Every now and then someone shows up online or in person who just blows your model of reality out of the water.
I recently stumbled on Moses McCormick’s YouTube videos (username laoshu505000). Moses is a fascinating guy. Based in Columbus Ohio, he makes it his business to learn every language he possibly can. Through his efforts, he has gained proficiency in more than a dozen languages and distilled his approach down into an effective product he calls the FLR Method.
What Moses brings to the Polyglot community is a wonderful humility but also a sense that nothing is impossible. He basically studies his languages in his bedroom and an adjacent room which he calls “bootcamp stations A and B”.
However, he isn’t confined to his bootcamp quarters merely listening to audio, combing through language courses many of us would be familiar with (Teach Yourself, Assimil, Colloquial…) Yes he does all these things but it is all in service of his primary goal with a language, which is to “level up” — code for getting out into the real world and communicating with native speakers.
The drive to refine
There is something very cool about Moses’ approach which dawned on me after watching this video on how he goes about learning multiple languages at one time.
Firstly, his goal to reach an intermediate level in 4 languages every year changes the game completely. If you’re learning one language only, then there is a temptation to drift in the language and not take it as seriously as you could.
Designating multiple languages in a short time frame entails some serious planning, but beyond that, it requires a high level of organisation and daily commitment.
Moses uses charts to organise his time and resources leading to a very effective approach. Having fairly aggressive timelines to practice his languages, Moses has had to create a lean and effective schedule of learning. He has optimised all his systems and is constantly refining.
Again, without the audacious goal of learning 4 languages a year, the need to refine and constantly improve his approach wouldn’t be as necessary.
A second aspect of Moses’ approach worth noting is his drive to go out and test himself on native speakers. Anyone who has learned even a few phrases of a new language and used them successfully with native speakers will know there is an exhilaration that comes from doing it.
You will make mistakes but as the Irish Polyglot Benny Lewis is fond of saying, people want the interaction to go well and they will mostly help you out. This is true even when your grammar is not so flash.
I have had numerous dialogues in Czech where I left thinking “doh! I should have used the genitive case there not the dative”. That learning would only take place when I went out and tried it out.
So now I don’t beat myself up for making mistakes, in fact, it is necessary to make as many mistakes as possible as early as possible.
An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field. — Niels Bohr.
Because communication is Moses’ primary goal, his approach is to listen, read and speak as much as possible, especially early on. He studies grammar only after having a solid grounding in the dialogues from books and audio programs.
I speak from experience when I say that the grammar first approach isn’t effective, at least not for me. My approach to study languages like science projects actually stunted my progress in Czech — a language with an enormous amount of detailed grammar.
Impossible you say?
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I find Moses to be truly inspirational. He genuinely cares about the languages he learns — he says none of them are useless (as some YouTube commenters have said).
He speaks with a nonchalance about learning multiple languages and the 1-20 year plan he has to study virtually every language you can name. But never do I hear him complaining about how hard a language is, or making excuses. In Moses’ world, excuses never even enter the door.
His 10 years or so experience is testament to the fact he’s a smooth operator in the language learning field. Through his tenacity and experience with multiple languages, Moses has created an approach to learning languages he calls the Foreign Language Road Running (FLR) Method.
His YouTube channel has numerous outlines of FLR but he has condensed all of these techniques into language learning packages that make it easy for the learner to progress week-by-week.
If you think language learning is difficult then FLR might just be what you’re looking for. Moses’ style is very down to earth and doesn’t involve anything complicated at all.
In fact, Moses explains on several YouTube videos how to effectively study a regular textbook like a Teach Yourself or Assimil. His ideas about taking one chapter and repeating the dialogues for an entire week (reading and listening) have been immensely valuable to me. A 19 chapter textbook can seem daunting but if you devoted one week for each and devoured the dialogues, you would have a vast understanding of the language.
Once you’ve got a solid grounding in listening and reading, then, as Moses explains, is when you should begin looking at grammar. It will make much more sense when you’ve got the comprehension from 18-19 weeks of dialogue study.
Applying FLR to French
Since I began learning French in July this year I have learned a tremendous amount. However, I used my old “grammar first” approach so when it comes time to speaking the language I have struggled.
To remedy this, I’m putting grammar on hold and am only using textbooks to study the dialogues. In less than a week of doing this I already feel more confident in the language.
Resources aren’t an issue for me (I have tonnes) but the approach I’m taking is now making those resources come to life. Thanks to Moses, I feel excited about learning again!