The secrets of learning a new language | Lýdia Machová

The secrets of learning a new language | Lýdia Machová

I love learning foreign languages. In fact, I love it so much that I like
to learn a new language every two years, currently working on my eighth one. When people find that out about me,
they always ask me, “How do you do that? What’s your secret?” And to be honest, for many years,
my answer would be, “I don’t know. I simply
love learning languages.” But people were never
happy with that answer. They wanted to know why they are spending
years trying to learn even one language, never achieving fluency, and here I come, learning
one language after another. They wanted to know
the secret of polyglots, people who speak a lot of languages. And that made me wonder, too, how do actually other polyglots do it? What do we have in common? And what is it that enables us to learn languages
so much faster than other people? I decided to meet other people
like me and find that out. The best place to meet a lot of polyglots is an event where hundreds
of language lovers meet in one place
to practice their languages. There are several such polyglot events
organized all around the world, and so I decided to go there and ask polyglots
about the methods that they use. And so I met Benny from Ireland, who told me that his method
is to start speaking from day one. He learns a few phrases
from a travel phrasebook and goes to meet native speakers and starts having conversations
with them right away. He doesn’t mind making
even 200 mistakes a day, because that’s how he learns,
based on the feedback. And the best thing is, he doesn’t
even need to travel a lot today, because you can easily have
conversations with native speakers from the comfort of
your living room, using websites. I also met Lucas from Brazil who had a really interesting
method to learn Russian. He simply added a hundred random
Russian speakers on Skype as friends, and then he opened
a chat window with one of them and wrote “Hi” in Russian. And the person replied, “Hi, how are you?” Lucas copied this and put it
into a text window with another person, and the person replied,
“I’m fine, thank you, and how are you?” Lucas copied this
back to the first person, and in this way, he had two strangers
have a conversation with each other without knowing about it. (Laughter) And soon he would start typing himself, because he had so many
of these conversations that he figured out how
the Russian conversation usually starts. What an ingenious method, right? And then I met polyglots who always start
by imitating sounds of the language, and others who always learn the 500
most frequent words of the language, and yet others who always start
by reading about the grammar. If I asked a hundred different polyglots, I heard a hundred different
approaches to learning languages. Everybody seems to have a unique way
they learn a language, and yet we all come to the same result
of speaking several languages fluently. And as I was listening to these polyglots
telling me about their methods, it suddenly dawned on me: the one thing we all have in common is that we simply found ways to enjoy
the language-learning process. All of these polyglots
were talking about language learning as if it was great fun. You should have seen their faces when they were showing me
their colorful grammar charts and their carefully handmade flash cards, and their statistics
about learning vocabulary using apps, or even how they love to cook
based on recipes in a foreign language. All of them use different methods, but they always make sure
it’s something that they personally enjoy. I realized that this is actually
how I learn languages myself. When I was learning Spanish,
I was bored with the text in the textbook. I mean, who wants to read about Jose asking about the directions
to the train station. Right? I wanted to read “Harry Potter” instead, because that was
my favorite book as a child, and I have read it many times. So I got the Spanish translation
of “Harry Potter” and started reading, and sure enough, I didn’t understand
almost anything at the beginning, but I kept on reading
because I loved the book, and by the end of the book, I was able
to follow it almost without any problems. And the same thing happened
when I was learning German. I decided to watch “Friends,”
my favorite sitcom, in German, and again, at the beginning
it was all just gibberish. I didn’t know where one word finished
and another one started, but I kept on watching every day
because it’s “Friends.” I can watch it in any language.
I love it so much. And after the second or third season, seriously, the dialogue
started to make sense. I only realized this
after meeting other polyglots. We are no geniuses and we have no shortcut
to learning languages. We simply found ways
how to enjoy the process, how to turn language learning
from a boring school subject into a pleasant activity
which you don’t mind doing every day. If you don’t like writing
words down on paper, you can always type them in an app. If you don’t like listening
to boring textbook material, find interesting content on YouTube
or in podcasts for any language. If you’re a more introverted person and you can’t imagine speaking
to native speakers right away, you can apply the method of self-talk. You can talk to yourself
in the comfort of your room, describing your plans for the weekend,
how your day has been, or even take a random
picture from your phone and describe the picture
to your imaginary friend. This is how polyglots learn languages, and the best news is,
it’s available to anyone who is willing to take the learning
into their own hands. So meeting other polyglots
helped me realize that it is really crucial
to find enjoyment in the process of learning languages, but also that joy in itself is not enough. If you want to achieve fluency
in a foreign language, you’ll also need to apply
three more principles. First of all, you’ll need
effective methods. If you try to memorize a list of words
for a test tomorrow, the words will be stored
in your short-term memory and you’ll forget them after a few days. If you, however,
want to keep words long term, you need to revise them
in the course of a few days repeatedly using the so-called space repetition. You can use apps which are based
on this system such as Anki or Memrise, or you can write lists of word
in a notebook using the Goldlist method, which is also very popular
with many polyglots. If you’re not sure which methods are
effective and what is available out there, just check out polyglots’
YouTube channels and websites and get inspiration from them. If it works for them,
it will most probably work for you too. The third principle to follow is to create a system in your learning. We’re all very busy and no one
really has time to learn a language today. But we can create that time
if we just plan a bit ahead. Can you wake up 15 minutes earlier
than you normally do? That would be the perfect time
to revise some vocabulary. Can you listen to a podcast
on your way to work while driving? Well, that would be great
to get some listening experience. There are so many things we can do
without even planning that extra time, such as listening to podcasts
on our way to work or doing our household chores. The important thing is
to create a plan in the learning. “I will practice speaking
every Tuesday and Thursday with a friend for 20 minutes. I will listen to a YouTube video
while having breakfast.” If you create a system in your learning, you don’t need to find that extra time, because it will become
a part of your everyday life. And finally, if you want to learn
a language fluently, you need also a bit of patience. It’s not possible to learn
a language within two months, but it’s definitely possible to make
a visible improvement in two months, if you learn in small chunks every day
in a way that you enjoy. And there is nothing
that motivates us more than our own success. I vividly remember the moment when I understood the first joke
in German when watching “Friends.” I was so happy and motivated that I just kept on watching that day
two more episodes, and as I kept watching, I had more and more of those moments
of understanding, these little victories, and step by step, I got to a level
where I could use the language freely and fluently to express anything. This is a wonderful feeling. I can’t get enough of that feeling, and that’s why I learn
a language every two years. So this is the whole polyglot secret. Find effective methods
which you can use systematically over the period of some time
in a way which you enjoy, and this is how polyglots learn
languages within months, not years. Now, some of you may be thinking, “That’s all very nice
to enjoy language learning, but isn’t the real secret
that you polyglots are just super talented
and most of us aren’t?” Well, there’s one thing
I haven’t told you about Benny and Lucas. Benny had 11 years of Irish Gaelic
and five years of German at school. He couldn’t speak them
at all when graduating. Up to the age of 21, he thought
he didn’t have the language gene and he could not speak another language. Then he started to look
for his way of learning languages, which was speaking to native speakers
and getting feedback from them, and today Benny can easily
have a conversation in 10 languages. Lucas tried to learn English
at school for 10 years. He was one of the worst students in class. His friends even made fun of him and gave him a Russian textbook as a joke because they thought he would never
learn that language, or any language. And then Lucas started
to experiment with methods, looking for his own way to learn, for example, by having Skype chat
conversations with strangers. And after just 10 years, Lucas is able to speak
11 languages fluently. Does that sound like a miracle? Well, I see such miracles
every single day. As a language mentor, I help people learn
languages by themselves, and I see this every day. People struggle with language learning
for five, 10, even 20 years, and then they suddenly take
their learning into their own hands, start using materials which they enjoy,
more effective methods, or they start tracking their learning so that they can appreciate
their own progress, and that’s when suddenly they magically find the language talent
that they were missing all their lives. So if you’ve also tried
to learn a language and you gave up,
thinking it’s too difficult or you don’t have the language talent, give it another try. Maybe you’re also
just one enjoyable method away from learning that language fluently. Maybe you’re just one method away
from becoming a polyglot. Thank you. (Applause)


  • Idham Ansyari says:

    It just me or her voice is so calming??😍😍😍

  • Aysel Abdullayeva says:

    I liked it so much

  • N Linn says:


  • maria oliveira says:

    Learn a language take time. I'm studying English for 10 months. everything is about don't give up

  • 보모모 says:

    이거보면 영어도 배우고 내용도얻어가고좋다

  • BIN OMAR says:


  • BIN OMAR says:


  • BIN OMAR says:


  • Victor Mac says:

    Wow! That looks incredibly inefficient

  • brianna ani boyle says:

    *watching while eating breakfast*

  • brianna ani boyle says:

    any german learners?

  • Fernando Sergio Gomes says:

    Thanks for encouraging !

  • Nenad Stojmanovski says:

    W O W

  • Jamal EL QARS says:

    Thank youuuuuu

  • Borys Karp says:

    In the age of globalization language remain one of the last barriers between people.

  • Darling O’neil says:

    her prononciation is so clear

  • Ulker Azizova says:

    I am so amazed by the methods of this beautiful woman. If you really want to learn a language you should start from today. But you will be able to achieve a result if you really WANT it, because without a passion to a language it will be very difficult.

    I do consent with the phrase "Start to speak from Day 1" , because you can learn to SPEAK only by SPEAKING.

    So, to sum up just create your own plan and system, follow it, watch YouTube, listen to podcasts, read your favorite book, speak to yourself if you have nobody to talk to, use the language in your daily life and have fun!

  • kdrama treat says:

    I am learning Korean and Japanese.
    I know Hindi, English and Spanish.
    I love learning new languages.
    I want to learn Korean, Thai, Japanese and Chinese.

  • Kristoffer Näslund says:

    Language learning is no joke. I have been living in Japan for over 1 and a half years and can speak Japanese fluently. However, it has been one of the most tedious and time consuming things I have ever done and I still have a long way to go to reach a satisfying level. I would not recommend learning a language to anyone, unless the goal is the relocate. The time and effort can be spent way more wisely.

  • kamilus moa says:

    Thanks for the sharing, this video giving courage to learning more and more. I almost give up when i have difficulties in learning new language, but i think have to try find a new fun way.

  • apri yoni says:

    I want to be a poliglot

  • Hieu Le Minh says:

    Anyone here want to learn VietNammese??? Rep my comment and i’ll help you. Become friends 👍👍👍

  • Rafael Barreto says:

    Not anybody can be a polyglot. Learning languages is a gift. If you don´t have it, you cannot learn even a single foreign language, no matter what you do. I know three foreign languages besides my native language because I have that gift. I learnt Russian from a book in Cuba, learnt the pronunciation by going to the moves and listening to the way they pronounced, but not anybody can do that. Learning a foreign language in 6 months is not for everyone … Sorry … My own experience…

  • Aprilia adelina Barus says:

    So amazing, thanks

  • treiste Balochi says:

    I spesk seven languages. But i understand more

  • 알재리__나이마 says:

    I'm trying to learn English language since 10years but i lose😢

  • Mariem Med says:

    اين انتم يا عرب اريد شخص يساعدني فالاجليزي فضلا

  • Srinivasa Krishna Sandikar says:

    If anybody interested in learning many languages,that to world's old languages, you can try with Indian languages…😊

  • osushi says:

    I really enjoyed watching this video!
    I’m learning English with watching many YouTube videos. I’m happy to live in this period because I can learn another language easily and while having fun!

  • Ananyorth Sisomphong says:


  • mar says:

    That was so good,and I loved her♡

  • Kenny Arias says:

    I love these kinds of videos

  • Sulis Tyo says:

    I'm an International relation student. But my english is not really good but I'm still learning and try to get better everytime. This is my first english comment. And please correct me

  • enter name here says:

    My biggest problem is making mistakes and looking stupid

  • Gulshan Sharma says:

    Please give subtitles in videos

  • Jo Alex Sg says:

    Spot on, the got to the gist of it all, congratulations and thanks for the most interesting video!

  • Jongjin Lee says:

    감사합니다. 힘이됩니다.

  • h m says:

    I'm japanese. I hated studying English.I didn't know how to study English.
    But,I found it.
    Now,I study it in Youtube(Ted).

  • Muhammad Ghani says:

    I've spent my 2 years to learn English. Now I'm looking forward to learning Deutsch! 🖤

  • moralyne mogusu says:

    Ich studiere Deutsch in Goethe Institut.. Die Sprache ist gleifalls mit English aber ich kan nicht sprechen. Ich weiße einbischen Deutsch aber Ich will not give up.Ich denke dass ein order eine deutsche freund order freundin kan ich mir Helen.
    Ted talk, danke für the advice..

  • Constantine Panin says:

    She didn't say any phrase in other language for proof. I was waiting for.

  • griffinina nina says:

    Hahahaha…that’s me…speaking to myself…speaking to an imaginary friend…

  • florencia totoro muñoz says:

    I learned English by reading fanfiction, because it was fun and I usually found better stories in English than in Spanish. At first I didn't understand a thing and was constantly looking at the English-Spanish dictionary. Then I got bored of looking at the dictionary and started reading fluently. Now I can listen, write and read almost perfectly, my speaking is the only one failing me (???)

  • Shu Bethune says:

  • Clash Clan says:


  • Tamara Pierre says:

    Thank you Lydia. I'm hopefully. You give me so much hope. Every time I get demotivated, I will watch this video. After watching this video I was incredibly happy. Thanks Lydia

  • شيري حسن says:


  • Nonsense c: says:

    This is true AF!!!!!

  • ranichi mourishin says:

    I learn English by watching TED everyday :>>> And I think that my method is getting more and more effective :))))

  • Noor Al-Huda Lkjhgf says:

    Thank you so much you are a wonderful

  • Wise One says:

    She's exactly right!
    Its about having FUN taking the baby steps! And creatively applying media & other resources in an enjoyable way.

    It started with French for me, then went to Spanish, Portuguese, and now… Arabic, then Swahili 😁.

    Once you conquer the first language the next doesn't seem so hard (and it isn't: many languages are similar enough that they overlap).

    Its FUN.

  • simi naik says:


  • hamid khan says:


  • reyhane Dn says:

    Well im from iran so i can speak farsi. And now i can speak in english too. And i can understand arabic and speak a little. I wanna add spanish and french too. This is one of my dreams to learn different languages ☺️☺️🤓

  • yilber smith says:

    Yees im becoming better
    I understood that you said about the way that he start an russian chat jajajaja im nicaraguan

  • Alin Sharina says:

    If I was an english teacher, I would probably using this video for my student's listening material. Her voice is very clear and soft.

  • Margarida Maria De Negreiros says:

    Very good talk

  • V. Giardes says:

    Here's my question:
    I watch many things in a language I'm trying to teach myself and I'm wondering if it is still effective if I have subtitles on?

  • E. M. says:

    Are there any groups or app to meet people from different countries,,so as we can practice talking and writing in the language that we have chosen?

  • 김영찬 says:

    Even if i have a lots of mistakes for my reading or writing a english, i will be using a english everyday!

  • CAKE -CHAN says:

    That's like how RM learned English. By watching FRIENDS in English.

  • Latte Animations says:

    Yay Esperanto!! Tre bona!

  • Lorena Caroline says:

    Tira que ser Brasileiro, o Lucas, o cara do Skype kkkkkkkk

  • Priska Valdepeña says:

    Interesante pero. No soporte tu tono de voz, su sonido nasal 😕

  • dxksakura says:

    When i start watching kdramas the moment i heard the language i love it .. then slowly i start to catch up some phrases
    Now 3 years later WITHOUT grabbing a grammar book and with only knowing the romanized letter (to read) i understand 40% without subtitles and that makes me so happy

  • Klaudia S says:

    I am pretty sure that working in TEDx Team is not only satisfying but also inspiring and motivating to self-development. Generally, I am considered to be an approachable and open-minded person that is why I am ready to move forward and accept the challenge to contribute to the whole enterprise that you are running. Not only would it be a golden opportunity for me to thrive in a multi-faced and dynamic entertainment but also you could benefit from my devotion, creativity and hard work. My extensive experience in teaching and coaching combined with the well-developed soft skills figure as

    a considerable advantage and prove my resourcefulness at the same time.

    Needless to say, while being motivated by others we are able to make a breakthrough in our private life and work a miracle in any field we wish. As far as Lydia is concerned every single little victory is

    a factor that may change the whole perspective and keep us inspired in the long-run improvement. However, the name of the game is to cross our mental threshold, once and for all, and turn a new leave of our life in order to make our dreams come true.

    There is a commonly held misconception that passiveness in the exposure to inspiring factors is enough to succeed, but unfortunately it is a trap that we usually fall in. It is the active motivation that we should treat with the highest respect. As Lydia claims, motivation comes as the source of action rather than its cause. Therefore getting started, gradually though consistently, will be a form of active inspiration that naturally produces momentum.

    We ought to bear in mind that although our to-do list is filled with admirable goals it is not enough to wake ourselves from the listless state. What is crucial is to take the bull by the horns and pursue our dreams no matter what obstacle we would encounter. Thus I am deeply convinced that joining Tedx Team is the best way to start as you believe in people and know that the best ideas can come from anywhere.

    Generally, I get the feeling that my thirst for new ideas and constant development will never be quenched and this will guide me to personal satisfaction.

  • Please Study says:

    Me acabei de rir com o Lucas kkkkkk só podia ser BR

  • L'effet balle de neige says:

    Fun is life!! Fun is serious!!! 🙂

  • Loic Kouassi Zahui says:

    Who wants to learn french ?

  • 黑玫瑰 says:

    I'd learn Chinese basic grammar and words three years in University, and my text results was good, as teachers told me. Then I passed an examination and got the highest score in University, and I went to China for practice. But when i finally got to China, i understood that everything I learned became useless, because I couldn't even explain at what time will be my flight, and how to get to the right gate. And that moment I got, i can't communicate with native speakers.
    After one month of studying in Chinese University i started to make friends only with native speakers, and that ones who could use only Chinese language in conversation.
    And now, i improved my speach, and now, of course, i can't say that i speak like Chinese, but i can communicate with my friends and others comfortably.

  • Bonny Guillen says:


  • Giant Procedure says:

    Lýdia Machová baddest storyteller i had ever seen.

  • Hoàng Thuỷ says:

    I listen this video every single day and imitate her voice to change my accent with overwhelming hope 🙂

  • Sanaz Hemmatee says:

    This video is awesome! Thanks a million Lýdia. Words fail me to thank you… You changed my life. You are wonderful!

  • Sonya Stetsenko says:

    where is she watching friends in german? it’s not on netflix

  • u got no jamss says:

    I learned english watching FRIENDS, and at that moment i didn't understand any of the words. I don't know how but at first i needed the subtitles, when i finished it i watched it again without them and i understood every word.

    Suddenly I understood every song that i liked , reread every book ( huge huge fan of harry potter too). I didn't realize about it until the school started again and the new english teacher (who was from the US) thought that i had lived in the US just by answering a question. Then he proceed to ask if a watched a lot of american shows hahaha
    It literally changed my life just to rewatch one of my favorites shows. I was 15, now 19 and I speak 3 languages.

    Stay motivated 🙂 u can do it !

  • abdalrhman alzoubi says:

    the best way to learn any language is listening to podcast
    easy way without effort
    and day after day you will get better and you will increase your comprehention up

  • Yali Lu says:

    Try Chinese next time as your 9th.😉

  • kusu says:

    I love her High heels how to call it in English ?

  • 아에두 says:

    Her accent is really cute, and she's articulate!

  • Sage Leaves says:

    youve never tried any Asian languages such as Korean or Thai

  • Miss Authorina says:

    Idk, but I suddenly feel fluently in English after listen to her voice, really clear and strong😍

  • tarumi Ohsumi says:

    I am learning English using this splendid presentation.

  • sky jonny says:

    I can speak all languages in the world, I'm an ailen, I'll invade the human.

  • giuseppe3010 says:

  • NURUL RATRI says:

    Wow, what an amazing speech😍.

  • Ho eon Kang says:

    I know she was how to learn the language English I think she has probably learnt by listening to so many audiobooks. she is behaving as if it is slighty exaggerating

  • Sweetchilliheat18 says:

    I wonder if talking to toddlers and small kids would help because they are still trying to learn to talk

  • z f says:

    From experience, I can confirm it. I learned 90% of my english spending time on the internet, browsing websites, forums, youtube videos, subtitled movies, video games, … in fact it wasn't even something such as "work" because I appreciated doing it, it wasn't a chore. I spend the same time at school studying english and italian, and I'm way better at english because of all of this. I'm fluent, B2-C1 in english, while I'm only about A2-B1 in italian.
    So, yes, to summarize, there isn't a "right" way to learn languages, there isn't a way that works for everyone, thus, the most important thing to learn a language is to enjoy the process.
    If you search on comments of videos like this, you'll see countless persons who learned a language by only playing video games in the targeted language, or watching tv, …
    there isn't a right way, so, there isn't a wrong way, as long as you enjoy the ride
    i'm actually trying to learn japanese watching subbed anime (hiragana/kanji), i learned the basics (hiragana/katakana, enough to understand pronunciation), and it's FUN! do things you enjoy!

  • moose marmalade says:

    I want to learn russian and spanish, english is my native language that i can speak fluently 🙂

  • Rui Hao烎壡嗥 says:

    Thank you!

  • Mỹ Hạnh Trần says:

    I often listen to my favourite song on the Mp3 player while travel to work

  • 지아신타미쎌리아 says:

    I learned English through reading subtitles of Korean dramas and now I can speak both.

  • Zeguir Lamia says:

    It's motivating.thanks a lot

  • OM96ED OM27ED says:

    " sorry for my bad English "

  • UglyMe VEVO says:

    I'd wonder if a native English speaker help me to improve my English


  • halim says:

    Oh my God! I listened to her without subtitles and understood almost everything!

  • Speakit TV Polyglot Arena says:

  • Rohan Khanna says:

    Does anyone have the link for Friends in German?

  • Marry Sami says:

    When I was young children I hated learning English. My father tried to force us to learn it by buying us children's book in English but me and my sister were ripping the papers of and drawing on them😅😅😅😅😅😅😅 then I started learning English by watching cooking programmes because I loved them and now I am 19 years and I am fluent in English and also korean language ….so yeah that's true it's all about your own method to learn any language you want 😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊

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