When I was at the first ever Polyglot Conference in Budapest, there was an amazing lecture by Anthony Lauder. He revealed the mathematician’s approach to becoming a polyglot who speaks 9 languages:
In true mathematician’s fashion, he would then analyse the harder one of these two steps and try to simplify it. So: instead of “speak 8 languages”, we get “speak 7 languages, and add 1”. This can be further simplified: “speak 6 languages, then add 1”. And so on and so on, until you wind up with “speak 0 languages and add 1”. The audience was laughing. Anthony’s advice is as simple as it is effective: to become a mythical polyglot, all you need to do is Add 1 language – repeatedly, if necessary – until you reach your target. Don’t worry about learning 9 languages, just learn one more language than you know right now.
This home truth led Brian Kwong to create the Add1Challenge – a community effort to help everyone learn just one more language than they know right now. The challenge is open to everyone, no matter if they are learning their 5th language or their first, no matter if they’re starting from scratch or already know some. The key is to encourage each other, learn from each other and hold each other accountable, for 90 days. There is even a prize: the best participant will win a flight to the country where his target language is spoken. If that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what does. (Read more about the Add1Challenge)
Even as a veteran language learner, I personally found the Add1Challenge very useful. You see, I decided to learn Modern Hebrew and even made the mistake of promising Alex Rawlings that I’d speak Hebrew with him when he next visits Berlin – which will be on March 21/22, for the Polyglot Workshops. So I need to learn Hebrew quickly, and the Add1Challenge is helping me go further than I could without that community by my side.
This is me just yesterday, on day 21 of the challenge, speaking without notes (you can switch on English subtitles):
On Day 1, I only knew the alphabet and the two phrases “I am Judith” and “I am German”. I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned and looking forward to how much more I’ll learn before the end of the challenge!
If you want to try the Add1Challenge as well, you’re in luck, because the next batch is about to start. However, it is by application only, in order to ensure that everyone is serious about learning and speaking their target language. So go to http://www.add1challenge.com and click on “Apply” or “Notify Me” in order to get the chance to sign up for the next Add1Challenge.
Full disclosure: the above is an affiliate link, but I’m a fan of this challenge and would recommend it anyway. If you prefer a non-affiliate link, go straight to www.add1challenge.com.