How to Start Learning a New Language was uploaded onto Steve’s YouTube channel on

December 23, 2012

Hi there, Steve Kaufmann here. It’s the 23rd of December. My wife has been baking cookies and preparing for our Christmas dinner tomorrow night. All day long I’ve been wrapping presents, but I want to talk about something that came to me while I was wrapping my presents. I think one of the most frequently, perhaps the most frequently, asked question from newcomers to LingQ is where do I start? Where is lesson one?


I usually answer, it doesn’t matter. I say pick something at your level because in our library you can choose beginner 1, 2, intermediate 1, 2. Choose something at your level. Choose something you’re kind of interested in. You can even look for content that has translations because some of them do and you can search for those items that have translations to help you along, but in principle, it doesn’t matter.


The reason I wanted to do a video on that is as I was wrapping my presents, I was listening to Korean. Guess what. I started by listening to something somewhat difficult, which I didn’t understand much of, then I went back to our beginning series at LingQ ‘Who is She?’ and ‘Eating Out’, which I have done quite a long time ago, two months ago. I think I even attempted it maybe a year or so ago or two years ago. When I was in Japan, I tried to ramp up my Korean a little bit.


Steve Kaufmann


So I’ve done it, supposedly I know it, but when I listen to it there are lots of words that I don’t understand, so then I went back to LingQ and I started reading it and, of course, all the words are either white or yellow, they’re known or I’ve been studying them. Of course, there are words that I have subsequently forgotten or never did learn, but it’s wonderful to go over lessons that you have done before.


No matter how many times I listened before, certain things would not stick and certain things seemed strange. It’s almost as if Korean as a language doesn’t make sense because the way they string words together, to me, when I first start out is quite illogical. Why would they write it that way? Now, having struggled with more difficult text, I go back to my beginning lessons at LingQ and, really, I feel that I’m learning every word, every word that I had forgotten. It’s now so easy for me because I had pushed myself harder to go forward.


I guess what I’m driving at is you start somewhere in the language with some lessons, you’re going to have to go back there again. You should push yourself to do some more difficult lessons. It’s kind of anarchic. It’s like having a romance, you don’t begin day one asking your partner where was she born, what does her father do? You know you’ve got the basics. Lesson one we do this, lesson two, it just comes at you. However it comes at you, you have to deal with it and then it’s pleasant to go back.


Of course, there’s an expression in French _____, which means you always go back to your first love. In the case of language learning, yeah, you should go back to some of the lessons you started with. It’s surprising how much more you’ll pick on your second pass. Thinking again of French poetry, there was the famous ______, where there’s the expression ______. Like where are the snows of yesteryear and, of course, the snows of yesteryear are no more, but when you study language that’s not the case because your first lessons are still there. You can go back to them and you should go back to them.


I think I have mentioned this before, but it’s important to vary the difficulty of what you’re doing. Don’t try to ace the easy lessons at the beginning because you won’t be able to. Keep forging forward creating a new path in the snow, so to speak, but then when you go back to that well-trodden path you’ll find it easier and that’s a wonderful feeling. I think that kind of pushing yourself forward, going back again, that’s how you learn.


So it almost doesn’t matter where you start. It’s not like building a house with blocks. It’s very much sort of a fuzzy learning experience, exposing yourself to this living thing called a language, developing a relationship with the language, sometimes pushing the limit, other times retreating back to where you are comfortable. A combination of doing these things, eventually, helps the language to stick with you.


So that’s my message here, as a result of listening to easy lessons in Korean while wrapping my Christmas presents. If I don’t do another one, which I probably won’t before Christmas, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas. There’s sometimes some controversy, I think it’s highly overblown. We’re not religious in any way at all, but Christmas is a very nice occasion where we get together with family. We have a Christmas tree, we have food, family and exchange gifts and it’s just a very pleasant, cheerful occasion.


So to all of you, regardless of your religious persuasions, Merry Christmas and I look forward to more exchanges in the New Year. Thank you for listening.