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How Easy Is It to Learn an Asian Language?

Just to stir the pot a bit… I thought I would post this chart from my upcoming talk at the Polyglot Conference in Fukuoka (2019). I’ll be giving a talk in which I describe the structure of some of my favorite Asian languages, and what to expect if you decide to learn them (the talk is called “Which Asian Language …

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Shadowing: This Exercise Will Make You Sound Like a Native

Since I posted my blog post on the importance of prosody, many of you wrote to ask for more explanation of how my shadowing exercise works. It is a very powerful exercise and has helped me immeasurably. It is particularly useful for tonal languages like Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, or Thai. I’ve written a more detailed explainer here, and made some …

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Linguistics 101 Series: Why You Need to Master Prosody to Speak a Foreign Language

When you learn a foreign language, you usually study pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Maybe even a new alphabet. But how many of your language teachers have ever mentioned prosody? Prosody is the “music” of language. In spoken languages, prosody is the variation of pitches across a sentence or discourse level. For example, in American English we tend to raise our …

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Why You Should Learn Chinese

Someone on Quora Français recently asked me, “why should I learn Chinese?” (This post was originally written in French for Quora. Lisez son original en français) My opinion? There are several reasons why you’ll want to choose Chinese as your foreign language. Use Chinese to Access Global Business Right now, much of the world considers learning English to be their …

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So You’re Not Fluent Yet: Should You Blame Duolingo?

When the recent article in The Cut came out proclaiming Duolingo useless, the glee was palpable. I get it. You’ve spent countless hours at the beck and call of that owl, and you still can’t speak Spanish, or Ukrainian, or High Valyrian. You feel ineffective, incapable. You wondered if it was just you. I’m writing this post on a long …

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You Might Want to Learn These Languages

If you’re reading this blog, there is a good chance that you’re a hopeless language addict, suggestible to any new language recommendation, and forever putting languages aside to try out the new hot thing. So maybe I shouldn’t be enabling you. But if you’re looking to learn a new foreign language and don’t know which one to choose, I have …

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