Being a polyglot means learning at least four languages and being able to use them in conversation. The easiest way to learn multiple languages is to master similar languages one at a time. Practice frequently to improve your skills and speak with other people who know the language. Achieving polyglot status may seem difficult, but once you have mastered the first new language, learning subsequent ones will be much easier.
Part 1 of 4: Become Fluent in a Language
Step 1. Read the grammar rules of the language
Sentence structure is often the most confusing part of learning a language. Everyone has their own rules, and understanding them is essential to forming sentences. Read many sentences and translations, and determine how the subjects, actions, and descriptive words are combined.
- To find information on sentence structure, read study books or search for free classes online.
- For example, English follows the pattern of subject, verb, and object, as in "He ran to the store." Japanese uses the subject, object, and verb pattern, so "ran" would appear at the end of the sentence.
Step 2. Master the basic phrases that are useful in everyday life
Create a list of the most essential words you need to know. There is no point learning the word “aardvark” in Swahili if you are unlikely to ever use it. Think of words that you use all the time and become familiar with them first.
- For example, if you are an exchange student in Russia, you may need to introduce yourself, ask for directions, and order food.
- While you may need to learn the word “aardvark” in Swahili some day, you can learn it later, when the time comes.
Step 3. Translate words in your mind
The biggest step you can take to master a new language is to learn to think about it. You don't need to start with a fluent conversation. As you walk around, set a goal to translate what you see into the language you want to learn. Soon, you may find that you've improved your skills without having to deal with flashcards for hours at a time.
Saying the words out loud can help solidify them in your memory. Over time, you will be able to translate the words automatically without saying them
Step 4. Use your vocabulary to write in the new language
Writing involves more than putting words on cards. Create some descriptive paragraphs or sentences doing what you know. Writing helps put words into action, determining how they are used in conversation. As you learn new words and phrases, you can combine them in new ways to improve your skills.
- Start small. At first, you can limit yourself to simple descriptions like "Hi. My name is Clara Pérez. I'm 18 years old. I'm from Mexico."
- Writing involves a fluency that you don't get from reciting flashcards, so use it as an opportunity to expand your vocabulary and make your language skills more dynamic.
Step 5. Speak in the new language as much as you can
Try to speak only in the new language when you can. Think about what you want to say, translate it and say it out loud. This helps to memorize the language and become fluent. If you can't think of a way to say what you want, take this opportunity to search for new words.
Remember that being a polyglot means using languages in conversation. If you only memorize lists of words, you may not be able to form sentences in conversation
Part 2 of 4: Choosing a Learning Style
Step 1. Buy phrase books to begin studying basic terminology
Phrasebooks are lists of expressions made for people traveling to foreign countries. These lists provide examples of sentence structure in a language and the types of useful words. Find a book in the language you want to learn and treat it as a foundation that you build on as you learn more.
Do an online search for phrase books or word lists. Also, visit bookstores or your local library
Step 2. Make photo cards
Flashcards are the most basic study material, and most people make them that way. To be effective, design them to be memorable. Good cards induce the senses. A good way to do this is to find a memorable image related to the word you want to memorize. Then stick it on the card.
For example, if you want to learn how to say "cat" in Russian, put a picture of your cat or find a funny picture of a cat online to put on the back of the card. This makes remembering the word much easier than writing "cat" on the back
Step 3. Download a language practice app
Phone apps allow for a quick study session on the go. They are similar to cards, are available in many languages, and are generally free. Many of them have photos and audios to learn better.
For example, you can use Duolingo or Anki. Both are available for Apple and Android devices
Step 4. Take classes to learn in person
If you prefer to take things to a more professional level, the classes will help you get started. You don't have to adhere to the course syllabus, but it may be helpful if you find it difficult to schedule time to study on your own. Look for classes at community colleges in your area or look for private tutors.
- Ask the teacher any questions you have, including how to improve your study sessions. Also, interact with other students to learn faster.
- You may also be able to find classes online. Read about how the class works, the costs, and how the students are graded.
Step 5. Read books in multiple languages to improve fluency
The best way to become fluent in a language is to see how words and sentences are combined. Get a professional translation of a book you know well, and use it to master new words and sentences. Start with books written in the first language you want to learn. Later, you can even try translating those languages to others you want to learn.
- Choose books that are relatively simple and straightforward. For example, books like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games are designed to include younger audiences, so they are easier to translate than a philosophical essay.
- You can even buy books that include translation into your native language. If this is not possible, have a copy of the book in your native language nearby and use it as a reference.
Step 6. Listen to recorded dialogues to learn through audio
You may have heard stories of people learning a language by watching cartoons or other shows. TV shows, games, and songs are some resources that can help you learn. When listening to an audio, use the words and their context to determine the meaning. Look up the words you don't know.
- Television is a good place to find dialogue. For example, you can watch North American programs to learn English, or Brazilian novels to learn Portuguese.
- You can even search for podcasts with dialogues spoken in the language you want to learn. Also, search for videos and other media files on YouTube.
Part 3 of 4: Practice Your Skills With Others
Step 1. Attend meetings where people speak in the language you want to learn
Take every opportunity to talk to other people who know the language you want to learn. Look for language groups in your area or visit businesses where speakers meet. Listen to them and talk to them to improve your skills.
- For example, Esperanto speakers organize meetings all over the world. These meetings are the perfect place to learn and practice the language.
- Also, look for websites or apps like HelloTalk that allow you to connect with other people who live far away.
Step 2. Receive speakers of the language if you have a place at home
If you can't find people who speak the language you want to practice, take them with you. You can invite them to visit you from anywhere in the world. By giving them a place to stay, you will have many opportunities to converse in the language you want to learn.
Sign up for a site like CouchSurfing and sign up as a host. You can invite people you are interested to meet or attend community events in your area
Step 3. Travel to a foreign country to learn its language
There is no better way to learn a language than to fully immerse yourself in it. Take a trip if you can. Consider staying with a host or in a hostel. Take some time to talk to the residents of the country and learn more about their language.
You can download a translation app on your phone, like Google Translate, but don't depend on it. Set a goal of learning to speak fluently on your own
Part 4 of 4: Mastering Multiple Languages
Step 1. Pick a simple language to learn first
The easiest languages to learn are those that do not have many strict and unfamiliar rules. If the new language is very different from the one you know, learning it will be more difficult. If you have a strong desire to learn a specific language, start with it, but look for easier options if you are not passionate about any one in particular.
- When choosing a language, look for the grammatical structure of a sentence, the type of alphabet it uses, and other distinctive characteristics that will challenge a new learner.
- For example, many English speakers begin with Western European Romance languages, such as Spanish, French, and Italian, since they are very similar.
- Proximity is an appropriate way to learn a language. For example, many people in China learn Mandarin and Cantonese.
- As a simple option, choose Esperanto. While it is a made-up language, it is used everywhere and has no complex rules regarding vocabulary and grammar.
Step 2. Choose a new language out of desire to learn it
Becoming a polyglot is not about looking cool. Many people try to learn a few words in different languages. Since they don't know the language and can't have a conversation, they aren't really polyglots. Having the desire to master a language makes the learning process much easier.
- If you don't have the desire to learn a complex language (like Japanese, for example), you may not study as often or remember the words. Being passionate will drive you to learn.
- For example, a person in Belgium could learn French, German, Dutch, and English because it helps her communicate with those around her.
Step 3. Study one language at a time
You may be tempted to learn different languages right away, but it's best to focus on one until you have a good command of it. Studying different languages means focusing on different things, so you won't have enough time to dedicate to one of them. Also, you will likely end up confusing the words and grammar rules with each other.
Give yourself enough time to gain a good understanding of how to speak the first language. Do not rush. In the long run, you will learn more if you take the time
Step 4. Practice studying the language as often as possible
Find study techniques that are helpful to you and use them. Flashcards are a good starting point, but think about how to put your skills to use. Speaking the language out loud, listening to people speak, and writing translations are some ways to solidify your skills.
Try to study your chosen language for 15 minutes a day, if possible. If you can study at least a few times a week, it will be much easier for you to remember and use what you have learned
Step 5. Continue with another language once you reach an intermediate level
You don't have to be as good as people who have grown up speaking the language, but be capable of having a conversation in your first language. When the time comes for you to learn the second language, you should know the rules of the first language and a selection of useful words. In this way, you will not forget what you have learned while studying the new language.
- For example, if you can have a casual conversation in French, it probably won't interfere with your English studies. You will already know French well so as not to confuse it with English.
- Think of having an intermediate level as having a conversation level. You may not be a professional translator, but you will know how to use verb forms and conversational phrases.
Step 6. Focus on languages from the same family to make learning easier for you
Choosing a language closely related to the first one you have learned will give you an advantage. As much as you start over when learning a new language, the related languages are very similar. They often have a similar sentence structure and may even use the same words. This is not the only way to choose new languages, but it is the fastest way to become a polyglot.
- For example, Northern European languages like Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian are similar. Once you learn one, learning the rest will be easier.
- If you are passionate about a particular language, study it even if it is not similar to the first language you learned. Learning it is possibly easy, since you will have practiced mastering a foreign language.
Step 7. Translate words from your first language to your new one
Imagine a ladder with steps. The word from your mother tongue is at the bottom, while the equivalent word from your second language is on the next rung. Every time you learn a new language, translate the word on the highest rung and place it on another rung.
- If you translate everything from the language you know best, you could quickly get confused. Visualizing a staircase can help you separate the words so that you don't mix languages when you want to speak.
- For example, if you speak Spanish, imagine the word "dog." Put the English translation "dog" above. Do the same with any language you learn.
Step 8. Study until you become fluent in different languages
The number of languages you have to learn to be a polyglot differs depending on who you speak with. Try to master four of them, reaching the level of conversation of each one. Fluency means understanding the language and being able to speak it.
- An important part of being a polyglot is being able to use languages. It is not enough to memorize new words.
- If you are ambitious, you can set a goal to become a hyperpolyglot. Hyperpolyglots are fluent in 10 or more languages.
- Errors happen. When learning a new language, you may say something incorrectly. People generally won't criticize you for this, so use mistakes as learning opportunities.
- Practice as much as you can. Becoming a polyglot is very difficult if you don't take the time to study.
- Conversing is an important part of learning languages. Fortunately, you can take advantage of web pages and chat programs to connect with other speakers.
- Learning a language takes time, even years. Do not rush. Instead, focus on mastering each language before moving on.