speaking I have found our mini stories at LingQ, for example, these repetitive, these stories with a lot of repetition, they get me going. We measure the number of words we know at LingQ so I used to wait.

    With Russian, I think I went like nine months before I started speaking. Czech I went six months and I wanted until I had like 10,000 words. But once we have the mini stories where I listen to stuff repetitively and it's high frequency verbs and I listened over and over again, I found that I was able to start speaking after 3,000 words. Now when you start speaking you're going to struggle. However, if you have invested in a lot of listening and reading you have a better chance of understanding what the person says and that's the absolute most important thing. If you don't understand what they're saying you can't have a conversation. If you understand what they're saying you feel more comfortable. Now you can struggle to try and piece back an answer using the words that you are able to use. And if you continue doing that you'll get better and better at it. But in any case you should never worry about making mistakes. Obviously if you're with a teacher or you're paying a tutor online you're paying them so making mistakes doesn't matter.

    But even if you're interacting with people for real, you're going into a store or something, people are patient. People aren't judging you. And the thing is that if you don't make mistakes you won't improve so you have to be prepared to make mistakes because you'll remember the mistakes, some of them. You'll remember what you had trouble saying and then you'll notice that when you next listen and read. So you have to continue the listening and reading and then you go out there and it's like you play a game now you've been practicing. You play a game, you made a few mistakes, you withdraw, go through your listening and reading again. You start to notice things and that's just the process of developing fluency in the language. But you're not going to start off just fluent. However, the more you invest in listening and reading initially before you start speaking in my opinion, and even after you start speaking you have to continue investing in the listening and reading so that you can improve your level of familiarity with the language so that you develop good habits. And don't rely on remembering the grammar.