Moses McCormick is a YouTube polyglot popularly referred to as ‘Laoshu’, which means rat or mouse in Chinese. Laoshu speaks English, Mandarin, Japanese and Cantonese fluently and advanced in languages like Korean, Spanish, Swedish, Somali, and Indonesian. Together, he has studied over 73 languages and can speak about 20 of them.
Chinese is one of the first languages he learned over 20 years ago. Then 18, McCormick developed a love for the language after watching a series of cult-classic kung-fu films. His approach to learning the language is more of a practical one as he immerses himself in conversations with speakers in his videos. He had studied other languages the “normal” way before trying to learn Chinese in a different way.
“I didn’t really expect to stick with it for the long term,” McCormick told Melmagazine. “But once I tried out Chinese, and started meeting those people, it began getting fun to talk, fast. It became kind of an obsession, to get better so that I could keep connecting and surprising people. I was doing it every day. I think I got conversational after like, six months of practice.”
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McCormick, then a student at the University of Akron, spent practically all his time learning Chinese that he had to transfer to a community college after missing a lot of classes. Confident in his self-learning prowess, he took a Chinese placement test at the Ohio State University. He did so well that, according to Melmagazine, he was already halfway to gaining a degree in Chinese with his results when he got the opportunity to tutor an athlete in Chinese. Other freelancing gigs followed and by this time, he had improved his proficiency in other languages including Japanese and Korean. Gradually, he saw an increase in YouTube views for videos he made speaking with strangers in Korean or Japanese.
No longer interested in getting a Chinese degree, McCormick dropped out of Ohio State University in 2008. His YouTube channel was by then growing steadily, and he used the ‘conversationist’ approach to create an online module, “Foreign Language Roadrunner” (FLR). FLR is the method he used to learn languages and it now has a guide to learning about 42 languages.
McCormick is making a living as a language instructor on his YouTube channel that has over one million subscribers. According to his viewers, his approach to teaching languages is more practical because he is an effective communicator.
McCormick values learning foreign languages because they open one to a whole new world they never knew existed. He once explained how he feels having random conversations with strangers.
“It’s like a drug, like dopamine, for me,” McCormick said in an interview with Quartz. “When I walk up to someone and speak to them, they get really excited—that’s just a couple phrases—but something about that first encounter, that’s really addictive.”
According to his website, “Learning a foreign language opens up the door to you getting to know more people and expanding your social network.”
“If you are studying a language such as Spanish, Portuguese, or Chinese that is spoken by a large percentage of the population, you will be literally potentially tapping into a communication network with hundreds of millions of people that were previously off limits to you. If you are studying a less popular language, just think how much more valuable you will be since there are fewer foreign speakers of it.”