Things Polyglots Do Differently When Learning Languages


Have you noticed how, in the past few years, language learning has become a point of interest for many people? Some say it’s due to globalization. As countries started trading and doing business with each other, it became imperative to know several languages at the same time. Others believe it could also be due to the fact that it’s a lot easier to travel now, and you can reach your destination faster and cheaper than ever before. Whatever the reasons, it was only natural that a few individuals would fall in love with the countries they visited and even thought of the possibility of moving there or at least learning the language of these countries. Perhaps inspired by these notions, some even chose language learning as a major in university and more than likely, some of them chose Arabic. After all, learning Arabic has been gaining more popularity lately, as the Arab world is a fast growing market for trade in both goods and services, not to mention how vast and rich the Arab culture is. The Arabic language is, indeed, quite unique, and for a majority of people it seems hard to learn (although we believe that once the basics are learned, it’s just like any other language).

What’s more, there is now a special group of people that learn languages as a hobby. They are called polyglots and they know and use several different languages. You might think, “How can these people learn and speak so many languages while I struggle with one or two?” Polyglots say that they learn a bit differently, as opposed to the way languages are often learned in the traditional way, such as in schools. For that reason, we would like to show you a few examples on how polyglots approach learning and what methods they use so that it will help you learn Arabic more efficiently. These methods differ from one polyglot to another, so feel free to pick whatever method or methods that suit your learning style and abilities.

Speak From Day 1 – By Benny Lewis

Benny Lewis advises you to speak the language from the very first day. Gather a few words and phrases and start talking in Arabic. Even if you don’t nail the pronunciation, or you make a few mistakes in your sentence construction, practice makes perfect. Also, when you talk in Arabic and people respond to you, learn what you receive in return from their responses. This method does, indeed, require a language partner, but you will collect more and more vocabulary and get in more practice.

Document Yourself Before Speaking – By Steve Kaufmann

Another method touted by Steve Kaufmann is to get lots of input first. Listen and read massively before speaking. Watch (and listen to) TV shows and YouTube videos. Read some stories. Doing these things will help you gather some vocabulary from the media. In fact, once you start reading, your vocabulary will be boosted dramatically!

The “Language Boost” – By Lucas Bighetti, Developed Together With Jan Van Der Aa

Speaking of boosting your vocabulary, this method consists of learning the 500 most frequently used words in a language, but you learn them with example sentences. Learning Arabic this way, you will be able to express many things, even if it’s in simple terms. On average, you can communicate in a simple way with just 500 words. Later on, it will be easier to learn more vocabulary and add the new words to your speech.

Flashcards System With No Translation – By Gabriel Wyner

This method is based on the space repetition system, but with a twist. Instead of writing the translation of the words, you use pictures of those things, actions, etc. However, you don’t have to use pictures, as you can also write a sentence with the word you want to learn missing from it. As an extra bonus, this is also an efficient way to learn and practice grammar.

Learning Based On Translation – By Luca Lampariello

This method does not use any flashcards; instead, it allows you to look at the translation of sentences and words and then memorize them. Start with simple constructions and build your way up as your vocabulary develops.

The “Dissection” Strategy – By Robin Mcpherson

In short, you take a recording on YouTube for example, with subtitles in two languages and dissect it in small chunks of words and phrases. Store those words and phrases in a notebook, app, or Word document and repeat the words over and over again. The Arabic app developed by lets you store the letters and words you memorized so far and also keeps track of the progress you’ve already made.

The “Gold List” Method – By David James

In this method, you write lists of vocabulary in pairs (in the target language and in your spoken language) and re-write them every two weeks or more in order to distil the vocabulary that you have learned in your long term memory. Also, you keep re-writing the vocabulary that you still haven’t memorized. This is a good method because you will find out that, every time you re-write the words, your brain remembered 30% of the vocabulary, and you have it stored in your long-term memory.

“Bidirectional Translation”/”Back Translation” Method – By Lydia Machova

This method consists of translating an entire text from your mother tongue into the foreign language you are learning. This way you use the phrases and learn them in context. However, this method relies on 4 pillars: the first pillar is to make sure your language learning is fun. The second pillar is related to the first one – make sure you do a lot of learning, but in a fun way; for example, watch a TV series you’ve already watched, but set the subtitles or dub it to the target language. The third pillar is to learn frequently and in small chunks (a half an hour per day, for example). Finally, the last pillar is creating a system that prioritizes what you want to learn from the language and focus on it until you feel confident in that area.

In conclusion, keep in mind that polyglots do not have a special talent when it comes to learning languages. In fact, as you see here, they are actually just organized and determined in their language learning process. All of these methods, either separate or combined, can work beautifully when learning the Arabic language. The Arabic alphabet would be easier to memorize and use, and listening comprehension is highly focused on in all of these methods. There is no single “best” method to succeed in language learning – you just have to choose what suits you best as an individual.



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