Steve Kaufmann

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Steve Kaufmann
Kaufmann in 2020
Personal information
Born (1945-10-08) October 8, 1945 (age 78)
YouTube information
Years active2007–present
Subscribers1.11 million Edit this at Wikidata[1]
(May 2024)

Steve Kaufmann (born October 8, 1945)[a] is a Canadian polyglot and internet personality known for his language-learning content on YouTube, and the LingQ online language-learning platform which he co-founded.


Kaufmann was born in Sweden in 1945 to Jewish parents from Prostějov in Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. His parents spoke Czech and German. He grew up in Montreal, Canada after he and his family moved there in 1951 when he was five.[2][3][4]

In June 1962, Kaufmann quit his construction job and worked aboard a German tramp steamer in exchange for passage to Europe. After a week in London, he visited Belgium, then spent a year in Grenoble, France.[4] He studied politics at the L'Institut d'Études Politiques (Institute of Political Studies, commonly known as Sciences Po) and studied French in Paris.[4][5][6][7]

He hitchhiked through Europe, picking up basic language skills in Spain, Italy and Germany.[4] He went on to join the Canadian diplomatic service, where he began learning Mandarin in Hong Kong full-time in 1969, and allegedly became fluent within a year.[dubious ][4] When he was re-posted to the Embassy of Canada, Tokyo in the early 1970s, he learned Japanese.[8]

After his role as a trade commissioner, he used his language abilities in commercial trade,[9] living in Japan for nine years.[10] He eventually learned more languages, mostly later in life.[8]

Along with his son, Mark, Steve co-founded the language learning platform LingQ in 2007.[11]

Current work[edit]

"The best way to learn a language is to massively ingest it, by listening and reading. Listening and reading are so powerful. If you can read the books, you know the language. To get to know a language takes a lot of time and a lot of interacting with it — and a lot of that time has to be on your own. I think it’s better to work on comprehension and vocabulary without pressure to reproduce the language (by speaking)."

—Kaufmann on language learning.[12]

Kaufmann appears at conferences to speak on his language learning techniques and abilities. He also has social media channels where he discusses language learning,[13][14] primarily to assist learners.[12][15]

He was a founding organizer of the North American Polyglot Symposium.[12] He travels to learn languages, and has given interviews in native languages on television and on YouTube, including in Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese), Russian and Ukrainian.[16] He has been a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.[17]

Language learning[edit]

Kaufmann has spent over 50 years studying languages.[18] He advocates total immersion in the learning process.[19][20] He places great emphasis on absorbing the language by reading texts and by not worrying about unfamiliar words, believing that they are gradually acquired through repeated reading. Though he supports using techniques such as flashcards for memorizing difficult words, he spends most of his learning time listening to native speakers and reading. He is particularly fond of reading books on the history of the country or region of the language he is learning, written in that language.[3] He prefers not to have a fixed study schedule and enjoys listening to content in his target languages while performing other tasks.[21] He believes that age does not impede learning a new language and that older people can learn languages as well as younger people.[22] He believes mistakes are a natural part of the learning process, and that people can be considered fluent despite making mistakes.[3]

Kaufmann started learning Russian, his ninth language, when he was 60.[8] As of 2024, he has an understanding of 20 languages, though his ability to speak and write in them to a highly proficient level varies considerably. He has said that he rarely writes in the languages, and that speaking languages he has not used for a while can be initially challenging.[3]

As of May 2023, Kaufmann speaks these languages to varying degrees:

He has also learned some Greek and Turkish and is currently learning Arabic and Persian.[23] In 2024, he stated that after studying Turkish he will focus on Arabic and Persian, and spends time listening to Arabic TV series and Al Jazeera news, and reading books on Arabic and Persian history.[3]

Prominent language-acquisition scholar Stephen Krashen has studied Kaufmann's approach to learning, and those of other polyglots such as Kató Lomb. Krashen claims the success of Kaufmann and other polyglots as independent support for his own ideas on second language learning, and sees Kaufmann's approach as a model for other language learners. He has praised Kaufmann as "really good, no question", and described him as "my language therapist, helping me."[24][25]

Personal life[edit]

Steve Kaufmann is the father of political scientist Eric Kaufmann and ice hockey player Mark Kaufmann.


  1. ^ In one of his YouTube videos, Kaufmann states that October 8 is his birthday.[26] In The Linguist: A Personal Guide to Language Learning, he states that he was born in 1945.[4]: 9, 111 


  1. ^ "About @Thelinguist". YouTube.
  2. ^ "Learning German - How I Went About It". Youtube. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e "How to learn any language". YouTube. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Kaufmann, Steve (2003). The Linguist: A Personal Guide to Language Learning (PDF). West Vancouver: Linguist Institute. ISBN 0-9733394-0-3. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 13, 2011.
  5. ^ Jeffs, Angela (July 5, 2008). "Linguistics and lumber strike chord". The Japan Times. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  6. ^ "Steve Kaufmann". Langfest. Montreal. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  7. ^ "These Polyglots Have Tips For How To Learn As Many Languages As You Want". WBUR (radio station). Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Betros, Chris (July 1, 2008). "You're never too old to learn a language". Japan Today. Retrieved August 24, 2008.
  9. ^ "The Story of LingQ". The University of Texas at Austin:Texas Language Center. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  10. ^ "How to Learn Any Language - Interview with Legendary Polyglot Steve Kaufmann". YouTube.
  11. ^ Inside, eLearning (September 14, 2022). "LingQ language learning app celebrates 20th anniversary". eLearningInside News. Retrieved January 10, 2024.
  12. ^ a b c Schwartz, Susan (July 23, 2016). "People who speak many languages or want to gather in Montreal for polyglot symposium". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  13. ^ Brown, Eileen (September 7, 2018). "Why don't more people over 60 have YouTube channels". ZDNeT. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  14. ^ "Where are all the "older" Youtubers". NRS Healthcare. November 9, 2018. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  15. ^ Turner, Jared (July 29, 2019). "Steven Kaufmann "The Linguist" Interview". You Can Learn Chinese. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  16. ^ "Стів Кауфман гість програми Ехо України (Steve Kaufman is a guest of the Echo of Ukraine program)". YouTube (TV interview) (in Ukrainian). May 27, 2019. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  17. ^ Kaufmann, Steve (November 16, 2016). "The Biggest Mistake Language Learners Make". Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  18. ^ Tashkandi, Hala (May 18, 2020). "Learning a language during quarantine: Where and how to start". Arab News. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  19. ^ Little, Oliver (October 2, 2018). "20 Languages, Not enough! The Polyglot adding Catalan to his resume". Catalan News. Barcelona. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  20. ^ "El poliglot Steve Kaufmann, que parla 20 llengües: "Vull aprendre català per curiositat" (The polyglot Steve Kaufmann, who speaks 20 languages: "I want to learn Catalan out of curiosity")". El Punt AVI (in Catalan). October 12, 2019. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  21. ^ "Interview with Polyglot Steve Kaufmann by Noel van vliet". Smart Language Learner. August 17, 2019. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  22. ^ Kaufmann, Steven (March 2, 2016). "Are you too old to learn a language?". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  23. ^ "How Many Languages Do I Speak?". YouTube.
  24. ^ Session 7B: Dr Stephen Krashen - The secrets of hyper-polyglots. YouTube. June 10, 2019. Event occurs at 25m38s.
  25. ^ Stephen Krashen on Language Learning in the Polyglot Community. YouTube. October 26, 2017. Event occurs at 21m51s.
  26. ^ AI & Language Learning. YouTube. October 12, 2022. Starts at 00:30. Archived from the original on October 12, 2022. First of all, I should say that October the eighth was my birthday…