Interesting thoughts on learning new languages from a polyglot

I found this extremely interesting with some ideas I hadn’t come across before:

He is the real deal and not one of the learn to speak fluent X in 30 days crowd. His French sounds very good indeed, not many polyglots get such a good accent, his German sounds very good but I’m not fit to judge, and he speaks many other languages. His English sounds like it cost his parents a rather considerable amount of money to obtain, and rather reminds me of Sir Anthony Blunt’s accent,


To me, his British English sounds overly formal and pompous, which is only natural since he studied at Oxford and later was a teacher there and in France. In short, he speaks like a college professor. And he is one. On the internet I learned that he was educated at the college level in France and England, so I am sure he is fluent in at least those two languages (just like millions of other people). It seems like he has also taught at the university level in France and England (and Russia?)

His English sounds like it cost his parents a rather considerable amount of money to obtain

Is English not his native language? If not, what is? He doesn’t speak English better than other college professors in England.

I have watched videos about language-learning from several polyglots, and they all agree on this: each of them used (and continues to use) different methods. Once I realized that, my goal changed from “finding the best method” to “finding the method that works the best for me”. I still watch videos, and consider their ideas. If this video gave you some good ideas, that’s great.

I agree. He isn’t trying to sell something fake.


From what I could find online, he is English, and from his accent I assume he was educated at one of the more expensive English private boarding schools, which we confusingly call public schools. He does mention a strong affinity with Norwegian, which he describes as his second language.

I find his English pleasant, with upper class influences, such as pronouncing off as orff, something the late queen Elizabeth II was known for.

He speaks English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Norwegian and Swedish and has a good working knowledge of Icelandic, Faroese and Polar Eskimo.

I am quite sure he is English. It is of course possible to be so good at a second language, but plenty of people who never change their pronunciation like Slavoj Zizek. Depends on your needs.

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Stephen Pax Leonard. Most definitely English. Ethnographer. For an interesting article he wrote about his fieldwork in northern Greenland see


I looked up Slavoj Zizek on YouTube, he speaks the most unpleasant English I have ever heard, very very hard to understand. IMO one does not need native level pronunciation, but one should at least make an effort to speak clearly, and to approximate the target sounds and rhythm. I have heard people speak French with an obvious English accent, but clearly, and with reasonable rhythm, and it sounds fine.

This is a remarkable video. Sure he is a handsome guy with a posh accent, but he cares and he’s been in the trenches.

The main thing I took away is his emphasis on getting the feel and melody of one’s target language.

But there’s a lot more too.

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You can see Stephen Pax Leonard give versions of his video “Learning new languages: tips from a polyglot”, when he speaks in some of his other languages at:

There is also a video there about another year in northern Greenland which produced his latest book in 2022 “Annals of Solitude: A Year in a Hut in the Arctic”. Only being able to hook up with the internet for two hours a week in his hut would not assist with a streak on Lingq…


Maybe not a streak, but I have used LingQ on a 6 hour flight without internet and it worked surprisingly well all things considered. If I was trying to learn Greenlandic on LingQ it may even be an advantage.

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