Claude: Welcome friends, to the Polyglot Project podcast. I'm Claude Cartaginese in
David: And I'm David Mansaray from London.
Claude: In this series of informative and motivational interviews, we hope to continue
the conversation initiated by the Polyglot Project and pick up where that book left off.
David: We hope to save language learners from across the globe time, by interviewing
world-class language learners from across the globe. We really hope you enjoy.
Claude: Hello my friends and welcome to episode number one of the Polyglot Project
podcast. I'm Claude Cartaginese in New York and I'm joined by my co-host David
Mansaray in London. How are you today, David?
David: I'm doing great, thank you Claude. I'm excited to get the first episode started!
Claude: Good. David and I have a very special guest for you today: Mr. Moses
McCormick, whom you may know as Laoshu. Moses, thank you for being with us
Moses: Thank you guys for inviting me on this show.
Claude: OK. Moses, before we get started, I'd like to tell you a little story which, I
swear, is absolutely true. As you know, much of my free time last year was spent
compiling, editing and promoting the Polyglot Project. When the book was com-
pleted, this past November, I was really excited to see what kind of feedback it would
get. I made a YouTube video announcing the book's completion and, while I was up-
loading it, I got up and walked away from the computer for a little bit and, when I
went back, I had one email sitting in my inbox and... I looked at it, it was only six
words long, and I want to read the whole thing for you. It reads: "Dude. What page is
Moses on?" And that was it! That was it!
Moses: That's funny! Are you serious?
Claude: With those six... Yeah, I'm serious! With those six words, this individual not
only became the first person to refer to me as "dude" in an email, but he made it quite
clear that the remaining five hundred something odd pages of the book didn't interest
him enough to, even like, go through it for final submission.
Claude: He wanted to know about Moses McCormick, so I think that's a good point
for us to start here today. Can you tell us a little about your background and how you
became interested in foreign languages?
Moses: Well, let's see... You guys know I'm 29. I grew up in... let's see... I grew up
half my life in Erie Pennsylvania, and Akron Ohio and... language... I didn't start get-
ting into languages until I was, like in the... I would say junior... I was, like, in my
junior year in high school, and the type of environment I came from, it was, like, the
norm to be... not to really learn about different things. I couldn't wait to graduate, I
hated school. So, when I met a certain group of people around my junior year I started
changing. I would say that was, like... the most significant part of my life, because I
started looking at things in a different way... a different perspective. One of the guys I
met, he was, like, heavily into learning different things. And I thought he was strange,
because, like I say, where I came from it wasn't the norm to go outside the box and
learn about something else. And he would ask me... well... "Why did you?"... I would
listen to certain music and he would ask me, "Why do you like to listen to this type of
music, why do you like listening to that type of music", and, you know, I would just
say "Well, that's good music"; you know... at the time I didn't know that it was good
music, and he said "You should try and listen to this type of music here. Try and learn
about different stuff". And I was, like... you know... "What do you mean, learn about
different stuff. So, he just started getting me into learning about different things and
then, like, languages... I don't know, like... I had a certain experience in school that
pushed me to learn, like, certain languages, like... Asian languages. So, from there I
decided to learn Chinese and... just like any, like, normal language learner I went out
and got the books, a couple of phrase books; (I'd) listen to the audio and I'd try to
speak with some Chinese people, and then, like, I'd... at that time I realised I had a
serious knack for learning languages, so I could see what the Chinese... then I'd pick
up after three, four months... you know, I'd find myself speaking Chinese... like, pretty
good with Chinese people. So, from there I just branched off into other languages...
Japanese, Korean... that's when it started getting crazy.
David: You've led us into what our next question is, that we have here. What I'm in-
terested in speaking with you now about is how you developed the methodology that
you use for learning different languages. When you started learning, did you follow
"the book" from cover straight to the end of it, or did you tweak the programme in
some way to come up with your own methodology? What is... is it solely down to the
fact that you have a knack for learning languages, or is it the way you approach lan-
Moses: Well, I will say that the first thing was having the knack, of course and, like...
as far as the methodology is concerned I was just like any old regular language
learner; I would get the book and start from chapter one. You know, I tried that and I
realised that the approach I was taking wasn't right. It was like I had to... it was pretty
slow; I didn't know how to say certain things, and I figured that, you know what, I
keep meeting these people and they're asking me similar questions, so I need to make
sure I learn this stuff, learn that. So I guess I would say that I was skipping around in
the book after I realised that the approach I was taking, the traditional approach, was-
n't working well for me.
David: What is the problem for you about the traditional approach?
Moses: It's just like... I don't know... it's like... certain things you don't learn at first.
Like, if I want to be able to... let's say, talk about... if you ask me, well, what is your
reason for learning this language, I wouldn't be able to express myself fully because I
have to wait, you know, if I take the traditional approach, I have to... wouldn't learn,
like, certain words right off the bat to express myself in that way so, I think the tradi-
tional... at least for me, the traditional way is just too slow; it's not... I don't know... it's
not for me, it's not the right approach for me.
David: I see. So, would I be right in summarising what you just said, in that learning a
language the traditional way doesn't teach you the correct things that you will need to
use straight away when learning the language?
Moses: Right. Right. Like, I'm not saying that the traditional way is bad. It's just, for
myself, it just wasn't working for me. You know, because I was meeting all these na-
tives and they were asking me certain questions, and I couldn't really answer them; I
had to switch to English. So from there, I decided that I need to speed things up. So
that's when I came up with all this jumping around and stuff. So, it's just a method that
works best for me. So...
Claude: Now, this method is... the FLR method?
Claude: Can you talk about that a little bit; how that evolved and how that works?
Moses: OK. Yeah, as I was explaining. Like, at the beginning I like to learn certain
things first. You know, it's more about getting equipped for the battle. And that's basi-
cally what I do. Like, interrogatives we all know about the interrogatives, where, why,
all that stuff. I learned all those because, like I say, in my experience these natives
were asked certain... they will ask you certain questions, and they are, like, the same
questions every time. So they ask you "Well, who is your teacher?", "Why do you
want to learn a language?", "What is your major?"; just stuff like that, so I tried to not
only learn how to understand those questions, I also tried to... not only to understand
them but, how to ask those questions, like, I can ask other people those type of ques-
tions. After I learned those, then I just start making up sentences and stuff and adding
keywords, I like to call them keywords; those are mainly, like, conjunctions, adverbs,
all those type... pretty much just building sentences. And I like to make the sentences
run on; they look like run-on sentences, but that's just how I like to do them, to add as
many keywords as I can. So...
Claude: And this...
David: Can you give us an example?
Claude: I was going to ask the same thing!
David: Go ahead!
Moses: Like, for example, I will say something like... let's see... like, if you asked me,
"Well, have you ever been to China before?" I will say... I'll reply "Well, I've never
been to China before, but I plan to go one day. I can't go to... I've never been to China
before because I haven't... I don't have the money now. But when I do save that
money I'll most definitively go to China." Just add in, like, certain keywords just to
keep it going, like that.
Claude: Do you find, Moses, that you tend to learn a particular tense first; for exam-
ple, a lot of the answers to the questions that you're asked are in the past tense. So
does it help to know how to say "I did that" or "I have done that". Is that an advantage
to your method, or not really.
Moses: I've never looked at it like that. No, I wouldn't say that's an advantage. No, I
wouldn't say that's an advantage to the method.
Claude: So, you'll learn to answer the questions in the past tense, the present tense, the
Claude: Yeah. OK...
Moses: All tenses.
Claude: And that works for you, irrespective of the language?
Moses: Right, right. It doesn't matter what language it is, it works every time.
David: OK. That brings me to a question with the fact that you are extremely known,
not only because you are good at learning a language, but that you learn a lot of rare
languages and you learn quite a number of them. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you
have knowledge in more than twenty languages; would I be right in saying that?
Moses: Yeah. I would say more than twenty languages.
David: OK. That's fantastic! So... the big question here is, how do you manage these
languages at one time?
Moses: That's pretty hard to do. Like... a long time ago, before I started coming up
with a schedule, I used to just be all over the place. Like, one day would be Chinese. I
would do Chinese, let's say, on Monday. Then I will switch over to Japanese. Then I
will switch over to Vietnamese. It was pretty sloppy, and I didn't have a schedule. But
eventually I came up with a schedule where I would choose certain languages to learn
for a year. Like, I will focus on four languages. Let's say, this year I chose, what... I
chose Lithuanian, Estonian, Icelandic and Cambodian. So, I would chose four lan-
guages for the year and focus on each language for at least three months intensively.
Now, while I'm... let's say... like this month here I'm focussing on Estonian, I will still
practice my other languages, but it won't be intensive. So, I will go back and look at
something for, let's say, Chinese: I might spend, like, thirty minutes to an hour reading
something in Chinese, or just speak Chinese to a native speaker for about thirty min-
utes to an hour. So... it's a little bit more organised now than it was before.
Claude: So, you're constantly reviewing these languages you've previously studied.
How do you chose which language to study in a given year?
Moses: That's pretty random! Like... I don't know... it's just... like... I don't know. At
the end of the year I ask myself, OK, what languages am I going to focus on for next
year? And whatever comes to mind that's what I will do. I will just... whatever lan-
guage comes to mind I will work on those for that year. So it's pretty random.
Claude: Pretty random. You also immerse yourself in the culture of the country where
the language is spoken, or your primary concern is the language itself?
Moses: I think when you learn a language you learn the culture at the same time; I
think learning about the culture is very important. So, I consider both.
David: With the scheduling of your languages, what constitutes for "not intensive", a
language that you're not too (much) focussing on? Can you give us numbers in terms
of how many hours you would put in a day or a week?
Moses: I will say, when I study a language intensively I try to get at least... let's see, I
will say... at least three to five hours. Now those three to five hours, they don't have to
be all together, you can break them up for that day, but at the end of that day you want
to have at least four... between three and five hours put into that language, whatever
language it is you're studying. Now, the ones that I'm not doing intensively, I will, like
I said, I will only spend, like, thirty minutes to an hour on those languages. So, I don't
consider that really intensive study.
Claude: I think I've heard you say in the past that there are languages that you dabble
in. Is that, err..?
Moses: Yeah, the languages... Yeah, yeah, I will say those are the languages that I
pretty much dabble with. And when I dabble with languages, I won't spend more than
an hour... I won't spend more than an hour on them.
David: The languages that you spend not more than an hour with, how does your de-
velopment come along with those languages?
Moses: It would take... obviously it would take more time. Because if... if you don't
spend... if I don't spend that intensive time on that language, it's going to take me
longer. Although I have a good methodology, you know, for learning that language,
it's still going to take me time; more time to actually learn to get to, like, a pretty good
level in the language.
David: OK. Something that I often hear when I'm speaking with language learners or
if I'm watching YouTube videos or reading the forums, or... my friends that I speak
with. Something they always say is that they don't have time to learn a language.
Looking at the way you approach languages that you're dabbling in, you said you
spend, maybe, up to an hour; what advice would you give to those people that... say
they don't have time to learn a language, but they want to learn a language. What's the
best piece of advice you could give to someone like that?
Moses: Well, I think Claude made a video a while back about this. Right? Did you
make a video... something about... I think that was you, you made a video... I can't
remember the name of it. But I think we all have time... I think it's just... I mean, if
you've got time... I don't know... It's like... what were you going to say?
Claude: I was going to say, yeah, I know the video you're talking about; if you really
want to make the time to do something, you'll find the time.
Moses: Right! Most definitely, you will find the time. Like other language learners
will say, thirty minutes... even if you spend thirty minutes on a language, that's some-
thing, it's better than nothing, right?
Moses: So it's like... you... I mean... all of us, I think we can all find at least thirty
minutes for learning a certain language. So, I think it's just more of a... really wanting
to do it. I think a lot of people just... they say they want to do it... I don't know...
maybe they're just making up excuses.
Claude: I have a quick question: have you ever come across a language that you just
did not like the sound of? You know what I mean, it's like... there are certain lan-
guages that are, you know, harsher on the ears for some people, or more difficult to
produce. Has that kind of experience ever happened to you, where you just say "Ah,
you know what? I really don't like this language!" ?
Moses: No, I've never had that experience before. I've never... I think they had a... on
the Howtolearnanylanguage site they had a topic on what languages are ugly to you
or... have you... it was a similar question. I don't know... I've never had that experi-
ence. All the languages I've ever, you know, studied... they.... I don't know, I like
studying them. Now, there are certain languages that I've felt that... they were not
challenging enough, and I've felt that it wasn't... Like Spanish is one of them; every
time I study Spanish I get... I don't know, I will have to... how can I say this? I will
start studying Spanish, but then I will stop. It's like, I don't have the drive to study
Spanish like I have for languages like Estonian, or Tibetan, those other type of lan-
guages... it's just, I have to force myself to... man, I don't feel like doing Spanish, and
then I'll go back to Spanish; so it's been, like, back and forth. But, like, as far as lan-
guages sounding ugly or... you know... I've never had that experience before.
Claude: What about artificial or constructed languages like Esperanto, or Ido, or Klin-
gon, or any of these languages; any interest in those?
Moses: Oh yeah, actually I just purchased a Klingon course; I was listening to it, like,
last month some time. Yeah, and I want to learn Esperanto, so... Yeah. why not? I
mean, they are languages, so...
Claude: Right, right. A lot of people feel that, because there's no culture behind these
languages, or there are no native speakers of these languages, they're not really worth
Moses: Yeah... I don't look at... If it's a language; if you have people speaking it and...
you know it's... to me it's... I think it's worth a try; I don't really look at languages as
"Oh, it's worthless"... I mean...
Moses: You've got some people out there speaking, like, Esperanto; you have quite a
few people who speak Esperanto, so why not give that language a shot, you know...
and interact with those speakers.
David: Are there any languages that you have found difficult, or do you find it easy in
general? What are your experiences with that?
Moses: Difficult? Yeah, there's been a lot... like... I will say, because I like to look at
languages in a different aspect so, like, in terms of writing I will say Chinese and
Japanese... like, Chinese and Japanese have been very difficult, because you have to,
like, literally write every day to keep up with the Kanji, you know the ??? and all that
stuff. But... let me see... writing... the grammar, I will say Arabic, Russian, Georgian,
???, ??? and the other languages difficult for grammar and... let's see, who else... pro-
nunciation, I will say Vietnamese, ???, Mong??, Cantonese, those type of languages.
So, yeah, I mean... although I pick up languages pretty fast and... you know, I have
this knack for languages, I've had the experience, you know... having the difficulty in
learning certain languages. So, it's not easy.
David: And how do you overcome these frustrations? Do you... are you constantly
frustrated, like... oh my gosh, I'm just not getting it, or do you just have fun with it
and keep going...
Moses: I have fun with it; I don't think about, oh man, this is so hard! You know...
like... ??? was the newest one I started learning; ??? was an extremely difficult lan-
guage, like... it's so difficult. But I had this study partner; you know... she finds it dif-
ficult as well, but the way we study it, it's like in a fun way... very fun way, so we just
kind of, like, disregard how difficult it is; we try not to think about it and just, you
know, continue constructing our sentences, and all that good stuff. So I think it's very
important to find ways to have fun with a language, especially if it's difficult; if you
don't do that, it's going to be very frustrating and you're going to eventually give up.
David: Yeah, I agree with you a hundred percent, you know... finding something that
you need to inject into learning to make you want to do it in the first place. So, for the
listener out there that's listening, thinking "Yeah, I want to learn the language, but I
don't know how to make this fun. How... what would you tell them, or advice would
you give them to say... to encourage them to make the process fun?
Moses: Make the process fun... that's kind of hard. Make the process fun... I don't
know... some... because, you know, I like to... I don't know, I kind of use video games
and Kung Fu movies and, I don't know... I would think that I like to, you know, there
are things I enjoy and I try to incorporate those somehow into my language learning.
It's kind of weird, but that's what keeps the process fun for me; I don't know if I can
Claude: I think I understand what you're saying. I'm interested in the outdoors and I
watch a lot of YouTube videos from... for some reason a lot of Germans and Austrians
and Swiss people seem to be making videos in their travels and jaunts through the
countryside and... they're primarily in German, with some English, and I'm not really
actively studying German, but I'm picking up a lot of German watching these videos
and, for me, it's kind of like a bi-product; I'm having fun watching the videos, and I'm
absorbing some German words, and in context, and words that I would be using in my
day to day life, so I understand what you're saying.
Moses: Yeah. Yeah.
David: Something to add about that: I actually wrote an article about tips for reading
in foreign languages and one of the things that I emphasised (on) is that you should
try to be a foreign version of yourself, because if you take the person that you are and
try to live that life as a foreigner, everything in the language that you're learning...
everything that you're learning will already be of interest to you, so if you like comic
books then, you're going to want to try to find similar material in the foreign language
that's going to help keep you motivated, because if you don't have (no) motivation
with what it is that you're learning then it's an absolute waste of time, and one of the
biggest problems we have with classrooms, with students not feeling motivated with
their teachers' technique, it's the technique that's the big part of the find itself...
Moses: Oh yeah, the technique definitely plays a big role in that, and motivation. Like
I was saying before, not being able to learn certain things first and... you know, I hap-
pen to go in this certain order... like, "Well, we have to wait until chapter twenty"... I
mean it's like... it's just not a fun thing, and I had this experience when... actually I
took several language courses as an experiment... you know... as an experiment... I
said "You know what, I'm going to take these classes... I want to see how... I want to
see if I take... you know, if it's going to be the same for all these other language
courses." So, I took... like... what would I... I think I'd say... I took Swahili, Zulu,
German, Italian, Arabic, Hebrew... what else did I take? I can't remember... oh, classi-
cal Tibetan... and I came to the conclusion that it was the same... like, everything was
the same. Now, the teachers were different; like, I had... like, some good teachers...
like, I will say the Swahili and Zulu teacher, they were good. But, like... it was still
that... traditional... that traditional way was still there... you know... and a lot of the
students in the class were wondering how I was, you know, advancing so fast... you
know... "Well, how are you able to speak with the teacher, and you know all this stuff
and we don't?"... you know, and I just told them that I'm doing my own thing outside
the class... you know... so they... so it's definitely the traditional way... you know, the
method... the method... I should say the method... the method, yeah...
Claude: Unfortunately, that method is teaching for the examination and...
Moses: Exactly. Exactly. You learn all this stuff, you know, people get As on these
tests but, you know, but they can't speak. It's just like, wow, you know... that's... they
just learn to pass the test, and I don't like that... happen to learn something, memorise
it and then just take the test, and be done with it, you know. Especially when it comes
to languages... I have to know this language. So...
David: I want to refer back to what you mentioned about not being engaged in Span-
ish because, for you it wasn't difficult, it wasn't challenging enough. That Spanish re-
sides within the romance languages and they're very common for English speakers,
but when English speakers decide to learn the languages outside of romance lan-
guages, that uses a completely different grammar, a completely different way of think-
ing that is needed to become acquainted with the language. What have you noticed to
be the biggest difference between the Asian languages and the romance languages?
What are the bigger challenges that pull you in to learn those languages, whereas they
Moses: Yeah, it's a big difference. It's like... if I go to learn a language, let's say Ti-
betan... well, first let's start with European languages; let's say Spanish. OK, I'll start
learning Spanish today. And let's say, six month to a year... you know, six months to a
year later I became a native speaker in Spanish. OK? After I become native in Span-
ish, and I go and talk with some natives, they... you know, they're going to be "Wow!
You speak with..." They'll be surprised, but then again, they won't be that surprised. I
mean, they'll give you props on being able to speak on a native level, but they won't
be very, very, very surprised, because they look at... you grew up here in The States
and you speak English ??? and they'll automatically assume that you're supposed to...
well, not you're supposed to, but it's understandable that you're able to speak this well,
you know, because we're native English speakers. Now, if you go over to the other
side of the Med???, and learn something like Tibetan... you know, completely differ-
ent writing system, the grammar's all over the place, the culture's completely differ-
ent... and you learn that language well, it's going to be... they... you're going to be like
an alien to them. You know, it's like... they're going to, like... "Where are you from?"
You know... it's like... I mean, it's like... well, we're all human beings, but they look at
you, like, you're an alien... like... I don't know how many times I had these types of
experiences with people; they will say... they will keep saying "I don't understand.
How did you do it?" And I told them, like, several times... you know... how I learned
the language.... and they will still keep asking me, like... "How did you learn this lan-
guage? How did you do it, how did you do it?" I mean, it's just crazy, so I will say the
"Wow" factor for learning those other languages outside the European family is... the
"Wow" factor is higher, is a lot more high than that of European languages. So, that
makes it fun itself, it makes it motivating, because, like... "Wow", you know, I've got-
ten all this praise and... you know... and it's hard work... you know, it's like... that it's
being different it takes more hard work, once you achieve and you understand half the
language, you feel, like... "Wow, I really, really achieved something, you know, I'm
going to keep going and take this further". But, if it's easy... you know... and it's so
similar to your native language... it's like... at least for me, it's like, I feel that I was
cheating somehow... like... Seriously! I feel like I was cheating! Like Spanish... when
I was learning Spanish... you know... with a language like Spanish or Italian, it's like...
they have so many English words, it doesn't feel like I'm... I don't know... it doesn't
feel like it's right, like... it doesn't feel like I'm deserving this progression, or some-
David: So you really want to feel foreign? You really want to feel like a foreigner?
Moses: Yeah, that's right! If you go and learn Tibetan or Chinese, everything is for-
eign; they don't have... I think in Chinese the only word they have that is... that you
can hear if you've never studied Chinese before is "coffee" and they say "ka-fay"; And
that sounds like "coffee". Other than that, everything is foreign... you know, every-
thing is foreign, so there's really no excuse... you know that... it should be... you
should know that because that's English... like... similar to English... like... stuff like
that, I feel that... you know, it has to be challenging, it has to be more challenging and
just completely foreign to me.
David: OK. And something else that I find people have real difficulty when learning a
language, such as an Asian language, is the writing system... You know... you like the
challenge, but having to learn to read a completely different script I find... a lot of
people find daunting. What are your takes on learning the scripts of these languages?
Moses: Well, it's a lot of hard work, especially with Chinese... a language like Chinese
without an alphabet, you have to consistently, like, write and read every day. But I
think if you're very interested you're motivated to learn... you know, like I was saying
before, you can look past those difficulties, if you're having fun with it, like time go
by, like wow... I can read all this... I didn't believe I could read that... you know, be-
cause you're having fun the whole time and you were determined to learn that lan-
guage, so... It's difficult, but if you have that motivation and that drive, you will be
able to learn it easily.
Claude: Moses, if I could just ask... along those lines... like... if I want to study... I
don't know, Norwegian for example, I learn the alphabet, I learn the sounds of the let-
ters, I put those together to make words; I put the words together to make sentences.
With a language like Chinese, where does a beginner begin?
Moses: For Chinese, like any other language, I will take the same approach, but...
like... when it comes to the writing... yeah, like, I always recommend "Teach Your-
self"; I think "Teach Yourself" is a very, very good course, and I think for Chinese
they have characters in there to start a beginner off. I will start with that. As far as the
constructing... like the sentences and what not... I would take an approach, like an
FLR approach, just... you know, follow... like learn certain things first, get to that
conversational level and then, once you get to the point where you feel comfortable
then you can go and take it further and take any other approach you want.
Claude: So conversation first and then the characters, or simultaneously?
Moses: I will say... when I first started, I started off with conversation... when I started
meeting Chinese people they told me that I will have to learn how to read the charac-
ters, because when I go to China I won't see pinyin all over the signs, so I will say...
just do them both at the same time. So you won't fall too far back on them. Just do
them both at the same time.
David: And is there any time that you would advise that somebody learnt one before
Moses: Yes, but I would definitely (take the) spoken. If you think you're going to be
speaking this language, then definitely I would take the spoken over writing.
Claude: If you're conversational in Chinese for example, but illiterate in Chinese and
you go to China, you can still manage a bit knowing the language at the conversa-
Moses: Oh yeah, you can still get to a good level in the language, it's just a problem
when... you know, reading... I mean, you have... I have my mother-in-law, she's from
Taiwan and she's older, of course. She's... she can't read, like Chinese, that she can
speak, you know, because her generation, I think they had the women... they had to
stay home, or something like that, they weren't allowed to go to school, or something
like this, so they didn't learn how to read Chinese. So, I mean, if you can speak the
language you'll be OK.
David: OK, so what I want to find out now is, how do you actually go about learning
the characters for something like Chinese or Japanese?
Moses: Chinese? Let's say today was my first day at learning Chinese, I would take
that FLR approach. When I learn those constructions, those keywords I learn the
characters at the same time. Anything I learn I have to learn the characters. So, you
have to constantly learn characters; you can't skip and say "OK, I don't want to learn
the character for this word, I don't want to learn the character for that word". Every
word you learn you have to learn the character.
David: OK, so do you write the characters down over and over again, or do you use
the mnemonics technique of creating image associations in your mind? What works
Moses: For me, I will write them over and over, maybe ten, twenty times... ten or
twenty times. And then, a context... I like to take a context and copy the characters
like the "Teach Yourself"; the first chapter, they normally put the characters at the
back, I would just copy that text down, like twice; copy the whole text down twice,
and do that throughout the whole book. Because those characters... a lot of the charac-
ters are going to come up again in different contexts. So that's another good way of
David: So do you at any point use systems such as Anki ??? for remembering charac-
ters, or is it all written by hand for you?
Moses: Pretty much all written by hand, for me.
David: OK. Cool. And you've got a lot of followers on YouTube, where the listeners
to this show could find you if they wanted to. Why do you think you've developed
such a huge base for your videos?
Claude: Yeah, you probably have more subscribers than all of the rest of us combined!
What's the secret?
Moses: To be honest with you, it's still... I don't know, it's kind of weird to me; when I
first started my channel, like I was telling David the other day, basically I was just
practising languages, like... one day, what was it? When was it? I think it was on the
Saturday, I told my wife that I wanted to start making videos for my languages, you
know... to practise... so I told her I wanted to go to Staples and get a whiteboard and
she said "Why are you..?", she said "That's a waste of time! Why would you want to
get a..? That's a waste of time!" She's like "You don't do that, you don't need a white-
board!" I need to practise these languages, a lot of languages I study, they're very rare
and if I don't get to use them it's hard for me to find people to practise with. So, that's
when I came up with the idea... well, I went and got that whiteboard, and I put it up,
and I made my first few videos and it was about... I think it was a month or two later
when I started getting replies back; like, private messages, people were (saying) "Hey,
where did you..? Where did you learn this? Where did you learn that? How are you
doing this? How are you doing that?" And at first I wasn't replying because, like I
said, I wasn't on there giving people advice, it was just basically for myself, you
know; I just wanted to meet the natives to get the feedback. And then over time, more
and more people came to my channel and they saw all those languages I put up and,
you know what, I'm just going to go ahead and reply... you know... reply to these mes-
sages. So I started to reply and started getting a lot more followers and people started,
you know, mentioning me on forums and stuff, and it was just crazy... like, I didn't
make my YouTube channel to become famous, it just happened, that's how it all hap-
pened... you know...
Claude: Well, you have probably over two million hits on your channel; six thousand
something odd subscribers. I have to hand it to you, congratulations! I mean, that's a
tremendous achievement for such a little niche channel, you know... I mean... how
many of us are really out there that are making and watching YouTube videos on lan-
Moses: I've got to say, I was just having fun. I started that channel to... you know...
practise the languages and... people started asking me questions, so you know what, I
need to answer these questions, I'd get that in. You know, it's kind of strange, a lot of
people (they) have misunderstandings; they come to my channel, which is under-
standable, they look at it and they think that I'm actually on YouTube teaching people
languages, or something like that but... they don't understand, from the beginning...
they don't understand the beginning; they have to go all the way back to the first video
I made to understand what I was doing before... you know... But that's how it all
started. I still can't believe I have these many followers. This is crazy!
Claude: One of the things, you know, people who watch your channel walk away
from is that, the fact that even though you do have all of these subscribers and views,
you've kind of remained a really humble guy and you're not out there showing off.
How much of that do you think has been, like, an effect on some of the languages
you've studied; I know for example, you know, in Chinese and Japanese culture it's
kind of built in that this concept of humbleness and self-effacement. Do you think any
of that has rubbed off on you because of the languages?
Moses: Well, first of all, from myself, no... looking at where I came from, you know,
the type of environment I grew up in; that itself is humbling. I look back at that, look
at those people I grew up around with and they... you know... it's like, I ask myself,
"What if I didn't meet those certain people? What if I didn't get into learning lan-
guages? What would I be today?" You know, and it's very humbling looking back at
that, because I could be like those other people back where I grew up... you know, not
really caring about different cultures, just doing the normal things that they do, you
know... So that itself, I think, is humbling; it's very, very, very humbling... you know...
to come from that to learn languages like Chinese and Japanese it's just crazy; a lot of
people, they come back home... well, not now of course, but when I was getting into
it, people thought I was insane, that I was crazy... "You're crazy, man! I don't know
why you want to do that!" It was just... I just can't imagine being in that kind of mind-
set now... you know... So that itself is humbling. And plus, from... I've always been,
like... even before I started getting into languages, I will consider myself a humble
person, like... because I was introvert, I was very, very introverted. I didn't really go
outside the house that much and I was always to myself and my brother... so... you
know, so I will say the humbleness was there, you know, back then.
Claude: And your siblings, are they interested in foreign languages as well, or..?
Moses: No, they are not!
David: And before we move on to the ending of the show, I want to ask you, where do
you see yourself in ten years from now, because at the age of twenty-nine you can
speak more than twenty languages. In another ten years are you going to be able to
speak, maybe another twenty languages?
Moses: I don't know, we'll see! I don't know! I just know that I'm going to continue
my language learning... this... I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for me...
you know, making this decision on learning languages, like that's for... I wouldn't have
met my wife... I just came a long way just because of... you know... just because I
made the decision to learn languages, so I'm going to continue this journey. So, what-
ever happens in the future, whatever's lying in the future for me, we'll see when that
David: Fantastic. And do you have anything else planned for the language learning
community? Any direction you would like to see things move? Or are you just out to
just learn your languages and share what you know?
Moses: Well, hopefully we can get more people to become independent language
learners, that's the ultimate goal, you know, not to say everyone should drop out of
school and take language out of school. If they're going to teach a language they
should teach in a more natural way; because, I think if you do that, instead of forcing
people to take languages we'd have more languages learners; I think that's the biggest
problem in education: we're forcing people to learn languages and it's bad. You know,
that's why people, when they graduate, it's not "I don't want to learn it. I was tortured
for four years; I've had to learn this language for four years." So, I would like to see
more people become independent language learners; just learn more languages in
Claude: My own daughter, Moses... at the end of her high school requirement, handed
me her Spanish books and said, "Here you go Dad, I'm done with these!"
Moses: Yeah, see! See! It still doesn't seem like that, you know... they should be very,
very enthused about learning languages, and say "Oh! I'm going to continue my Span-
ish studies... I want to move... you know, I plan to move to Spain and... you know, and
that. But if we continue to force people to learn languages, we won't have successful
language learners... this is how it's going to be. So, hopefully we can... by having this
community... you know, hopefully more people will, you know... start learning, you
know, more languages.
David: And something else that has come to my attention: when I have come along
with my study of Spanish, and now Japanese as well, I notice that I have to think dif-
ferently in order to process the language correctly. Unlike English, where we just
speak, I have to actually recognise that this is a woman and this is a man and change
how I speak towards them. With your experience with learning languages, like Chi-
nese, and the long list of languages that you do have, how have they affected the way
you think in general; not only in the language, but also when you're operating in Eng-
Moses: Yeah, I think it's... definitely a personality change, it's like... I don't know, it's
so different... it's like, certain... like, when you speak a certain... you have to, like,
change the way you speak, and it's like... I don't know, I can't explain it... it's like, I
notice that I'm more... how can I say? I'm more sensitive when I speak to certain peo-
ple, like... I think about certain things, like OK I can't say this, I can't say that. I don't
know, it just... it's a lot different from when I speak English to someone... it's like you
said, I'm totally... I'm thinking about, like, so many things... should I do this? Should I
say this, should I say that? It's...
David: So would you say that learning foreign languages has really built your charac-
Moses: Oh yeah. Oh definitely. Made me more sensitive towards... you know, differ-
ent cultures and what not; it's crazy. It's like... Because when I sit back and look at it...
it's like, wow, you know... I was just talking like this to this person and I was think-
ing... it's just like, I think about a lot of stuff now... like, a lot of stuff I think about, I
look at the whole picture of things and... you know, I just don't make... I don't know,
it's hard to explain.
Claude: It's created links to other branches that you wouldn't have normally pursued,
if it wasn't for the languages?
Moses: Right, if it weren't for the languages I wouldn't... I don't know, I would... it's
David: And also, you know when you said earlier on, that you can't separate the cul-
ture from the language because they go together as one. Do you think that possibly...
this is a question a bit unrelated to language learning, that language learning itself is
maybe the key and secret to get people to come together? Especially in places like...
even here in London, and I've heard you say in your videos in America that people
just are ignorant of other cultures. Do you think that language learning could be the
key to connect the hearts and minds of people across the globe?
Moses: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I think... language... oh yeah. I think that's they key. If we
open up, you know... learn more languages, understand the cultures... no doubt in my
mind, that would create more unity amongst the people... it's like... because I look at
the past and like I was saying in that video... I was thinking, like, the other people...
like... it's like... wow! they have these preconceptions about those foreigners. Why?
Because I didn't think I was ignorant... you know... so, I was like the Chinese for ex-
ample... you know, a lot of people will say "Yeah, you know, we worked in a Chinese
restaurant... they were upset or angry." We automatically assume they're upset or an-
gry because of the way they speak. When Chinese people speak they actually sound
like they're mad. When they're having a normal conversation with each other it sounds
like they're upset, but they're not; that's just how they speak... you know. So, it's like,
once you do learn about these different cultures, you learn the languages, and you
start understanding certain things, and you won't have these preconceptions, these...
you know... these misconceptions about the people... you know. So... it's...
David: Fantastic. I couldn't agree with you more.
Moses: So, it's like... it's very important... you're not just learning a language... like...
"Oh... I'm just going to learn this language"... no, it's deeper than that; you are going
to learn about the culture, about the people. And it's going to definitely change the
way you think. You're best to believe that, you want to be thinking in a different way...
Claude: Well, Moses, we really appreciate your taking the time to be with us here to-
day. What are your plans for the near future, and how can people get in touch with
you? And what's your blog post, your blog channel, your YouTube channel? How do
people find you?
Moses: Well, of course, YouTube; I'm on Facebook; I have Twitter but I rarely use it;
a lot of people follow me on Twitter. And I have a website; as you guys know, I have
??? So, that website is on my YouTube page as well, because... what is it? ???.com?
But YouTube is probably the main place people can find me. Facebook... if you want
to add me on Facebook it's basically "Moses McCormick", just type in "Moses
McCormick" and just see my logo there. So...
David: And lastly, what services do you have available at the moment? Is your FLR
method something people can buy, or do you have anything else that you have to offer
to language learners?
Moses: Yeah, I have... actually, I just started... let's see, I have some FLR courses and
DVDs which I updated. I just started doing that... it was last month, I put it on my
website. So, basically, if I don't have the course with the student on the DVDs, and
they will be able to find all the information, and there's a script for all of the courses I
have, with native recordings. So I have actually... let's see, Japanese... Chinese, Japa-
nese and Korean right now, with native recordings and all the FLR text and what not.
But I have more information up on my website about that, if people are interested.
David: Fantastic. It's been a pleasure speaking with you today.
Moses: Yes. I'm happy that you guys invited me here; I've enjoyed talking with you.
Claude: The pleasure was ours. Thank you so much Moses.
Moses: No problem.
Claude: And thank you everyone for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed today's
podcast. Have a great day!