Luca had a chance to sit down with Lydia Machova, a fellow polyglot and translator to discuss her ideas on language learning and the biggest mistake you can make as a language learner! Find out what she has to say about the best way to learn a language!


Interview With Lydia Machova on the Biggest Language Learning Mistake (Video)

Interview With Lydia Machova on the Biggest Language Learning Mistake (Transcript)

Luca: Hi there, it’s Luca from MosaLingua. Today, I’m very happy, because I’m with Lydia Machova. I hope I pronounced it well. So Lydia is an interpreter. She’s a polyglot. She’s the head organizer of the polyglot gathering this year and also she is a language mentor. We are going to discover a little bit what language mentor means. So my first question, of course, is to ask about some information on your language background.

Lydia: Well I started learning my first foreign language, which is English when I was 11 and then I continued with German when I was 15 and then starting with I took on a new language more or less every two years, which was Spanish, Polish, French, Esperanto and Russian in this order.

Luca: Okay very very impressive. So you learned several languages so far plus your native languages, Slovak. And I’m very curious to know what are your first personal steps when you start to learn a language?

Lydia: I always start the same way: I buy a book for autodidact, people who are learning by themselves and I use the back translation method which means that I translate these texts into Slovak, into a special notebook and then I go sentence by sentence and I translate it back into the target language as many times as it takes for me to say it fluently. And in that way I learn a lot of vocabulary in context and then I continue with some more fun activities.

Luca: I’d like to know if your profession of interpreter has helped you somehow in the learning process?

Lydia: Yes well this is definitely interrelated in the way that if you want to be an interpreter you need to learn the languages a lot on you need to speak them well, but also when you use it when you are working as an interpreter it helps you to keep the languages active so it’s  kind of a symbiotic process: one helps the other.

Luca: Okay so  I know that you’re a language mentor. You launched recently your site

Lydia: Actually it’s

Luca: Sorry, so you are helping a lot of students and so I think you can see like the differences between successful learners and unsuccessful learners. In your opinion, first of all, what is the key to have success in language learning from what you you have observed working with those students?

Lydia: Yeah I think there is one big thing that people need to do in order to learn a language successfully and that is to decide to really do it by themselves. And I see this is the greatest difference honestly because there’s so many students of languages out there you know who go to Language classes, etc. but they don’t really want to learn, they want to be taught and I think this is really the biggest difference, because whilst the students understand that they need to spend the most time with the language by themselves then it starts working and even people who have been struggling with the language for along time suddenly start to see progress in their own learning and they  motivate them to learn more and more so I think the main thing; the main mistake that people make is that they just learn a little bit and do some homework, but otherwise they just go to the lessons and like :wait okay teach me”, you know, “you’re the teacher, do the job” and this clearly doesn’t work.

Luca: Okay and do you think that there are other very important obstacles apart from the one  you mentioned, from the point of view of an unsuccessful learner?

Lydia: Of course, there are several. I’d like to mention four things as my part of my system, and 1st one is that people need to have fun when learning a language. If you don’t enjoy the process then it’s just not going to stick in your mind and you can spend hours with it and your brain says, “I’m not interested” you know. And then the second thing is that you need a lot of contact with the language so it’s just not enough if you read a little text here or a little text there. You really need to read a lot of books you know listen to a  lot of videos etc. Like it takes time and then thirdly, it’s much better to do it more frequently. Little chunks than if you spend eight hours with the language every Sunday and finally it works best if you have a system so if  you say ok I wake up in the morning I will do this little thing and then in the evening before I go to bed I do this too.

Luca: Okay another very interesting thing about you is that you learned all the languages that you  speak without living abroad so in that particular country for a lot of  time so well I’m really fighting about that idea that you have to live there and so on, so I’d like to have some some details about that: so what do you think about that type of learning?

Lydia: I think this has become possible only with the internet. I think this was really not possible before, because who could you speak to right? I mean how would you practice the language? Where would you find all the books and listen to all these things? Today you can create your own country if you’re online, because you can listen to so many audio books and videos etc and you can download books, text books, whatever you  want really. It’s all out there so I can kind of create the environment, the foreign environment here in Slovakia without living abroad. and it’s actually the way that I do it. I like to go abroad and I like to travel a lot, but I only go after I speak the language on a B1 or plus level so I spent, for example, ten months in Poland when I went I was already a C1 level. I really learned here in Slovakia and then I just went abroad to use the language and, I think this works much better because if you go to a foreign country and you don’t speak anything you will pick up random words you know like here and there, but it’s not very effective but if you already speak on a level you can just increase like that very very easily, because you suddenly understand things and you can put it all together and it’s just so much more intense.

Luca: So I watched the video of Lydia speaking German and Russian so the first impression, no the first reaction of the person, it’s to say how talented is that girl. She’s a genius, she’s very special so I’d like to have your opinion about are Polyglots just really talented or like special human beings or just they have other secrets?

Lydia: Yeah this is what most people think right, “All these polyglots they’re so super talented” It’s not true I think if you go and ask all the other 400 people at this gathering and everyone will tell you that it’s not about the talent and often this is an excuse. If we’re really honest, this is often an excuse of people who don’t want to learn languages they have been struggling for it for some time and they thing like how clearly if I’ve been learning for twenty years and I  cannot learn one stupid language and you must be talented because you can learn right, but I always tell people this is not about the talent, it’s about the approach so if maybe I had a different approach  in learning languages and maybe you have a different one for even if you think  about it a little just be open to the possibility of learning in a different way it could work and the different ways it really means that you really take the learning into your own hands and you learn  actively by yourself.

Luca: Thank you very much Lydia, it was very interesting. I hope you enjoyed her tips so thank you very much for watching the video. See you soon, thank you!