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Brave Language Learning Bonus: Polyglot Top Ten 2017 (Wiktor’s Subjective List)


This post is a free bonus chapter to go with my book “Brave Language Learning.” You can get the full book here.


This list is a mixture of new things, old things, and revived interest in tried and tested things – all about language learning. You will recognize some of these names if you come here often for polyglot advice. If you need to have words with me about anything on this list, I’m listening!

1. Memrise

This app keeps getting better. Some languages in Memrise are covered more thoroughly than others, but overall, the 2017 iteration of this language learning app is the winner when it comes to ease of use, lightweight approach, and figuring out the essentials. Highlight from this year: some phrases are illustrated with short videos of native speakers saying them. Ace!

2. Duolingo

Hot on Memrise’s heels. Duolingo is still my all-time favourite when it comes to finding motivation to keep going (thanks to its unholy alliance with Beeminder which makes you keep practicing to avoid paying real money). And still super nice and easy to use, progress, and enjoy.

3. Goethe-Institut

This year, I finally became officially tri-lingual. German is my certified third language, and this is largely due to the Goethe Institut‘s great work. Their language tests, libraries (including online lending services) and range of courses are great. If every language had this kind of professional spokespeople, multilingualism would have the prestige and pizzazz it deserves.

4. Benny Lewis

Seriously, no multilingual ranking would be complete without this guy! If you don’t know the Irish Polyglot, go check him out now. Buy his book. Speak to him. This is the man who always inspires thousands of people to start learning and speaking languages. Chapeau bas!

5. Marta Dziurosz

Can I do this? Sod it, I’m doing this. Marta made waves as Free Word Centre’s Translator in Residence, and fought bravely for the multilingual, the non-native, the non-obvious voices in literature, language and translation. I happen to be married to her but even if I weren’t, I’d still fanboy all over her. She’s on Twitter and you can totally say hi.

6. Kobo reader and Overdrive

Reading more is great. Buying books is expensive. Buying Kindles and Kindle e-books helps Amazon own even more of your life. Kobo Aura ONE reader solves so many of these problems at once. Its Overdrive access allows you to lend ebooks from libraries. Your multilingual reading list just got easier.

7. Anki

The flashcard app that refuses to die. It’s still the most powerful, customizable, and the most impressive offering for those who are willing to do the hard work of building a flashcard set that works for them. It’s not in my toolkit these days – but since this is the first multilingual top ten, I figured it deserves to be here.

8. Meetup

If you’re lucky enough to live in a big city, your chances of finding fellow language learners increase with Meetup. My book club game got much stronger thanks to this app, whose main purpose is to help you find like-minded people and meet them in real life! For polyglots, it’s hard to imagine a richer opportunity for language practice.

9. Johns Hopkins University

A lot of the memory training research done out there is not exactly inspiring (sometimes it’s downright depressing to learn that what you thought of as useful is, really, crap). Researchers at Johns Hopkins University seem to be bucking that trend. It turns out that some methods of memory training can actually be quite effective. Read the summary on the university website.

10. Creativity Research Journal

This article from the journal earns its place on the list for seeming to confirm what many polyglots knew for a long time (but it’s still nice to get that warm glow of kudos, right?) – namely, that being multilingual is likely to make you more creative and to help you approach your tasks in life with more imagination. Read the summary and go learn a language!


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