What is Language mentoring?

Language Mentoring is my own approach to language learning. It is not my own “method” such as the Callan Method, the grammatical method, learning in the alpha state of mind etc. I don’t offer a specific package of learning materials for a specific language at a specific level. I offer a guide for creating such packages of materials, and using them the right way.

Language Mentoring is here to help people find their own way of learning a language, persist and achieve the desired results.

Language Mentoring is a philosophy explaining the many ways of learning languages, and helping people use them in their lives. It can be combined with any other method, be it attending courses, using textbooks, self-study books, computer language programs, working with a private teacher or a completely individual self-study.

The main aim of Language Mentoring is to help people enrich any form of learning with additional learning based on 4 pillars of language learning:

We must enjoy learning a language (if it’s not the case, the methods must be changed).

Mastering any language requires a huge amount of contact with the language. There is no shortcut; the work simply must be done.

A great amount of contact is of no help if it’s just once a week. You need to learn often and in smaller amounts – ideally every day (ideally an hour a day, but this can be adapted).

Language learning is only sustainable if you find a system – when you know your destination and the way to get there.

Within these basic principles of language learning, everybody is able to put together their own combination of methods and resources that suits them best. Just like a jigsaw puzzle.

I know this way of learning works not only for me, but for anyone. This is because of its golden rule: learn as suits you best. Not as a textbook or a teacher prescribes.

The heart of Language Mentoring lies in the fact that I help everyone find their own method – their own combination of resources and ways of learning that matches their needs.

I don’t teach people languages. I teach them to learn languages effectively.

In a way, rather than a catching a fish for the student, I offer them a fishing rod, so that everybody can catch a fish of their own preference, on their own.

The individual methods of language learning are very simple, such as:

watching TV series and movies in a foreign language

reading articles on the internet

listening to recordings on your phone

learning vocabulary using an app

talking to native speakers

writing texts

studying grammar effectively

etc.

The trick lies in doing these activities:

effectively

as a part of your daily routine

using a system that is easy to follow

in a way that is enjoyable and motivating

My talk from Berlin on the
topic of Language Mentoring

In this talk, I explain the main philosophy behind language mentoring and I describe my experiment with 100 university students which ended up better than anyone could have expected. As many teachers from several departments said, I caused a revolution at the faculty. Have a look at how I made our students learn and not wait to be taught. 

What does a language mentor do?

  • 1

    I spread the word about language learning

First and foremost, my mission is to explain the basis of language learning as done by polyglots to as many people as possible. To tell them that they can learn languages by themselves, and that it’s not reserved for a few “chosen ones.” To persuade them that if they haven’t succeeded in the past, that only means that they did something wrong rather than that they lack talent for languages. To show them the millions of examples of those who use these principles in practice and achieve great results in their languages.

  • 2

    I explain specific methods for independent language learning

The participants of my courses and talks will receive a detailed guide on how to use simple and effective methods for language learning. I teach people to turn the internet into an unlimited resource of learning materials and methods, use it to their advantage and have fun on the way.

  • 3

    I help people create their own sustainable language learning system

All the enthusiasm for learning languages is good for nothing if it vanishes within a week or if we have no idea what to do after a month. If we get stuck on technical problems with an app, or we cannot find the time for conversations with native speakers. I help people set all this up in advance in order to enable them to learn on their own in the future, too, so that their learning plan leads to achieving the results they wish for.

  • 4

    I hold students accountable for their learning plan

Learning a language is simple but not easy. Self-discipline and endurance are the keys. That’s the reason that so many people are unable to persist in language self-study for too long. Therefore, with all the people I work more closely with, we agree on a certain form of checking so that they know they have to follow their plan. I am the little angel on their right shoulder that pokes them if they seem to have somewhat forgotten about learning their language.

  • 5

    I motivate, encourage and help overcome obstacles

Language learning is a long-term process full of obstacles. It often happens that the initial motivation disappears into thin air within a couple of weeks or after some time we don’t know what to do next. We find out that something hasn’t worked as we wanted, and we lose hope that we will ever learn the language. Therefore, I prefer to work with people on a long-term basis so that I can encourage them and provide them with the much-needed motivation as well as expert support. I am learning my eighth foreign language now, so I know what people have to deal with in all phases of learning any language.

I believe Language Mentoring is my mission. I want to help people reveal the beauty of language self-study and of working up to the stunning results experienced by polyglots (people who speak several languages fluently). I am convinced that everybody can do it if they just know how. It isn’t a matter of talent. The only thing is to really want it.

Fighting the deep-rooted system

My greatest enemy is the system built in Slovakia and all over the world over many decades. It is a system that has conditioned us into thinking that language learning means:

sitting through the usually tedious language classes in a classroom

using only one textbook that always contains a text, a vocabulary box, some grammar, a listening exercise and a writing exercise in every lesson. (Always in this order, regardless of what we need to develop most.)

only reading texts that the author of the book considers interesting (which only rarely corresponded with my personal interests)

proceeding strictly in line with the grammar (If you have not achieved the B2 level yet, don’t even ask about the conditional! That’s in the curriculum for the next year.)

completing artificially created assignments from the textbooks or the teacher (You are student A, and you are supposed to persuade student B that the cinema is better than a DVD at home.)

attending classes twice a week that will definitely get you to the B2 level in just 4 terms (with a three-month summer break between the terms. Oh yeah, sure thing…)

copying the vocabulary into glossaries and cramming the words into your memory for the final test (What does it matter if I am able to use them in real life? Just let me proceed to the next course level!)

I divide people into three groups:

  • 1

    People who are satisfied with the teaching system at schools and courses. They achieve certain results they are happy with.

  • 2

    People who would try one (language) school after another and always complain about the teacher or the textbook or the method. Or even all at once.

  • 3

    People who have understood that nobody will spoon-feed them the language without their own initiative, and are truly willing to work hard to learn it.

Language Mentoring is here for the people belonging to group 3. I can help them move on from being perpetual beginners or intermediates, and finally achieve the language goals they always wished for. More often than not, their goal is to speak a language fluently.

How it all started

The great imbalance: self-study versus a teacher

After 17 years of self-studying 7 languages and 10 years of teaching English and German, I realized that there is a great imbalance between these two activities, and especially their results:

On one hand, I am able to learn one language after another until I speak them fluently all by myself, but on the other hand, I spend years with students who are not even close to achieving similar results. They attend language courses for years but are not capable of fluent speech. They invest a great deal of energy, time and money into language learning, but most of them do not achieve their goals.

I must be a bad English teacher then!

I was asking myself, why is it so? Am I a bad teacher? Why am I not able to teach someone a language in a year or two like I taught myself Spanish, Polish and French? Why can’t my students speak a foreign language without being under constant stress? Why don’t they understand movies in English? Why can’t they recall even basic vocabulary when talking? They have already been learning English for as long as five years!

At first, I thought that my advantage was a talent for languages that my students did not possess. Everyone was telling me how talented I was, and I believed them.

Polyglots at the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin in 2015

Everything changed at the Polyglot Gathering

I believed that I had that talent until I met 300 other polyglots at the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin in 2015. Was it possible that they all had such a tremendous talent for languages? Could it have been that all the elite brains of the world possessing a special gene that others lack met up in Berlin? And could I really have belonged to this group of unique people? This explanation didn’t seem right at all.

I couldn’t resist. I talked to dozens of polyglots at the Gathering and I asked all of them how they learn languages. I inquired about many details and after the first few days, I began to understand…

The common lunches and dinners created perfect opportunities to get to know other polyglots and share our experiences.
During the breaks between the talks I was asking the polyglots how they learn languages. I wanted to know how their approach was different to how we study at schools and in courses.

What do all polyglots have in common?

I found out that most polyglots learn quite differently to how we do at schools and in most language courses. And by “differently” I don’t mean that they just use different books (although that’s true as well). The thing is, they approach learning differently at its very heart.

First of all, they don’t expect anyone to teach them a language. They learn by themselves.

Polyglots who study languages exclusively at courses are extremely hard to find. A typical polyglot has mastered their XY languages by self-study. They searched for language learning options, tried various things, experimented, and if they were accompanied by a teacher or a language course on their way, they always adjusted the whole learning process to match their own needs.

I also noticed that each polyglot learns differently. Among the 300 polyglots I didn’t meet two whose methods were identical. Each of them learns languages in their own way, and the methods usually even vary from language to language.

Polyglot Miro spends time with his languages in an entertaining way every day thanks to the Duolingo app, with which he has already learned for more than 500 consecutive days.
Each polyglot learns in their own way. Niels likes his grammar tables best, that he draws himself and learns from.

Polyglots speak about languages with great enthusiasm, which I realized is because they love the methods they use. They don’t see language learning as the tedious classes we all know from school. Quite the opposite. Language learning is their greatest passion and they love to work with texts and recordings and talk to native speakers. It’s because they choose the individual methods themselves.

When it comes to language learning, the greatest difference between polyglots and most other people is that polyglots find language learning very pleasant, as they have found their own way that they enjoy.

Another thing that I noticed all polyglots have in common is that they devote much more time and energy to learning than most people. They learn a bit every day and in the long-term, they read and write a huge amount of texts, listen to a huge amount of recordings and speak for dozens of hours, all in a foreign language. No wonder they achieve incredible results in a couple of months and master one language after another!

I also observed that polyglots don’t learn languages just like that in fits and starts. They know exactly why they do whatever they do, and how to achieve the desired results. They know that if they want to be able to speak a language, nothing in the world can help them more than many hours of speaking to native speakers of the respective language. They know that if they want to master grammar and avoid making mistakes, they have to do many exercises. They know that if they want a very good pronunciation, they will have to practice for a long time. Their learning is usually based on a plan that allows them to learn a language within a couple of months.

One of the most highly acclaimed polyglots at present, Richard Simcott, speaks dozens of languages. Of course, he has spent an enormous amount of time with them.

So I am not a bad teacher after all!

When I realized all these differences between polyglots and most people learning a language, it hit me. This is it! This is the reason why I cannot give my students in classes what I experience with my own language learning. This is why people attend courses, change schools and teachers without any visible results even after years! It’s because I cannot in fact teach them languages. They can only learn by themselves by:

doing something they enjoy;

having a certain system for their learning;

doing it frequently;

doing a great amount of it.

And so the four basic pillars of my language learning philosophy came into existence.

Everyone can assemble their own method for language learning consisting of any possible combination of ways as illustrated by the individual pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in the picture. If they follow these four principles, success in learning languages is guaranteed.

A revolutionary discovery in language learning

This discovery was a breakthrough for me. I felt that it explained everything.

Why we attend German classes for 8 years at school but are hardly able to ask for directions in Austria even after the final exams.

Why people attend language courses for years, change schools and various methods but nothing seems to help them.

Why people think they have no talent for languages.

Why people may understand something but can never express it in the language.

Why I couldn’t help my students advance in their language, despite all my efforts as an experienced English and German teacher.

It’s because people also have to learn languages at home, not only in classes! Otherwise, it simply doesn’t work. A teacher can be of great help, but most of the work has to be done by the student and the teacher usually doesn’t have to be present all the time. The student him/herself has to spend hours with the language writing, reading, listening or speaking. The student him/herself has to do a massive amount of grammar exercises in order to understand and use it properly. Most importantly, it’s nowhere near enough to work with the language only once or twice a week, or the advances will only be small and short-term. The student may even get stuck and spend years with such learning.

The key to mastering a language is to find something we enjoy and to spend a lot of time with it – regularly and systematically.

Suddenly, I observed it with all my acquaintances. I asked people how they learned English so well (even though they might have struggled with German for years), and they would say they had gotten it from Cartoon Network that they devoured as kids; or from reading detective novels only available in English; or that their flat-mate was a foreigner with whom they could only speak English. There were always hidden hours and hours of very frequent contact with the language that they somehow enjoyed. They were personally interested in the activities that they did, be it their favorite TV shows, computer games, or reading their most beloved books. The only thing that remained uncovered was a conscious system. However, if they thoroughly enjoyed the activities and couldn’t put them down (e.g. the TV show), the learning system itself was not so necessary.

The key to language learning is simple: find something you truly enjoy and do it intensively in the language you are learning. It can be TV shows, podcasts, books, audiobooks, talking to friends, etc.

To me, realizing the truth about the four pillars was a turning point. The question still remained, however, what could I do about it? How could I help people learn languages even if they’re not language enthusiasts who have 5 hours of free time a day, and it is not really their greatest passion to become engrossed in grammar and study its peculiarities?

It was clear: I didn’t want to teach people using traditional methods anymore.

So I came up with the idea of language mentoring instead.

At one of my seminars about language learning.