Traditional Language Classes… They Try So Hard!

I almost feel bad for my Spanish professor. I can tell she loves language, she loves her native Spanish language, she speaks English well and I believe her degree is in French, but the methods she relies upon are quite obviously bad. You’ve all been in these classes… Learn present tense, learn past tense, memorize verb conjugations, demonstrative pronouns ect ect.

Yet it remains completely obvious that most students do not learn. It remains completely obvious that students lack interest. It remains completely obvious that Americans in general do have second language skills unless they were born into a language other than English. Yet we continue to beat that dead horse, a corpse that long ago decayed.


Polyglot Spotlight

I like a lot of language aficionados online, but there are three that I find deserve special attention, due to the work they put into the community through their writing, videos, websites ect. I find each one to be a varying degree of interesting, entertaining, approachable or normal. To anyone who dips in on the language learning community’s blogs and youtube channels will be familiar with this group. I hit the extremes of agreement and disagreement with each of them, but I’m a friendly polemicist that long ago realized if I only hung out or was interested in people that agreed with me fully, I’d have zero friends and would have to live as a hermit. These polyglots also disagree with each other, sometimes at high volume and sometimes only in the nuances that an attentive listener can catch.

This post though isn’t about opinions or disagreements on methodology, or anything else controversial, as much as I love that stuff. It’s simply about great everyday people who love to learn languages, and loving languages is something that almost no one reading this post can argue with.

I’ve included videos that I feel most represent the traits I like most about each of the following bloggers. So in no particular order:

Moses, who is better known by his youtube name Laoshu505000, is a video making machine and language boot camp specialist. He attacks languages with a fury about three months at a time. He takes them on in an academically focused way that most of us only wish we had the patience to to handle. He is the epitome of regular middle class guy learning languages. He’s married, he has an everyday middle class job, he’s not really a big world traveler. He just loves acquiring language after language.

This following video is an example of his passion, I only regret that he’s not wearing his signature fishing hat during it. Don’t get used to the Moses without the headgear:

Next up is Steve Kaufmann, probably the internet polyglot I’m most familiar with, who’d I’d definitely meet-up with if he ever found himself in Vegas, although I’d let him visit the brothels on his own. I know him mostly from exchanges on his blog and the website. Steve and I have similar trait in common of being intensely polemical. It’s one of my favorite things about his videos and blog posts. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think I’d sum it up if I said that we believe what we believe and we’ll defend it (in order to strengthen the belief or adjust it to new truths). I’m pretty sure in both of our cases we could be convinced of a different view, but it’s up to the facts and opponent’s presentation.

Steve knows about twelve languages to varying degrees, he goes on runs of making videos and then on separate inactivity runs on that front. As of late his blog has been an education blog as much as it has been a language learning blog. Steve is especially great because he’s knowledgeable in a variety of subjects, he’s a retired successful business owner and he’s always interested in discussion with both those who agree and disagree with him. Just be careful not to curse on his blog…. on this site don’t worry about it so much.. I collect all words. 🙂

Here’s Steve going on one of the little input rants he’s famous for, interesting stuff:

Third and certainly not least of all is Benny Lewis, or better known as Benny the Irish Polyglot. Benny is simple, his name is Benny, he’s Irish, and he’s a polyglot. Benny seems like a fun and entertaining guy, despite the fact that he doesn’t eat dead animals or drink the luscious juice that his Irish forefathers (who I’m forever indebted to) had a hand in creating (eating animals and drinking “luscious juice” being my second and third favorite things to do, behind writing).

Benny has been in Vegas, and we were supposed to meet up, but a mixture of my studies and Benny falling off the wagon and learning of the joys of dollar beer at the cheap casinos and doing illegal substances off illicit body parts of irresponsible women (mom!!), we didn’t meet up unfortunately.

Benny is most admirable for his love of people, as you can see in the videos his goal is to travel, meet people and have loads of his version of “fun”. And he picks up large amounts of the local language along the way.

Another fun thing about Benny, is that he comes from a technical background, so his videos have a pretty high production value and a sort of “corny to be funny” quality as can be seen here:

If you don’t think that’s hilarious then… your parents didn’t do drugs while they were pregnant with you… (loser).

Well here are three wonderful learners and teachers by example of language learning. They all have their own method and ways of assimilating language and living life. Any one of them, or all three could help you waste time with their ideas and antics, of course that’d be a bad thing…

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has 296 steps to reach the top. This blog was viewed about 1,000 times in 2010. If those were steps, it would have climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa 3 times

In 2010, there were 13 new posts, not bad for the first year!

The busiest day of the year was July 20th with 111 views. The most popular post that day was Learning a Language Is Like Moving to a New City.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for word collector, my word collector, wordcollector, wordcollector wordpress, and banners in foreign languages.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Learning a Language Is Like Moving to a New City March 2010


About January 2010


My Entry to The Polyglot Project: A Hunger for Learning August 2010


Benny the Irish Polyglot July 2010


Technology and Learning Languages February 2010

Philosophy of Language and Reality and Human Development

I yammer about the philosophy of language over at my humanist exploration blog. Even though it concerns language I figure that its real place was over there, but it involves language so go look if it so interests you.

Practicing a Little Polish, Talking About a Polish Fighter

What Do You Do When You Don’t Have Time?

I mentioned awhile back that I would have to put my practice of the Polish language down for awhile, since I’d be so short on time. I seem to have taken that idea one step further and pretty much stopped studying all my languages (which is pretty bad since I’m actually taking a Spanish class at school -my “Spanish class” is a subject I will take on in a later post). The class, being a complete beginner’s class, unfortunately cannot stay very interesting, it also only meets one day a week. The wonderful world of life may have kept me from doing any comprehensive work on the various languages I’m trying to make stronger, but that can’t really stop me right?

Polish is the most difficult to keep up and advance. I’ve talked before about getting my wife to speak more to me in Polish, but Stu Jay’s post rings true here. It’s not that she gets angry; it’s that it just doesn’t work. We speak to each other in English and it’s strange for our relationship to speak anything else, even if I can get by with some smaller stuff. It makes me want to kick myself when I think how much I avoided just speaking some Polish when I lived there , after I’d accumulated a decent enough vocabulary.

My Spanish has always been good enough to “get by”, but never good enough to sound smart in. With Spanish I have the opposite problem, I need some hot beef vocabulary injections, there’s nothing wrong with my flow in Spanish, it’s all in the fact that sometimes I just don’t have the words. This is what happens when the only Spanish you speak growing up is with your grandmother and it always involves asking for food. If there is a problem with Spanish, it’s more of an excuse, since I’ve grown up around it in my family, and since I’ve grown up around it because I live in the Southwestern quarter of the United States-it just seems so much less exotic.

It is an excuse since the style of literature I most lean towards is the dreaminess and the light existentialism of Latin literature. I hold myself back from reading a lot of Marquez and Borges, because I want to read them in Spanish. Bolano excites me, and I’ve never even read a page. I absolutely loved ZafĂłn’s Shadow of the Wind , but am sad because I read the English version. So my excuse of Spanish not being exotic enough does not hold weight. In Las Vegas I’m also in a better position to have those engaging conversations, naturally there are far more Spanish speakers in Nevada and California than Polish speakers.

So I fall back into the internet polyglot mantra: Enjoy yourself with the language. I may not have time to study vocabulary and may not be in a position to speak as much Polish as I would like to, but I can still listen and read the news in these languages, I can still read lower level books in Spanish and Polish that I enjoy (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe seems to be a common first foreign language book choice of mine). Though I’m busy with everything, it doesn’t mean I can’t try to use these languages during other parts of the day, and if you have the same problem, it doesn’t mean you can’t try to use your target languages during the day either.

Total Annihilation Challenge from September to September

You can read about the Total Annihilation Challenge at:


Then there’s a more personal concise explanation at:

Essentially it’s an immersion challenge that you do along with others, the idea is work hard and finish with the most progress. I will be using this blog and Unilang to track it. I’ll start here with some of my goals and what I’m going to do, my self-challenge will be from September to September.

1-25,000 words known in lingq. (using mostly jedynka at
2 8000 lingq created.
3 1000 lingqs learned.
4 Have 3000 Anki cards for 10,000 sentences method.
5 Finish the novel NigdziebÄ…dĹş.
6 Finish Assimil the listening, exercises and dictation.
7 50 writings submitted to Lang-8.
8 Force my wife to speak more to me in Polish.
9 Understand TOKFM podcasts.
10 Find conversation partner on skype.

Spanish –
1 Get an A in Spanish 111 and the next class in line too.
2 15000 words known in Lingq.
3 3000 lingq created.
4 500 lingqs learned.
5 2000 sentences in Anki.
6 Longer conversations with the grandparents
7 Understand the Venganzas Del Pasado Podcast.
8 Do all the Assimil Dictations and exercises
9 50 writings posted to Lang 8
10 As many Lingq conversations as possible.
11 Read El Sobrino De Mago, El Leon La Bruja y el Ropero, Cien años de soledad

1 Get an A in French 111 and the next class in line
2 10000 Known words in Lingq (using mostly geopolitique at
3 Read L’Étranger
4 5000 lingqs created
5 1000 lingqs learned
6 2000 sentences in Anki
7 Finish Assimil First Wave Exercises and Dictation
8 Have Assimil Business French started
9 Start conversations on lingq
10 50 writings on Lang 8

Well, I already know this a bit of a prayer but we’ll see. I’m a masochist I guess. At least I don’t have to learn a new writing system for any of these. I’d just like to see where I am with this stuff by September 1st, 2011.

If lingq opens starts Czech I may play with that, I may also do a little German on lingq too. I’m starting to get hungry for German again :)…

Ambition is getting the better of me…

It should be noted that these are Polish words known.

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