Relevance of youtube polyglots and second language acquisition studies to your learning style

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Relevance of youtube polyglots and second language acquisition studies to your learning style

Postby iguanamon » Thu Feb 13, 2020 3:53 pm

There have always been posts here and back on HTLAL about prominent polyglots and SLA studies. Nary a week goes by without a post about them, so they would seem to be popular topics. While I find some relevance to prominent polyglots in what I do in language-learning- I had inspiration and influence in my learning style from Barry Farber, I quickly developed my own variation on the theme and have deviated from the original prescription. My hunch is that since self-learning of languages is so highly individual, so are all of our learning styles.

My question is in the topic- What is the relevance of youtube polyglots and second language acquisition studies to your own individual learning style, if any? I am curious to know. For me I don't watch youtube polyglot videos and I find no relevance in SLA studies. Am I wrong to discount them, and if so, please tell me why?

My supposition is that at the beginning we are influenced/inspired by prominent polyglots but as we successfully learn languages we develop our own styles from a variety of influences... including what has worked for us individually and what has worked for others. For me, it's like a buffet. In my case, to name just a few: emk's success with television series and comic books, reineke's cartoons, radioclare's soap operas; Ogrim's music, smallwhite's background listening, Serpent's sports and twitter- all have played their part to some extent. It is difficult to describe how much influence and from where, as the forum in general has played such a huge roll in my learning. Lucca, Steve Kaufmann, Benny, Glossika haven't played much of a role for me.

So I want to hear from you all about this.
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Re: Relevance of youtube polyglots and second language acquisition studies to your learning style

Postby Ogrim » Thu Feb 13, 2020 4:21 pm

First of all, thanks for mentioning my music! :)

I am really not into youtube polyglots or SLA studies for that matter. I started learning languages at school in a time when there was no internet and the learning method was pretty traditional. The biggest influence on my learning style probably came from my German teacher in secondary school. She used a mix of traditional learning, i.e. doing grammar drills and reviewing vocabulary lists, combined with an ability to make the language interesting by introducing us to music and poetry, and once we were a bit more advanced, short newspaper articles on a wide variety of subjects that could be relevant to teenagers.

I do find some language learner channels on Youtube useful, but those are not by polyglots, but by people who teach their own language.

My style has of course developed over the years, but when I start learning a new language from scratch I still very much prefer the "traditional" method I got used to from school and university. A textbook, some audio, grammar drills and vocabulary lists. I use music as a motivating factor more than a learning tool as such, at least in the very beginning of exploring a new language. Once I get beyond the basic beginner level, I start supplementing with things like video, news on websites, short stories etc. Like iguanamon, I really prefer a buffet, and I have also learnt a lot from other forum members' way of doing things.
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Re: Relevance of youtube polyglots and second language acquisition studies to your learning style

Postby mentecuerpo » Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:10 pm

I am off-topic for a few lines writing about Barry Farber.

I wish there were YouTube videos of Barry Farber. I know he was a radio and TV personality back in the day.

I like his approach of getting a text in the target language (any text if I can remember correctly, like a magazine or a paperback book) and little by little, start learning all the words from it, using flashcards to memorize the words. I am doing this now with the help of It is a personal database that keeps track of the words by color-coded them to distinguish the unknown words from the known ones.

The difference with Barry Farber's technique is that I don't learn all the words in a giving text at first. On my initial stage of learning a new language (German now), I keep reading low to moderate difficulty level texts. As I read, the most frequent words begin to stick. I am using the lingq database for this purpose. I begin to recognize the more frequent words and learn them by the natural repetition process. I don't use flashcards.

I think we all develop our learning style, and many sources influence us.

I like to watch videos by polyglots and consume language learning content. It keeps me motivated on language learning, expands my technical vocabulary on language learning jargon, and I get new ideas.

For example, in a recent blog on this forum, one polyglot discussed self-talk on language learning. Then I found that another polyglot made a video that explained his technique on self-talk. The polyglot went on saying that many polyglots use self-talk to learn languages. I was afraid of self-talk because I felt that nobody would correct my mistakes and that I cannot see a native's facial expression to see if he understands what I say. But maybe it is not a bad idea.

So, when I watch a polyglot talking on language learning, I get a few things that can be useful to me. It also helps me to reinforce prior knowledge by repetition. So, I learn new things, and I review old things.

I suppose that there are differences between you and me about language learning knowledge. You have been an avid and experienced language learner for years. I am a newcomer, so everything is pretty much new to me. Let's say that I started to get into the language learning hobby maybe five years ago. Even though I always consumed books on the topic, but I had not identified it as my hobby.

In other words, if you watch a YouTube video on language learning, you probably already know most of what the speaker is saying. The chances are that I still don't know many things on the topic because I am relatively new to the field.

We are on the same boat; the forum is helping me a lot by reading what the members write on language learning.

I am beginning to recognize the fellow forum members that you mention on this blog. I remember your name, too, of course! I apologize for putting you on the spot.

It is hard to tell where the influence is coming; it has multiple sources; I am sure this forum is a significant influence.

I learned English and Italian in a disorganized way, but I got there. I learned from the process.

German is more methodic with the knowledge I am acquiring; it is like a scientific ground where you apply the theory.

Edited spelling and words for clarity.
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Last edited by mentecuerpo on Fri Feb 14, 2020 12:05 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Relevance of youtube polyglots and second language acquisition studies to your learning style

Postby Steve » Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:17 pm

I approach learning from polyglots and academic sources as an analyst. There is much good information but rarely organized in a helpful manner. It took me years to finally come up with a useful (at least for me) framework to think about language learning. Maybe I was just missing the obvious, but I have the sense many in language learning are too busy dancing in the details to step back see the big picture.

My opinions on language learning went through 4 stages.
  • Languages are an academic exercise. Language use is a matter of getting faster and faster at parsing in your head and the result of memorization of tables. Absolute failure forced me to move on.
  • There must be a some secret method or perfect course or something that polyglots use. The sheer divergence of opinion forced me to move on.
  • Polyglots are freaks of nature and it doesn't matter what methods they use. This however really couldn't explain places on earth where multilingualism is common so I moved on.
  • I threw my eclectic background in education, sciences, manufacturing, Deming's work on quality, etc. into figuring out underlying principles behind the various methods that various polyglots use with success. At this point, I see a relatively simple conceptual basis that seems to predict what will or won't work well. I now believe that polyglottery is the natural result of intentionally or unintentionally using materials and methods that fit certain patterns of human learning. Natural talent and particular personality traits are a bonus but are secondary to appropriate individualized methodology. In other words, most people could become multilingual given confidence and direction.

The two main principles I see are these.
  • 1. Language learning is a matter of (roughly speaking) rewiring our brains to naturally react and use the rhythms, sounds, sights, and patterns of a new language.
  • 2. The quality achieved in learning is the inevitable result of the methods and materials chosen at different stages of development. As I see it currently, the best quality is obtained by choosing and adapting methods and materials which are both effective and enjoyable for each individual at various stages of growth as they work at rewiring their brains to assimilate a new language.
Our efforts will always produce some type of results. It's just a question of choosing methods which best turn our efforts into a high quality rewiring of our brain.

I now see polyglots' blogs, videos, articles, etc. as raw information to draw out possible new methods and materials to use. I also now consistently see a few simple concepts at work. Successful polyglots are successfully rewiring their brains to use the new patterns of a language. Their experience has shown them what methods and materials are both enjoyable and effective at various stages of growth and produce a good quality result for their efforts. I now tend to process anything I read through this framework of brain rewiring and process quality.

I'm a relative newcomer to language learning compared to many here. For many years, I was soaking up information like a sponge from various polyglots' blogs, videos, articles, etc. and posts on HTLAL etc. I was seeing better progress that I had in the decades before as I tried various methods and materials. However, I was still overwhelmed with suggestions for methods and materials to use and was thrashing around to a large extent. It was when I started clarifying the ideas of rewiring my brain and learning quality as a result of choosing appropriate enjoyable and effective methods that my efforts were more efficiently used. I still have much room for improvement, but am far ahead of where I was 5 to 10 years ago.

Roughly speaking, I use two main filters for choosing what I do.
  • Does this excite me so that I look forward to doing this tomorrow? Or am I starting to have to force myself to do it? Can I take pride in what I'm accomplishing?
  • Is this actually rewiring my brain to any extent? Is this adding new connections and extending my abilities? Is this reinforcing existing abilities?

I've found various things that various polyglots say and do to be helpful at various times. I've found Luca's old videos on prosody to be helpful in that they sent me down on a road of focusing on hearing entire phrases and sentences. I've rediscovered Professor Arguelles' scriptorium exercises and am in the process of adapting that idea to listening and transcribing audio books. I re-listened to Anthony Lauder's PolyNot talk and realized I'd been neglecting intentional vocabulary development. I also have found that my conceptual framework of brain rewiring and process quality are often a good basis for applying some of the academic articles on SLA that I've read.

Overall, I've found SLA studies (at least the free ones I can easily access) and materials from various polyglots to be a gold mine of raw materials to process into something I can use. Lots of slag to work through, but some real treasures in there. If I had to guess, I'd say 99% of what I do today comes from something I read from someone else along with my 1% of having organized it into a useful conceptual framework.
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Re: Relevance of youtube polyglots and second language acquisition studies to your learning style

Postby tungemål » Thu Feb 13, 2020 6:26 pm

iguanamon wrote:...
My question is in the topic- What is the relevance of youtube polyglots and second language acquisition studies to your own individual learning style, if any?

I watched a lot of these youtube polyglots, and read a couple of books. Nowadays, these videos are probably mostly inspirational for me.

Kato Lomb - her book was interesting, and what I took away from that was: just start to read a book, fight your way through it, don't look up every word.

Barry Farber - that was an entertaining book. He must have been some personality. The book contained many tips but none groundbreaking, I'd say. His "magic memory aid" does work (mnemonic technique) and he describes a method where, just right after having started with the language, you dive into a newspaper article, underlining every word you don't know (which will be many in the beginning).

Olle Linge from - this website contains a lot of good advice, and his story and obsessed determination to learn Chinese to the highest level was very inspirational.

Steve Kaufmann - His unwavering enthusiasm is contagious, and he is inspiring. I took away from him first and foremost this: "you need a lot of input - a lot!" which is true. You can learn a language in many ways, but in the end in order to know it well you have to have read and listened a lot. My mistake when I was younger was that I didn't do enough listening. Now I try to listen a lot because listening comprehension is essential if you want to speak.

Stephen Krashen - I found out about this researcher through Kaufmann, and for some time I thought the comprehensible input hypothesis was sensible. I still think so, but after reading this forum I realised that studying grammar is important after all, if you want to learn a language properly.

Olly Richards - I listened to many of his podcast and he has a lot of very sound advice that I usually agree with. He is in my opinion one of the best "internet polyglot teachers".

Luca Lampariello - I remember I searched for and found videos on how to acquire a good accent. He and many other polyglots seem to have an amazing ability for accents, something which I envy. His advice on that is good (check out the video) but nothing more than I already knew.

And that reminds me - Idahosa Ness - some interesting tips on learning language and accent by ear. He had a lecture on Polyglot Gathering, and also appears in various videos, like this one:

This was only some of the most helpful internet polyglots I learned from. I should watch less youtube, get off this forum and study some languages!
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Re: Relevance of youtube polyglots and second language acquisition studies to your learning style

Postby bedtime » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:00 pm

Somebody has to play the devil, so it'll be me. This has been inside me for a while, so... :?

Seems we may be assuming a trifle that these polyglots are actual polyglots?

I've viewed several videos of (supposed?) polyglots. And I admit that I don't exactly know what degree of language know-how qualifies one to be a genuine polyglot. In any event, much of the videos that I've seen have people taking up most of the videos trying to prove to you that they are proficient in all these languages before they sell you some idea, product.., but I have my doubts.

Most videos that I've seen seemed to be scripted. Even when the person claims it is not. Typically they'll say something such as, "Okay, this is not scripted. I'll just start talking about anything in Japanese, German, French..." Then the video cuts. Then they are speaking Japanese for one or two sentences. Then another cut. Then more Japanese. Repeat for the other languages.

Another example is a polyglot (supposed) who proceeds to talk to a native to prove his abilities. He makes all these claims on how well he can speak and how well his way of learning languages works and that this video will show his success. Yet again, the conversation is cut up more than ground beef. Not only does he cut after almost every sentence, but his intellectually sounding dialogues seemed to sound more like monologues which were scripted for that interview and forced in where they didn't fit. My impression by the natives face was that he wasn't entirely impressed with the polyglot. He actually seemed to be cringing but trying to hold it in. It was hard to watch.

Well, we'll never know what that natives thoughts were of that polyglots performance because they were not included in the video. It's this type of thing that leaves me extremely sceptical. This is not at all my definition of on-the-fly, unscripted, random talking. I mention this because so many people make claims that they can't back up. Then I look in the comments section and see all sorts of people praising their language abilities—can nobody see the man behind the curtain? :roll:

If someone wants to prove they are really proficient in a language, it would be nice to see an uncut video with the natives truthful input comments at the end. Something around 10 minutes would suffice, though that is rare.

Sorry to be a bummer. There are great people out there, and there are people that cover things up and pretend to be much better than they are. Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the case in most of my searches. I just don't like being played to believe something that isn't true.

On a positive note, I've seen a guy that speaks Mandarin and does uncut, live videos with random people on the streets. The natives would turn around with such a look of surprise to see this young American speaking such a difficult language. People smiling, complimenting his correctness and accent, chatting; the odd small mistake here or there, but due to the topic of ordering exotic Chinese food on a menu or food items on the street, it's understandable. He didn't cut his mistakes out, which made it seem even more legit. And the people never had to ask him to repeat himself.

In that case, the proof is there. Unless I see something like this, I'm not buying it; too many people are trying to pull the wool over our eyes out there, saying we can learn this and that language in this amount of time; trying to sell us crap, whether it be for profit, fame, views, or ego; and thus the honesty breaks down. It becomes a play and loses its integrity.

Glad to get that out. :)
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Re: Relevance of youtube polyglots and second language acquisition studies to your learning style

Postby Cavesa » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:42 pm

I am not much into youtube polyglots, I prefer blogs (I simply like the freedom about the way I read a text, instead of being dragged through a whole video), so I am mixing those two categories up.

There have been a few internet polyglots, that were an enormous source of inspiration. They made me look differently at language learning, especially during a crucial transformation of my approach (when I found HTLAL). Professor Arguelles, AJATT, that Brian guy with C2 thanks to Anki, and so on. Even the Irish Benny (even though I stopped liking a large part of his activity since then).

I didn't follow their footsteps exactly, but I took something from their methods and put it to good use. They are exceptional, wonderful and accomplished people, who have taught me a lot.

Majority of the Youtube polyglots seem to be generic copies, repeating the same ideas as if they were really new (textbook bashing is still really popular), showing probably scripted mono or dialogues (as was already described), or showing weird situations with the natives (I'd say some of the polyglots should have their ego and contact with reality checked). Such videos (or blogs) have extremely little value for my learning style, they have nothing to teach me. There are real jewels out there, but hidden really well in the ocean of mediocrity and I don't feel like filtering through this anymore.

The SLA research: some of it is interesting. But vast majority has no impact on me, as it is simply oriented on a totally different situation: the classroom full of average learners. When I see some of the articles and compare them to the standard I am used to reading in medicine, it is hard to take them too seriously anyways. Ridiculously tiny samples for "proving" very general statements, lots of unaddressed bias (affecting also the methodology), variables clearly not taken into account despite logically being important (which also impacts reproducibility), and so on.

But sometimes, there is a piece that excites and/or inspires me. And it is worth it to read something like that and think about it. For example an article on typical problems of the advanced learners that Reineke shared some time ago.

As far as the rest is concerned, I am at least happy that it's still better than the Duolingo marketing research, and hope it will be promoted more. And I still carry the naive hope that research might transform the classroom learning for the future students. Into a much more valuable, much more efficient and significantly less unpleasant activity. But that is perhaps just a naive hope :-D
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Re: Relevance of youtube polyglots and second language acquisition studies to your learning style

Postby Iversen » Thu Feb 13, 2020 10:06 pm

Confession: I made some Youtube videos long ago, and every time I see that some poor soul has subscribed to my channel I wonder why the h... they do it. I have not added a single video to it since around 2010, and maybe the most fair thing would be to scrap the whole caboodle.

I have sometimes watched the videos of others, but not the kind where they say a couple of sentences in each of their languages - and then onwards to the next one. That's boring. I prefer more elaborate interviews, although I deplore that most of them are done in English. But I can't say that I learn much from the interviews and other kinds of videos, let alone from course materials. I have developed my own set of methods, and there I'm mostly at odds with the messages proferred in the videos and podcasts made by other polyglots - not least because I prefer working with written materials. The point is that most of the youtube polyglots advocate learning languages by speaking to people - except of course when they want to sell courses and written materials to other learners.

PS: to Bedtime: When I did my own videos some of them were in weak languages, where I had to prepare myself by learning some phrases by heart and establishing 'islands' as recommended by Shekhtman - but when I sat in front of my webcam I just spoke and spoke. Afterwards I edited my "ahems" and pauses and some of the more blatant errors and worst drivel out, but that still left about 5-10 minutes of almost meaningful babble in each foreign language. I made one series about methods, one with a video in each of the languages I studied at the time, a series about my paintings and some unrelated videos, but I can't even bear to watch them myself now.
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Re: Relevance of youtube polyglots and second language acquisition studies to your learning style

Postby garyb » Thu Feb 13, 2020 10:30 pm

A few Youtube polyglots and language bloggers certainly inspired me near the start of my journey, just for showing me what was possible if one puts the work in, but I lost interest a long time ago for a few reasons.

Most eventually run out of steam and just keep going over the same usually biased and simplistic ideas and/or pandering more and more to beginners rather than serious learners. Benny (whose language skills did always seemed genuine) lost his personal touch and became a dodgy salesman, and Luca's fascinating in-depth travel reports and phonetic analyses have given way to generic listicles on well-worn topics. As has been mentioned, the people teaching their own languages can be a better bet, but even these tend to go the same way. Italiano Automatico for example has had a few too many titles with numbers in them recently and most episodes are just variations on the theme of "do lots of listening and don't study grammar if you don't want to" and I lost interest in Lucrezia when her videos became iTalki affiliate adverts. It's a shame as I do think that these learner-aimed resources have their place alongside "proper" native materials even for more advanced learners.

My own learning has also become a lower priority in my life and I'm less serious and perfectionist about it. Watching someone speak a dozen languages with a great accent is less exciting when that's no longer my aspiration and so I have no interest in putting in the time and effort to reach that level.

Above all though, I get to a point where I'd rather spend my time doing than watching and I get more satisfaction that way. I've found the same with other activities like music: I have phases of watching Youtube guitarists and they can be great for a bit of inspiration or to get out of a rut, but beyond that initial push I find the information too scattered to apply consistently and I get more value out of just getting my head down and following a course or routine for a while. It's nice to catch up on the videos occasionally and a few of them have pointed me towards really valuable resources or changed my way of approaching things, but I take them in small (if intense) doses.

To answer the question, I'd say the polyglots have inspired me to try different things and experiment to find my own learning style. I took a Benny-style "speak as much as possible from early on" approach for a long time; while it took me a few years too long to admit that it was too stressful for me especially when I was younger and found it harder to deal with people, it did show me the benefits of actually getting out and using the language. I've found Luca's method for working through Assimil very useful, as well as his approach to pronunciation and accent, and the "automatico" vloggers have helped convince me of the benefits of lots of listening. All these ideas have value when taken with a pinch of salt and ignoring their claims about being the one true way.

I've never found SLA research particularly interesting or useful, although I do find it nice to see some academic support for ideas on threads here from the members who are more interested.
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Re: Relevance of youtube polyglots and second language acquisition studies to your learning style

Postby lingua » Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:06 am

For me they have no relevance. I wouldn't even know about them and only do because someone on this site mentioned them in a post. On the rare occasion I follow a link to a video or blog post I don't stick around very long. I find most of them boring.
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