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LingQ’s Steve Kaufmann Reaches 100,000 YouTube Subscribers!

LingQ co-founder Steve Kaufmann has a nickname in the language learning community: The Godfather. He earned it by being one of the first to build a presence online via his popular blog and YouTube channel (not because he leaves horse heads in people’s beds). That YouTube channel has today reached an awesome milestone, 100,000 subscribers!

Steve’s goal when he created the lingosteve channel back in 2007 was to start a conversation with language lovers all over the world. He wanted to share his experiences, the good and the bad, and maybe even inspire others to start their own language learning journeys. 

Fast forward to 2017 and Steve’s videos have been viewed over 12 million times and he has a dedicated fanbase tuning in to every new video. He’s learned seven languages since he started the channel: Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Czech, Portuguese, Romanian, Korean and now he’s learning Greek. That’s almost a language per year!

Steve has given a lot of great advice over the years. Here are some of our favourite nuggets of wisdom:

Method

After decades of learning languages, most of them independently, it’s safe to say Steve has a method that works, but what exactly is that method? In this video he outlines the steps he takes when approaching a new language:

To follow Steve’s method there’s one thing you absolutely must have: meaningful and interesting content. Without it, language learning becomes a chore, and who loves chores?

Steve knows that it isn’t always possible to learn from content you find interesting as a beginner, and that’s why he recently started the LingQ mini-stories project. Working with a writer, Steve has created interesting stories of everyday life that contain the kind of repetition needed to learn vocabulary and structure.

The stories are in three parts and are five minutes long. Parts one and two are the story told from two different perspectives, and part three is a question and answer section. Steve’s been using the stories in his Greek learning and is impressed with the speed at which he’s progressed. Find out more about this exciting and collaborative project:

 

Vocabulary

According to Steve, nothing is more important in language learning than the acquisition of vocabulary. If you have the vocabulary, you can understand, and if you understand you can eventually respond and express yourself.

There are two ways to learn vocabulary: rote memorization or repeated exposure. Steve of course prefers to learn his vocabulary through repeated exposure in different contexts. When we learn this way, the brain absorbs the new vocabulary almost subconsciously. This works better than trying to force the information in – brains are stubborn that way.

In this video Steve discusses interleaving – the process of learning and forgetting – and how it helps him to retain words.

 

Speaking

When Steve starts a language his goal is fluency. It may take a while to get there, and for some languages he may not get there, but that’s the goal. Fluency means being comfortable using the language in a variety of situations, and in particular being able to speak comfortably and fluidly. It doesn’t mean speaking without mistakes. It does, however, mean acquiring a large vocabulary.

Not everyone agrees with this position. Some people are happy with just a few words as they discover a language; they are keen to start speaking.  Some people think that fluency can be achieved with relatively few words. Every learner should seek out their own path to happiness in language learning.

To Steve, however, fluency has a clear meaning, and it means proficiency. To work towards that goal, Steve prefers to wait before speaking too much. He feels it’s more effective in the long run to focus on building up his vocabulary and familiarity with the language before spending too much time in conversation.  Steve talks about waiting, or the “silent period”, and speaking from day one in this video:

Fluency also means that when he starts speaking, he can have meaningful conversations on a wide range of subjects, and be able to understand what the other person is saying.  But perfection is not a condition of fluency. We can be comfortable in a language and make mistakes, miss things, forget words, stumble here and there, and yet be able to hold up our end of a conversation in most situations. Hear more of Steve’s thoughts on speaking:

Motivation

As far as Steve is concerned, motivation is the driving power of language learning.

You have to be interested in the language or aspects of the culture of countries where it’s spoken in order to be energized and excited to learn. Steve’s motivation has always come from a fascination languages history and culture. What better way to learn about these things than through the language of the people who make it?

Once you’ve found your motivation and begun learning your language it can be tough to keep up the level of enthusiasm you have at the beginning. This even happens to Steve. In this webinar Steve discusses how to stay motivated on your language journey:

Losing motivation is one thing, but there are also times when you’re just too darn lazy to study your target language. You might miss a few days and decide it’s hopeless, you won’t ever learn the language, you just don’t have it in you. Well, my fellow lazy language learners, Steve thinks about us too (he even considers himself a lazy language learner!):

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Steve turned 71 this years and he continues to learn languages (his plan is to move on to Hebrew, Arabic and Farsi after Greek) and share his journey with the world through his YouTube channel. Here’s to many more inspiring videos from The Godfather!

Oh, and if you’re wondering what the first ever video Steve published to his channel was, wonder no more. It’s called “My Chair”, it was published on July 13, 2007 and here it is:

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