“Every hour I’m [learning a language] feels like a minute. Every minute I am away from [the language I’m learning] feels like an hour.”

Become a Polyglot in Minutes not Years

“…And that is the secret to how to become a polyglot in minutes, not hours, months, or years. It’s to absolutely love it, so that studying isn’t a chore; it isn’t a task you want to get out of the way so that you can reach that fluency you lust for. No, lust fizzles – but if you love the language, if you love the language-learning process, those hours, those months, and those years, they’ll fly by.”

The above quote is from (jump to 8’10” in the video) and this post was inspired by Anthony Lauder from FluentCzech‘s YouTube video entitled Become a Polyglot in Minutes not Years, which you can view here:


Mr. Lauder has a wealth of informative, entertaining, and motivational videos about his experience with the language-learning process (especially as it pertains to Czech), and for all you English learners out there, his videos are a fantastic resource, as he speaks very clearly and provides good explanations of the topics at hand.

The modified quote that inspired the title of the post is mentioned by Mr. Lauder in his video. It is from Michel Petrucciani, a well-renowned jazz pianist who once said “Every hour I am at the piano feels like a minute. Every minute I am away from the piano feels like an hour.”

So the question is, how do you feel when you’re learning your language of choice? What goals do you have in learning the language? These are important questions to ask yourself, because they will inevitably determine how motivated you are to learn the language, and how much you do (or do not) enjoy the process.

As Mr. Lauder says in his video, 80% of the reward of something learned can be achieved with 20% of the effort (or time) that it takes to master it – this is known as the Pareto Principle. I’m personally still at a point in my Mandarin learning where I’m able to pick up new things every day, that is, I still haven’t gotten my 80%, but it still requires listening every day, and I don’t pick things up anywhere near as quickly as I do when learning German, Spanish, Dutch, French etc. It is amazing how much of these languages you can learn in just a few months if you work at it intensively every day.

With German and Spanish, however, I have definitely already reached this threshhold, which means I have to work hard (meaning I have to be very organized in my learning, which I achieve by using Anki and LingQ) at mastering these languages beyond the fluency I’ve already gained.

Does that bother me? Not in the slightest. Because I absolutely love the language-learning process. I live for the “Ah-ha” moments, the jokes that only make sense in other languages, getting to know people in their native language and really speaking to their hearts, and learning more about other cultures through the conduit of their languages. Live it, love it, and I guarantee you’ll learn it.

As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”


100 hours of Mandarin listening! / Audio version of “Learning Languages Like Children”

I hit my first 100-hour mark last week! Sometimes I feel like I already understand so much, and sometimes I’m totally lost – I never appreciated how relatively easy it is for English speakers to acquire any Germanic or Romance language until I started listening to Mandarin. Instead of starting at 30-50% comprehension, you start at 0%. That’s why it takes two to three times as long to acquire some languages than others –  they’re not “harder”, they’re just “different” – so you have to start from scratch.

Refer to this chart of approximate Language Learning Expectations for English Speakers from the Foreign Service Institute of the Department (FSI) of State and this thread on LingQ for more on the subject.

***There’s also a Wikibooks link for the chart here).

I’m currently listening to the Elementary and Intermediate podcasts from PopUpChinese and CSLPod‘s Intermediate, Upper Intermediate, and Advanced series (CSLPod’s Elementary stuff is too slow and repetitive for my level) and trying out their Premium material (Lesson Guides and audios at the sentence level for some newer lessons) on a $10 Basic Subscription.

The only thing you get in the CSLPod Lesson Guides that you don’t get in the free content are the Hanzi texts for the post-dialog vocabulary explanations, but as these make up half of each audio track, I thought I’d try them out. However, as they don’t provide the translations for these like they do for the dialogues, I have to rely on rough translations from Google Translate. Sometimes I understand the majority, sometimes I don’t, but if the content is interesting enough, I keep listening.

One thing that’s nice is that CSLPod does the work of parsing the Hanzi text with pinyin so you don’t have to use a pinyinization tool like at PopUpChinese.

Also, I’ve just uploaded recorded versions of the intro and first chapter of Learning Languages Like Children by Dr. J. Marvin Brown to the LingQ English library.

You can access the collection on LingQ here:


I will be recording and uploading chapters 2-5 over the next few days, so make sure to check back for those if you’re interested!

Taking advantage of embedded lyrics to streamline your language learning

Since I got my Android Nexus One in May of last year I’ve been looking for an Android music player that displays embedded text (“lyrics”) while you’re listening, and I finally found a free one called Astro Player


I am currently in the process of embedding all of the characters, Pinyin transliterations, translations and vocabulary tables into all of my lessons from LingQ, ChinesePod, ChineseClass101, and CSLPod for easy viewing on my device. It’s a lot of preliminary work, but it’s greatly increased the effectiveness and convenience of my Mandarin learning.

The reason this is so great is that you can view the text that corresponds to any audio you’re listening to on your Android smartphone or mp3 device, it simply requires that you use iTunes to embed the text in the “properties” of the audio track under “lyrics”.

This means you can refer to the text of a lesson without having to access any sites or search for a particular lesson. (ChineseClass101 pre-embeds the simplified characters and the translations in their dialogues, which means that I only have to add the pinyin transliterations and the vocabulary lists from the lesson notes, whereas ChinesePOD and ChineseLearnOnline only pre-embed the characters, and CSLPod does not embed anything at all, and they are therefore useless to beginners who are trying to learn the spoken language first unless you add the content yourself).

This lyric viewing feature is standard on any Apple player with a screen (iPod/iPhone/iPad), but as I already had an Android phone and I didn’t feel like spending $100 or more just to buy an iPod, I was very excited to find this app.

On a related note, if you want a way to view these embedded lyrics within iTunes while you’re listening on your computer, I recommend Cover Version


I use this at work so I can listen to Mandarin podcasts while I’m working and quickly refer to the text of an audio without having to break away from what I’m doing.

If you have any questions about how to install or use either of these tools, please drop me a line. Happy learning!