Fluent in Three Months?

I have recently come across some information about Moses Mc Cormick. Apparently he started learning foreign languages at an aged of 19 and is said to lave learned 42 or so before he turned 30. Accidentially this turns out to be on average a new language every three months. Moses is certainly a great inspiration and a very humble and likable person. Still, being a seasoned language learner myself I cannot help asking myself the obvious question, which is: How good can he be in any of those languages?

I think there are two possibilities. If he has indeed achieved high proficiency in most of these languages, say the equivalent of my good but still imperfect level in English (both orally and written), then I think he would have to have a Mozart-like gift. If on the other hand he is an ordinary guy as he himself says, then I don’t think reaching an advanced level in so many different languages is even remotely possible.

I have checked out some of his Chinese videos and I wasn’t too impressed (from what I understand Chinese is one of his strong languages). Especially his pronounciation wasn’t very authentic at all and frankly he didn’t seem very fluent nor natural in terms of phrasing and vocabulary either. I also listened to some of his Russian and thought it sounded not authentic at all (I have to say though that I myself do not speak Russian).

Let me say this loud and clear: Moses is a GREAT source of inspiration for many learners and a humble person and to my knowledge he himself does not make any outlandish claims about his language levels for marketing purposes. Of course anyone is free to study any number of languages he or she wants to study over any time span he or she wishes.

Still, as a language buff and someone interested in language learning I cannot help but challenge the “Speaks 42 languages” claim. I have always preferred to be good in a handful of languages rather than studying many to a lower proficiency level (and this is of course a personal choice). But I’d say: for a normal person 42 languages containing such a wide range of languages applying a “Fluent in 3 months” formula are impossible.

Moses’s real skill is being able to go from nothing to intermediate very quickly. Typically about 3 months.

Moses is at an intermediate level for many, many languages. He is very good at a lot of east Asian languages.

I don’t think he claims fluency in many languages however, and I don’t think he really cares what others think about his abilities.

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“I don’t think he claims fluency in many languages however, and I don’t think he really cares what others think about his abilities.”

…and as I have said in my opening post, this is not about taking away from any of his achievements, it is just an experienced language keener (me) asking some reasonable questions.

Does anybody knows what he does for a living? Is it teaching languages? I have only found his Youtube channel and a blog last updated some time last year.

He talks about how he spends his days (including his work) in this video:

http://bit.ly/lesZ6t

You should just send him an email Friedemann, he’ll likely respond (so long as you don’t take shots at his Chinese, or Russian).

I actually find his Chinese not bad. Bare in mind he has a Taiwanese wife, who might have influenced his accent. Also, it is his style of speaking. A lot of time he stumbles in his thoughts, not his language.

Moses is selling his FLR language learning method, but not sure if this is his hobby or main job. As far as I know, the method applies techniques to facilitate early speaking (conversation). But in some recent videos, Moses said he has found out the importance of listening in the early stage. He gave the example that if he were to listen to Mandarin more when he was a beginner instead of focusing too much on speaking, his tones would be much better now.

I also prefer to be fluent in 5-6 languages instead of intermediate in 40+ languages. But different people have different preferences. Some people even like to learn only to speak in a short while and forget the language later.

I am also amazed of his Cantonese. Consider he has never been to a Cantonese-speaking place before, he has indeed accomplished a lot. In a recent video, he claimed that he is now ‘married’ to Cantonese (I think this means he will only concentrate on Cantonese from now on). If he keeps this focus, I think in one year time he can be conversational. And then if he stays in places like Hong Kong, he could be fluent in 3 months.

It is always difficult to judge peoples’ language proficiency from these short video snippets and I am in no way badmouthing Moses. I just find his Chinese not that great. In order to say more about it I would have to see him in a longer discussion with natives obviously. But I have seen many westeners here in China on TV who are excellent and Moses is not on that level.

Mike Campell (Glossika) for example is excellent and has a distinct Taiwanese accent. He has lived in Taiwan for quite some time and you hear that in his Chimese. Moses is of course in inspiration maybe not so much because of his pure linguistic achievements but rather because of his openness, interest and pure curiosity to learn all these exotic languages and the culture of all these countries.

My point was just really a common sense conclusion which is that you just cannot be really good at so many different languages unless you have been kissed by the Gods.

I agree with you, Friedemann, that it would take an exceptional person to be fluent (I mean speak/ read/ write to a high standard, not just basic conversation) in so many languages. I don’t think many people have ever achieved that.

I just watched a Russian video Moses made and he is totally understandable - sure, he makes some mistakes and his accent/ pronunciation need work. But so what - especially since I don’t know how long he studied the language plus I believe he has never spent time in Russia… so it’s cool that he is speaking like this.

He says in the video he is studying Chinese at university and that he also teaches some other languages including Swahili.

I agree that he sounds like an inspirational person for other learners!!

(I really don’t like to use these sorts of videos as “proof” of anyone’s skill though.)

Moses lives in Ohio or somewhere. He does not travel the world immersing himself in different languages. He speaks and reads, at varying levels of proficiency, over 20 languages including Georgian, Estonian, Hmong, Swahili and I don’t remember what else. He has learned the different scripts. I was impressed by his Japanese, Cantonese, Russian and I cannot remember what other languages I heard. I have heard others speak these languages better. Moses’ goals are different.

Yes, he does not speak Chinese as well as many foreigners who live in China nor as well as Mike Campbell who lived in Taiwan. Yes, His Russian is not authentic, i.e he does not sound like a Russian.

Moses has set himself the goal of learning, or rather discovering, a lot of languages. He loves being able to communicate with the speakers of these unrelated languages. It is an understandable, valid, laudable, goal, and one that he seems to achieve. Yes, if he spent all of his time on Chinese and moved to China his Chinese would be better. On the other hand if his students can reach Moses’ level in 3 months they can choose to forge ahead to full fluency in one language, or dally in other languages.

So, for me, full marks to Moses. He is an explorer, an adventurer and he shares his adventures with others.

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Steve,

I like the way you put it: discovering languages and that is a perfectly valid motivation. Has anyone had a look at his system (FLR)?

In case any of our Chinese speakers is interested: This young Frenchman is a TV host here in China. He is really good. Check this out, 3:40 minutes into the video: http://tinyurl.com/4y42tou

I’ve watched quite a few of his videos and I’ve heard Moses explicitly state on several occasions that his main goal in language learning is to reach an intermediate level in the languages he learns.

Whether someone officially “speaks” a language at the intermediate level is up for debate, and thus whether one can say that Moses truly “speaks” 42 languages is doubtful, but I also doubt Moses ever made that claim.

From his own language school website:
“Today, McMormick has studied reading and speaking more than 50 langauges, and confidently speaks more than a dozen. Because the need to learn is the driving force in his life, he studies and reaches an intermediate level in four new languages per year.”

Moses has declared recently that he got married to Cantonese. Perhaps he realised that he eventually needs to focus on 1 or 2 languages.

Hope this marriage will last long. But my hope is slim.

I just checked out his website and there he in fact says that he speaks up to 50 (!!!) languages. If a language professional tells me that, I have to assume he can comfortably converse in all those 50 languages which then takes us back full circle to Benny’s “Fluent in three months” formula. So, contrary to what I had said above, he in fact does make VERY bold claims, and I am sure he does that at least partly to promotes his product. So I think it is only fair that he receives some scrutiny. My question is then: Is he simply exceptional (but I don’t think he ever said that about himself) or is he misrepresenting his achievements? I still don’t think accumulative FI3M over more than 10 years is possible for a reasonably intelligent, albeit highly motivated individual.

I might add that he mentioned in one of his videos that he was putting in like 10 hours of learning that day for Cantonese. I don’t know if he does that every day. If you constantly put in 10 hours a day I guess you can learn a lot, but then I am with Edwin: that doesn’t bode well for his marriage.

Alexander Arguelles seems like someone who may know many languages at a very high level.

This is what he said on his website:

"Hello, my name is Moses McCormick and I love learning and teaching. I speak between 45 and 50 languages and have developed The Foreign Language Roadrunning System (FLR) for learning a new language in the quickest and most efficient way possible. "

This does sound to me a bold claim, and is misleading to some extend.

ad Friedemann: (…)In case any of our Chinese speakers is interested: This young Frenchman is a TV host here in China. (…)

I came across Julien Gaudfroy about a year ago when I watched an interview with him on youtube. The Chinese comments on that site were full of praise for his undoubtedly excellent knowledge of Mandarin. He also seems to be a very likeable person. Besides, his English is nothing short of outstanding as well. If I’m not mistaken, he originally started out as an actor. Generally speaking, he seems to be a multi-talented person because I remember having seen some martial arts videos of him (but I don’t recall where…).

As for Moses McCormick’s claim to know and/or speak 50 languages, well, if he really does, I guess he is one of a kind indeed. I have mostly watched his videos where he speaks languages I don’t speak myself because I was curious to hear what they sound like and he seems to get a fair share of praise for his achievements. So, hats off for that.

Without trying to belittle his results, I have to admit, however, that I cannot imagine that anybody would actually be able to really SPEAK 50 languages. Again, this is not to say that Moses is not an outstanding person since he evidently has an almost unrivalled passion for languages. Besides, he always comes across as a person who is extremely sympathetic with other language learners. As for his FLR, I have not tried it since I feel quite comfortable with my own way of doing things.

If I wanted to buy his product, I guess I’d have a closer look at the languages I know myself to see if I’d be ready to pay money for the kind of results he has achieved with his method.

Even though I love languages as well, I sometimes have a hard time keeping a professional level in my five working languages. I have come to accept the fact that the amount of time I keep investing in them only leaves so much time for the other languages I want to learn. I’ll keep studying more languages but I am very much aware of the fact that I most likely will never reach the same level in the other four languages I have studied so far (unless I replace one of my current working languages with one of my additional languages). The fact that I’m not capable of becoming fluent (albeit not perfect, of course) in more languages, does not mean however that other people can’t. Unfortunately, I’m not that gifted - but I’ll keep enjoying learning and speaking languages and that’s what is most important to me.

The internet polyglots I know of all reject the idea of being especially gifted or talented. But to learn to write, read and speak such a variety and number of languages as Moses claims he did within 10 or 12 years is not possible without an extraordinarily exceptional talent even if you study for 10 hours every day.

If he is indeed a language genius, then I don’t think he will be a good teacher. I think it is important that a teacher can relate to the difficulties that an average student encounters. A genius naturally cannot relate to those difficulties because by definition a language genius has a gift nobody else has and probably relies on a very different mechanism of absorbing the language. He cannot give good advice on overcoming the obstacles an average learner faces because he never faced them.

I will definitely try to contact Moses and see what his take on this is.

I think anybody who’s done that much studying is not ‘normal’, or not ‘usual’ anyway. Genius or not, it takes a level of dedication that most people cannot muster. And it also takes some degree of natural aptitude. Human beings aren’t very good at staying motivated without a sense of achievement. I think most people are probably not going to be driven to learn languages by somebody who can speak 42 of them simply because it is so far removed from their experience and expectations of themselves.

I think there are certain things that are in our genes and cannot be changed. They have shown that athletes have certain physiological advantages that cannot be changed or built up by training. I think that holds for mental abilities as well. I don’t think we can train to become a Mozart or a language genius. Maybe Moses is a language genius, maybe he isn’t. But if he isn’t I don’t think 10 hours a day alone can do the trick to speak that many languages.

Julien Gaudfroy gives lots of insights in these forum posts:

Learning Chinese - an encouraging video (Specific Languages) Language Learning Forum (multiple posts)

iaing,

great link there! A lot of interesting stuff, and as he says, he worked really hard at it over a long period of time. He even admitted he is gifted, still, as he says, that won’t get you there without a lot of hard, hard work. Again, thanks for posting the link.