11 Top TED Talks by Linguists and Polyglots for Learning a Language

by | Jul 25, 2023 | Language, Movies

Learning a new language unlocks new perspectives, opportunities, and connections. Finding quality engaging content can greatly boost your learning journey.

TED talks offer informative and inspiring talks on every topic, including effective language learning techniques.

Below are 11 fantastic TED talks to support your language mastery.

1. How languages shape the way we think

In this fascinating talk, linguist Lera Boroditsky explores how the languages we speak shape the way we see the world.

She discusses studies showing how different languages influence their speakers’ perception of time, space, objects and more.

Key insights:

  • Languages shape how we perceive objects, time, space, etc.
  • Learning new languages expands perspectives.
  • Immersing in a language means immersing in a culture.

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2. 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation

Radio host Celeste Headlee shares 10 useful tips for having more meaningful, engaging conversations both at work and in life.

She provides insights on being present, asking questions, finding common ground and more.

Key insights:

  • Be curious, listen more than speak.
  • Avoid multitasking, be fully present.
  • Don’t relay stories, build on ideas.

3. The Secrets of Learning a New Language

Linguist Lydia Machova reveals science-backed techniques and strategies for learning a new language quickly and effectively. She explores methods like immersion, speaking from day one, and focusing on high-frequency vocabulary.

Key insights:

  • Immersion accelerates learning.
  • Interact and speak from the start.
  • Focus on the most common 20% first.
  • Use spaced repetition apps.

4. Hacking Language Learning

Polyglot Benny Lewis offers a unique perspective on learning languages, advising learners to take an informal, conversational approach over academic study.

He shares tips like making mistakes, using natural media, and mixing diverse learning techniques.

Key insights:

  • Make mistakes. Let go of perfectionism.
  • Don’t study grammar too early.
  • Use content you love in the target language.
  • Mix diverse approaches.

5. 5 Techniques to Speak Any Language

Linguist Sid Efromovich shares 5 straightforward techniques to start conversing in any new language. His tips include learning key phrases, using gestures, practicing sounds, making vocabulary lists, and not letting perfectionism hold you back.

Key insights:

  • Learn key phrases.
  • Use props, gestures.
  • Practice sounds out loud.
  • Make fun vocabulary lists.
  • Don’t aim for perfection.

6. How to Learn Languages Effectively

Polyglot Matyáš Pilin discusses efficient strategies for learning languages quickly. His tips cover listening extensively at first, using native materials, learning syntax patterns, and studying vocabulary strategically.

Key insights:

  • Listen extensively first.
  • Use authentic native materials.
  • Learn common sentence patterns.
  • Study vocabulary strategically.

7. Breaking the Language Barrier

Teen polyglot Tim Doner explains techniques he used to rapidly learn over 20 languages. He emphasizes immersing in fun native media, thinking in the language, using mnemonic devices, and making language visible.

Key insights:

  • Immerse yourself in fun native media.
  • Think in the target language.
  • Use mnemonic devices.
  • Make language visible.

8. How to Learn Any Language Easily

Polyglot Matthew Youlden shares his simple, easy approach to language learning. His tips include mastering core vocabulary, using flashcards/repetition, practicing out loud daily, making it a habit, and keeping it fun.

Key insights:

  • Master core vocabulary first.
  • Use flashcards and repetition.
  • Practice out loud daily.
  • Make it an enjoyable habit.

9. Why We Struggle Learning Languages

Linguist Gabriel Wyner examines the psychology behind why adults often struggle with language learning. He contrasts adult and child learning approaches and advocates embracing imperfection.

Key insights:

  • Adults overanalyze, children absorb intuitively.
  • Don’t wait until perfect to speak.
  • Let go of judgement, embrace imperfection.
  • Trust your pattern recognition capabilities.

10. How to Learn Any Language in 6 Months

Linguist Chris Lonsdale explains methods for rapidly learning a language in just 6 months. His key insights include focusing on conversation over perfection, practicing consistently, and immersing fully.

Key insights:

  • Focus on conversational fluency first.
  • Consistency is key – 30 mins daily.
  • Immerse fully.
  • Embrace mistake-making.

11. How to Talk Like a Native Speaker

Linguist Marc Green offers practical ideas for mastering native-like speech patterns. He advocates learning common syntax, imitating native speakers, and repeatedly practicing phrases.

Key insights:

  • Master common sentence patterns.
  • Imitate native speaker cadence, tone, etc.
  • Repeat phrases out loud.
  • Learn the lyrics of songs.
  • Record yourself and compare.


Language learning unlocks new perspectives, connections, and capabilities. Applying insights from these talks can supercharge your motivation, enjoyment, and success with any new language.

Listen actively, speak boldly, immerse fully, and keep exploring engaging content. Let these ideas guide you into a wider world of possibilities.