UPDATE 2021: It is with incredible sadness that I have learnt of the sudden passing of Moses “Laoshu505000” McCormick. This post has been updated to include my eulogy. The original post of what we can learn from Moses is continued below.
Moses “Laoshu50500” McCormick Eulogy
By Kris Broholm, Actual Fluency Founder
This year, 2021, we lost one of the brightest stars in the language learning community, Moses McCormick passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the young age of 39.
His personal life and non-language learning activities aside (I didn't know him personally, so I won't comment on those areas) he was truly a force of good, and he will be missed dearly.
I first come across Moses back in 2013 when I found Benny Lewis and his Fluent in 3 Months blog.
I spent hours and days combing through his library of content about travelling the world and learning languages.
Somewhere on the site I came across this video:
“Polyglots speak 12 languages with strangers in a mall in Ohio: Benny and Moses level up!”
Here's the video:
That was the first I ever saw of Moses.
After that I would go to his own channel and watch him for hours and hours as he explored the minority communities of Columbus Ohio and practiced something like 30 different languages.
In that mall video, his entire philosophy is also shared:
“You can't just sit at home and learn from books all the time. You have to get out there and speak with people.”
This is a great reminder for everyone who wants to improve their language skills.
And, if you don't have a conveniently placed shopping mall near you with lots of languages in it, then you can always look for a zoom tutor, language exchange partners, or even language meetups (once the world returns to normal, of course.)
I was terrified to speak my weak languages (and to a language degree I still am) but watching people like Moses really helped me push through this fear whenever the opportunity came up.
How he made a difference
Moses often received criticism, especially from the snobs over at /r/languagelearning (you know who you are…) that he didn't really speak all those languages – and that he was simply memorising and repeating the same 5-10 phrases for each language.
To me, that's a pointless criticism and I think it's even grounded in some form of jealousy because one guy is able to go out and use the languages at such an early stage.
You only have to watch one video of Moses leveling up to understand the positive impact his “practice” had on the world.
Not only was he getting experience and practice in the language, but if you look at the people he was speaking to…man..
They light up!
There's so much focus in the US about immigrants learning English, but very rarely is there a positive movement in the opposite direction.
So, when you start speaking somebody's home language when they are 7000 miles away from home it's very special – even if you know know a couple of phrases.
I genuinely believe that many communities of the US, and possibly other places in the world would be a much better place if people took the time to learn the other languages found there.
(This was also discussed in Dr. Richard Benton's 2015 Polyglot Conference Presentation: Learning Community Languages Is a Social Responsibility https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IElwB4wP0w – which I happened to see live!)
Even if it's only the basics, it really helps connect the various communities and like I said, really can make someone's day.
The other HUGE positive impact that Moses had was on the viewers of his videos. Suddenly, a ton of people got direct proof that learning a foreign language was not only possible, but it could be gamified with “levelling up” “Exps” and other video-game terms.
Plus, they saw the reactions of people – which was a big inspiration.
And not only that, also the fact that you don't need to be fluent in order to start getting some of the huge advantages that knowing a second language can bring you.
His huge focus on practical language learning, along with the push to acually go out and practice the languages meant that people found themselves empowered to use the language earlier, and get out in the real world and practice.
And suddenly they were the ones spreading joy in people's lives.
With over 1 million subscribers, and over 174 million views he's touched so many people, and his legacy lives on through his videos for future aspiring language learners to find and enjoy.
Thank you Moses for your contributions to the language learning community, and making the world a better place. Rest in peace.
Long live his memory,
5 Language Learning Lessons we can Learn from Moses McCormick
The below is my original post from 2014 where I described what all of us could learn from Moses. I've kept it here in its original format.
Moses McCormick is a great language learner and polyglot, in this post I share 5 lessons we can all learn from him.
One of the first great inspirational people I found when I was searching for language learning about 2 years ago was Moses McCormick, who uploaded these hour (sometimes several) long videos that showed him walking around various locations just striking up conversation with people in foreign languages.
Perhaps even more impressive was that every video was SUBTITLED! Can you imagine going through hours of footage with questionable audio to add English subtitles from all sorts of languages.
This is what Moses does though. So even if you speak none of the languages he walks speaks in the videos, you can still follow along the conversation.
Based on these videos I have come up with 5 lessons we can learn from Moses McCormick.
1. WORK HARD
Moses not only puts in a ton of book hours back in his home office, he also spends many, many hours out in the “battlefield” where he is constantly seen practising all his languages.
The first lesson we can learn is that to become successful at anything, including languages, we must be willing to work hard at it. Note that, hard does not mean 8 hours a day, although you can do that I find that regularity is better than these crazy marathon days.
It also saves you from burning out.
Moses also learns a lot of languages at the same time, which is something I'm not a big fan of, I find that once I'm learning more than 1 I start drifting away and getting distracted from my main goal. Moses, however has obviously found a way to combat this.
2. GET OUT IN THE FIELD AND LEVEL UP
As can be seen on his YouTube channels he often goes out in the field, which can be anything from a Chinese restaurant to a regular Wall-mart.
Due to the ethnic diversity of his city of Columbus, Ohio, he easily finds loads of people to practice with.
If you have the opportunity to do this, do it!
If you do not have the opportunity to go out and meet speakers in the wild as Moses does, you CAN do it over the internet instead. There is the first option of paying community tutors from iTalki (generally something like $10 an hour).
The second option is to use sites for language exchanges such as interPals.net. This simulates the battle field experience and allows you to level up from your own home.
What is levelling up? Levelling up in language learning is a term Moses, an avid video gamer enthusiast, borrowed from the video game industry.
In video games levelling up typically means your character becomes stronger and better.
Which is exactly what happens in language learning when you get out in the wild and start using the language.
Although the term is somewhat arbitrary and there are no specific rules for when a level-up has occurred, it's a fun way to combine a game concept with language learning.
3. DON'T BE SHY
To be able to go out into the field to level up, you have to throw caution to the wind and forget about your shyness.
Moses recommends, that you ask the person you intend to talk to, a question in English, for example: Do you know where I can find olive oil?
Once there is contact, you can casually ask where the person are from and if they speak the language of that place.
I'm personally quite shy to approach strangers, but watching Moses videos on YouTube has given me renewed motivation, because I see somebody else doing it. And as Moses says, once you have done it a hundred times it's a piece of cake.
Update: If you're struggling with this, consider giving the course “Say Goodbye To Shy” a try.
4. LEARN THE SCRIPT
This is a bit of a technical point, but the reason Moses is so successful in speaking so many languages is that he applies the fact that almost all first-encounter conversations follow a script that contain exactly the same questions an answers.
This is similar to the Speak from Day 1 course, Benny Lewis did previously.
Basically you learn, by heart, the sentences of language that you will need in the beginning. These sentences could be something like:
– I'm from Denmark
– I'm studying Russian because I find it interesting
– Russian is a very hard language
– I've been studying for 6 months
– So on and so forth.
If one had to learn all the individual words through vocabulary building or courses, then it would take a very long time to be able to create these sentences on the fly.
Why not just learn them from the beginning, so you can get out and speak the language from a very early point, thus giving you huge boosters to your motivation?
Moses has created a method based on this approach called the FLR METHOD, which basically teaches you exactly what he is doing.
This means that the scripts area already written for you in convenient audio and textual formats.
Go check out The FLR Method, he has over 30 different language courses to choose from.
5. HAVE FUN
The final and most important lesson is to just have fun with it.
Whenever you make something into a fun experience, learning and motivation to learn more increases ten-fold.
One thing you can be certain of when you see Moses' videos is that he always has a great deal of fun.
The priceless reactions of strangers when they hear him speak their language is what drives him, he says. It's a lot of fun, and humans are motivated by fun.
So get out there and have some fun, the Moses McCormick way.
Go check out Moses McCormick
– YouTube Channel (Highly recommended)