Progress is man's ability to complicate simplicity.
– Thor Heyerdahl
Good morning, everybody. Welcome back to the I Will Teach You a Language podcast. If you're listening to this in August, then you're in the select club of people that are not off traveling to hot places on summer holidays. I'm not going anywhere, I'm staying here in London, and I'm pretty happy about it actually. London is one of those places where cool things tend to happen in the summer when everyone else is off like in Spain or Thailand or whatever having fun on the beach. We do good stuff here in London, so I'm pretty happy to be here.
We've got an interesting episode today about listening to old episodes of this podcast plus a submission from episode 100 that's about a year and a half too late. Anyway, we'll get to that in just a minute. I would like to thank the wonderful sponsors of the show who keep the show on the road and help me make it possible to put these episodes out all the time. They are of course Italki, the great place where you can find teachers who speak lots of different languages. So, whatever language you're learning you can find a native speaker, teacher or tutor there that can help you get that all important speaking practice in. If you'd like to get a free lesson with them, you can go to IWillTeachYouALanguage.com/freelesson. With that credit that you get there, you should be able to take at least two or three trial lessons for free, which is fantastic.
Alright then, without any further ado, let's get into today's question from Michael.
Hi, Olly. My name is Michael King, I'm from Nashville, Tennessee. I speak Spanish fluently, I'm native English, Portuguese at maybe a B1, B2 level, Chinese at like maybe a B1 level. Who knows if I'm right there or not, it could be totally off. Anyway, this is a comment from when you were putting together your montage about what people have learned. I'm a bit late here, but I'm going through all your episodes. What I've learned is that while there are many things you can do to learn a language more efficiently, simplicity is still key. Making things too complex can slow down your productivity and is detrimental to your overall language learning progress. I think this is something that I was struggling with a lot, and I still struggle with it. One question is how can I reach your episodes that are before the ones that are currently on the podcast app? Currently you have from episodes 85 I think or 86 or maybe the low 90s all the way up to 190, but the ones from one to 90, I can't access them on the podcast. I'm not sure if they're not there or what. Anyway, I love your show, I love how it's short, 10-15 minutes, and I always take something away from it, whatever it may be. By the way, I'm the guy who sent you this long annoying message about flashcards about a year ago. Excuse me, I've now learned that simplicity is key, and I'm sending you another long message right now, because I'm a rambler. Goodbye. Thank you, I love your podcast, keep up the good work.
Well Michael, thank you very much. I love your message, thanks for that man, I appreciate it, and I appreciate the kind words. I love to get these messages because as I've said before many times podcasting is kind of a lonely old game. You talk into a microphone and you don't get to see the person you're talking to, but every now and again I get messages from people on the other side of the world who say like I listen to your podcast and I take inspiration from it and that helps me keep it going. So, thank you man, I appreciate that and your positivity and your energy, it's fantastic. Your accent really reminds me of my friend Idahosa. I don't know if you guys are from the same place, but that's kind of really weird to hear somebody who sounds like the speak exactly the same kind of English.
How do you listen to old episodes of the podcast? I have been into the back-end dungeons of Libsyn, who I host my podcast with, and I've tweaked around some settings. I believe that I have now made 250 episodes available in the podcast feed. So, if you go to iTunes now or Stitcher Radio or wherever you listen to these podcasts, you should be able to access every single one right back from the beginning. Episode one is there, at least when I access iTunes it's there. So, go and have a look now, you should be able to access all of them. I daresay if you download all those episodes you will run out of space on your phone pretty quickly, because we've got a lot of episodes, this is episode 208. Nevertheless, if you'd like to go back, then please do.
On a related point, go back to the first few episodes and listen to how I do the podcast, and you'll notice the quality is rubbish. I was not very good at podcasting at the beginning, but I just did it. I wanted to start a podcast, so I basically figured out how to do it, I turned on the mic. There was some preparation, but basically, I wasn't very confident behind the mic, but I just got on with it. Now 200 episodes later I feel like I'm much better at it, at least I think I'm a better presenter, better host, better interviewer, all of these things. There's a lesson in there somewhere. If you want to extrapolate the lesson out to language learning much like you said about simplicity, Michael, there's a lot to be said for screw it, just do it. I know that doesn't resonate with everybody but certainly with me and with many things I do related to my website, the podcast and language learning I'm very much of the school of like just do it, don't overthink things, keep it simple and just do it. Take some inspiration from that. I know people sometimes listen to this podcast and they think, “How did you learn eight languages? I could never do that”. Whatever place you're at now, I started there and just did one thing after the next. You can hear that with the podcast. I started off at the beginning not knowing what I was doing, but then I eventually get better at it. So, go back and enjoy those previous podcasts.
I thought I might take a second to tell you I looked at my iTunes stats and they tell you which episodes have been the most popular. So, do you want to hear a few episodes that have actually been the most downloaded? Let me tell you what they are. I'm going to ignore recent episodes, because we've had a bit of a spike recently since my interview with Dr. Barbara Oakley a few weeks back. She was very kind enough to share on her mailing list, and I know many of you now will have discovered the podcast through that. So, I'm going to ignore the recent episodes, because they've been downloaded more than anything else. Episode 151, Why Am I Still A Beginner? That's a popular one. Episode 194, How Do You Remember the Gender of Nouns? Episode 167, How to Stop Translating in Your Head. Episode 199, Interview With Michelle Thomas, Publisher at Sioux Heart. Episode 141, Master Your Memory Part One. Episode 148, How to Learn a Language from Home. Episode 190, Tips For New Teachers On Italki. That's very interesting, isn't it, to hear which of those episodes are the most popular. Talking about Why Am I Still a Beginner? How Do You Remember the Gender of Nouns? How Do You Stop Translating in Your Head? What strikes me about that is that those are very kind of emotional questions, aren't they? Why Am I Still a Beginner? How Do I Stop Translating in My Head? These are questions that are born out of frustration with not seeing the progress that you might like. That's interesting for me to look back at.
Michael, you mentioned simplicity and you said that while there are many things you can do to learn a language more efficiently, simplicity is still key. I have to say despite all the tips and tricks we talk about here and the different ways to learn languages, if I were to describe to you the way I learn Cantonese these days, you would be maybe very surprised by the simplicity of it. I basically do three things; I spend a lot of time listening to Cantonese conversations, which is the library of listening material I recorded in Hong Kong a while back. So, I spend a lot of time listening to that, which is conversations between native speakers fully transcribed. So, I listen to it, I read along with the recordings, and I listen to it over and over again, listening and reading. Then I take the vocabulary from that, stick it in my flashcards, and I use the flashcards to help me memorize the vocabulary. Then I go out and I speak. I have two or three lessons a week with my teacher Priscilla on Italki, and then I go out and meet my friends and speak Cantonese around London when I can as well. That's all I do. It's a lot of listening and reading, it's memorizing vocabulary, and it's speaking. When I think about how am I learning this language, what am I doing? That's as complicated as it gets for me, and it's all about the simplicity. The reason it works I think is because it fits around my schedule, it's something I enjoy doing, and it works. When I do that, I make progress, it helps me.
I'm all for simplicity, so Michael I think it's a good lesson you discovered, you're clearly doing well with your languages. Congrats on that, keep it up. Maybe we could meet up one day and practice those languages together. Thanks for your message, I hope that was useful and now you've got the whole library of episodes you can go back and listen to, so please enjoy that.
If you'd like to ask me a question, please do. You can go to IWillTeachYouALanguage.com/ask. Also, if you've been enjoying the podcast, I would love it so much if you could go and leave me a star rating and review on iTunes. I know you're probably not going to do it, most people never do and that's fine, but if you've got a few seconds to spare now please go ahead and open up iTunes on your phone or your computer, search for the podcast, I Will Teach You a Language, and leave me a star rating and review. Even if it's negative, even if you say, “Ollie, you just waffle too much. Too much junk, don't like it. Shut the podcast down”. Go ahead and leave me that comment, let me know because this really does help other people find the podcast when you do that.
Now to end the episode, I'd like to leave you with a quote which is a gem and it is this, “Progress is man's ability to complicate simplicity”. That comes from Thor Heyerdahl, whose name I've almost certainly massacred. “Progress is man's ability to complicate simplicity”. There we go. See you next time.
Thank you so much for listening to today's episode, I really hope you enjoyed it. You know one of the questions I get asked most often about language learning is how to improve your memory, because things get so much easier when you learn new words and you don't forget them later in conversation when you really need them. So, what I decided to do is to put together a short email course. It's a three-part email course, over three days, that teaches you my favorite techniques for memorizing vocabulary and actually putting that vocabulary into your long-term memory. It's a short course, three days, it's completely free, and if you'd like to sign up for it please go to IWillTeachYouALanguage.com/freememorycourse.
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