Archives: December 30, 2015

Interview with LWO user Veronica Perez

Today’s interview is with language learner Veronica Perez who uses LearnWithOliver to learn languages. Even though she isn’t a famous blogger it’s one of the best interviews I’ve read for some time. Definitely worth reading. Enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I am 38 years old, a graduate of Accountancy, and I speak Filipino, as a native language; English, which is an official language in our country; and Japanese. I started learning Japanese in 2009 and passed N2 in December of 2013. I can’t claim I studied entirely on my own, though I learned only by getting online. I’ll forever be grateful to the authors of the different websites I used, and blogs that I read, not to mention authors of published books on the language. In 2014, I started learning other languages as well. Currently, besides English and Japanese, I’m also learning French, Swedish, Spanish, Korean, Latin, Ancient Greek, Brazilian Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, Greek and German. That’s in the order that I started learning them. I started learning German just this October.

How has your strategy to learn new languages changed over the years?

While learning Japanese, I focused on collecting sentences. After familiarizing myself with its writing system, which took barely a month, I went ahead and read sentences, and only acquired vocabularies in the process. I passed the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) doing just that. Well, I also watched a lot of Japanese movies, anime, TV programs and series, to acquire some listening skills, but I did not actively learn to speak. Eventually, it just happened, though it wasn’t my intention. A lot of reading and watching movies did that.

Since I couldn’t actively use the language, I didn’t personally know any Japanese national, so I had no one to talk to, I started keeping journals in that language. That’s when I noticed that I was utterly lacking in vocabularies. I could understand a great deal but I could not produce the right words to express what I wanted to say. So, when I started learning French, I did it both ways. I still focused on learning sentences but I also coupled it with lots of practice on vocabulary words alone. That’s how I discovered LearnWithOliver, which was then called Antosch & Lin. Its contents were exactly what I felt I needed at the time. A collection of sentences, plus a list of all the vocabularies used in them.

I’ve used electronic flashcards since the very first day and I don’t think I will ever be able to do without them. It’s only how I set up my cards that’s changed over the years. I change them based on what I believe I need at a certain period in my learning. Like, right now, I’m focusing on reading Japanese aloud. With a writing system like theirs, you can actually understand everything you’re reading without actually knowing how to pronounce the words. This is what I’m trying to achieve now, to be able to read Japanese aloud at a decent speed.

Do you have a favorite language?

I couldn’t explain why I kept adding to my list of languages I was learning, besides the fact that I felt it could be done, thanks to our current technology, but when I got to learning German, I thought: This is it! I stopped adding more languages after that. But I have to say this may only be for the time being, because I’ve also wanted to learn Russian. But then, it’s going to take a while before I start doing that. I want to be able to reach a certain level of proficiency in German first, before I start on another language again. Why German? I honestly don’t know. It just felt so right.

Are there any language blogs or podcasts you follow closely?

There’s not a single one I follow closely but I do read a lot of blogs and listen to podcasts. I’m basically everywhere. I read blogs, not just about the languages I’m learning, but about language learning in general. I particularly like those relating about their personal experiences. Since I’m just on my own here, tapping on my keyboard and clicking my mouse, I consider them my classmates in this broad school called language learning. I think this is important, hearing from kindred souls. It helps in keeping my passion for learning aflame. It’s the same with podcasts, I prefer listening to personal ones, like those talking about the traffic and the food they had for lunch. I consider that to be the closest I can get with the language. The reason I’m learning this many languages is I like reading books. Novels, in particular. And I want to be able to read literature in as many languages as possible. But there might also come a time when I would have to speak it, too, and I wouldn’t want to sound like a dramatic novel when I did. That’s why I listen to podcasts, to get the feel of how the language is actually being used in day-to-day conversations.

What would you recommend a new language learner? How to get started?

He has to know what he wants to do with the language he wants to learn first. That’s how he’ll be able to know what to do next. Does he want to be able to read in that language? Then, read right away. Does he like watching movies or listening to music? Then, focus on acquiring the listening skills necessary to do that. Does he like to talk, or have someone, in particular, he wants to communicate with in that language? Then, start with everyday conversations. Is it for a job? Then, go towards what that job requires. Once he has the answer to this, the materials he thinks he needs will just present themselves. It’s like magic. When one already knows what he wants, it will come to him. (Stated otherwise, Google will become his best friend.)

I also suggest that he does what he finds enjoyable. When he realizes that he doesn’t like what he’s doing anymore, find something else. When one likes what he’s doing, it starts to feel more like fun, though learning a language demands a great deal of work. It won’t matter where he starts, really. He can start with medical jargon, if that’s what interests him the most. Be it, say, basic, intermediate, or advanced, they will come together, eventually, as long as he keeps going. As long as he learns constantly, he’ll be using the language, even before he realizes he already can.

What keeps you motivated to keep learning?

Understanding words, or phrases, I wouldn’t have understood had I not learned the language. That’s the best motivation for me. The first time I weaned myself off the subtitles, when watching Japanese movies, and still understood what was going on, I was crying the entire time. I did it! Nothing can compare with the joy that brings.

And what point would you recommend to read up on grammar?

When one feels he already has enough vocabularies, to which he can apply these grammar rules on, that’s the time. This will save him a tremendous amount of time. Languages tend to have these exact phrases, with which one expresses certain ideas. If he will keep on digesting sentences, or materials, in the language he’s learning, he’ll naturally be able to acquire and use these phrases. Learning grammar can be likened to polishing your shoes before you wear them. Vocabulary words, and common phrases, are the shoes. It’s grammar that polishes them. You wouldn’t polish a piece of leather and wrap it around your feet, would you?

How important do you think is talent when learning a language?

A great deal. But only if it had to be done really fast and effortlessly!

We all have different capabilities. There will always be someone who can do it better than the other, and there’s nothing wrong if we admired that someone. When it comes to one’s own learning, though, what’s important is knowing what will work best for him. One ought to pick that method that he thinks will be most effective for him. If one has the talent, he should embrace it. If not, then, he would just have to exert more effort, and invest more time, to get to where he wanted to go. He will get there, for sure, as long as he stays the course. I know I don’t belong in the talented category but it’s the least of my concerns. It may take me longer than the rest, but I’m getting there, too.

Additionally, to borrow Kató Lomb’s words, “Language is the only thing worth knowing even poorly.” Either way, talent or none, in learning languages, one always wins.

Do you use mnemonics to learn new words?

Yes, but not actively. What usually happens is that I tend to associate them with words from another language. Like, when I learned the (Brazilian) Portuguese word for cigarette butt: bituca. In our language (Filipino), bituka means intestine. I instantly imagined an intestine full of cigarette butts. (He swallowed them, after smoking, because littering harms the environment!) Then, the word stuck. Because I have this tendency, to associate words with another, learning more and more languages works for me, because more and more associations become readily available to me as well. In cases when I couldn’t make any association at all, I’d try picturing the word in my head, say a window, and imagine the word written there. If that still didn’t work, I’d just leave it to the flashcards. After seeing the words multiple times, they stick, anyway.

I’ve read books on mnemonics, and the like. I believe I understood the idea, but I just couldn’t make it work for me. Either I’d forget the mnemonic I came up with, or I’d successfully come up with something really clever, but a full hour had already passed me by. It’s a waste of time for me. I’d rather see more new words than spend my time thinking of mnemonics I just might forget, anyway. I forgot what I thought could help me remember! That’s the worst feeling in the world, so I just go with what comes naturally to me.

What would you say is the hardest language?

One I can’t understand. That would be the hardest language for me. I’m a native Filipino speaker, so I’d say that’s the easiest language, but only because I know it with all my heart and soul. English used to be really difficult for me, when I was still learning it as a young girl in school. Now, though, I can’t say it’s so hard to learn. I thought I’d lose my mind, when I started learning Japanese, but now, I’d say, it’s relatively easy. Relatively? Compared with what? With a language I don’t yet speak. I could go on and on. French is easier than German, because I’ve been learning French for almost two years now. I started German only two months ago. On the other hand, my Spanish is a lot better than my Swedish, though I started learning Swedish six months earlier than Spanish. We (the Filipino language) use(s) a lot of words that have Spanish origin. The association helped a great deal.

What do I consider to be the most difficult among the languages I’m learning now? Latin. But only because LearnWithOliver doesn’t have it yet. It’s the lack of materials that engage me. In other words, though I don’t want to say this, it’s the relatively less amount of time I spend in learning the language that makes it difficult.


6 Great Ways to Learn Writing with Kanji


The most famous and difficult aspect of Japanese writing is kanji. Kanji are the Chinese hieroglyphs which were adapted to the Japanese language. Mostly, Japanese words are written in kanji, but they still sound the same as in hiragana and katakana.

A little more than 2 thousands of hieroglyphs are used in modern Japanese, however, learning each of them individually does not work as well as with the hiragana syllabarium. Due to the great amount, the Kanji requires special memorization methods. In the learning practice, the knowledge and the use of these strategies make the learning process faster, much more efficient and enjoyable for the learner.

An effective strategy for mastering Kanji lies in learning them with new words in a context. Thus we associate each symbol with the contextual information and fix them in our memory. Kanji are used for representing the real words, so you should focus on the vocabulary, rather the characters themselves.

Compare 暑い and 熱い, both hieroglyphs have the same meaning “hot”. However, the first one is used to describe the weather, and the second hieroglyph is used when someone is talking about the temperature of an object or a person.

To memorize Kanji better, you need to keep up a few simple rules, such as:

1. Track the correct writing.

Japanese hieroglyphs contain many strokes and the right order of writing helps not only to remember the Kanji itself, but also helps to recognize it at reading.

For that purpose you may use an online applications, such as:

KanjiQ by Aribada Inc. With KanjiQ you can practice Kanji, repeating their writing by the lines, or train yourself by looking simply at the strokes’ order.

2. Study radicals (keys)

Kanji are not just the characters, the looks of which are absolutely disconnected with the semantic content. A limited set of unique elements, named “radicals”, is used for writing Kanji. 214 of radicals are so-called keys, which are also the meaning-bearers of each hieroglyph.
Hence comes out the second method: learn hieroglyphics, breaking them into groups with the same keys.

The useful applications for that:

Imiwa? This is an interactive online kanji dictionary, which will help to find not only the hieroglyphs’ meaning and reading rules, but also group them according to the number of the strokes. Also, this application allows to search hieroglyphs by the radicals.

Kanji Game. This application is a bit more challenging. In addition to the usual Kanji reading tests, there is a useful game “Is it a real Kanji?”. The application will show you the hieroglyph, and you should have to guess whether it is a true kanji or not.

3. Memorize reading

Another method is based on the learning the “Onyomi” reading. Anyone, who studies Japanese language, knows that the hieroglyphs have 2 ways of reading – a Japanese (kunyomi) and original Chinese – (onyomi).
Japanese words, denoted with hieroglyphs, are not too difficult to remember, but reading in Chinese way, which often consists of a single syllable, might cause more troubles to the learner. Thus, in some cases, it may be easier to split kanji by groups with the same reading.

4. Use Associations

Each character of Kanji is a little picture, a real art. Why not to involve this into the learning process?

For instance:

  • Kanji 休 (a rest) consists of the elements 人 (a human) and 木 (a tree). It turns out that the rest is when a man leans to a tree.
  • Kanji 東 (east) consists of the two elements 木 (a tree) and 日(the Sun), which are fused together. It turns out that the east is where the sun appears from behind trees.

Such mnemonic technique allows you to create persistent images and understand the essence of the kanji, not just memorize its form by heart.

An application, which will help you:
FluentU. This program includes video, pictures and flash cards which provide a persistent association between a word and its meaning.

5. Compose meaningful groups

Another technique to facilitate kanji memorization is compiling personal dictionaries and combining hieroglyphics by their meaning. For example:
母 (mother), 父 (father), 兄 (elder brother), 姊 (elder sister).
赤 (red), 青 (blue), 黒 (black), 白 (white).
野菜 (vegetables), 果物 (fruit), 果実 (berries)

A handy application for you:

Kanji Star. In addition to the routine tests on Kanji memorization and writing, this program can offer you much more. You can choose the hieroglyphics in different categories, such as “fruit”, “vegetable”, “animal”, “color”, etc and focus only on them.
Learn Japanese. This application is designed for beginners. The program contains 800 words and popular phrases, backed by pictures and audio recordings.

6. Use phrases (mnemonics)

This method consists in memorizing phrases or stories, which can remind the hieroglyphic writing. For example:
馬 (horse): “Fondle the horse on its neck, and then on the head, then down to the nose, then on the back, and then to the tail, and the point – the point – the point – the point.” – this process depicts Kanji writing as if it was a picture of an animal.

Or give the name to each stroke in the same order as it is written:
正しい(right): The Vertical, the horizontal, the vertical, the horizontal and two large horizontal lines.


My name is Jennifer Broflowski. I am a freelance writer and experienced content distributor, fond of reading, news and everything connected with our life. At present, I am a staff writer in, which is one of the best essay writing services on the web. Working with its wonderful and professional team, I understood how it is important to be helpful, solve any student problem and draw a confident smile on their faces.

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Spanish in a Month – Interview with Connor Grooms

I met Connor Grooms on a reddit AMA he posted on Twitter and I thought it would be interesting to hear more about his project. He challenged himself to learn Spanish in Medellín (Colombia) in one month and documented everything in a short film.

Tell us more about your project? What tools did you use to make the video? Was it expensive to do?

This past June, I learned Spanish to a conversational level in a month, and shot the film, “Spanish in a Month: A Language Learning Documentary” about it. I spent about 5 hours a day – 3 of which were one-on-one classes, which is by far the most important thing.

I shot the film myself throughout the month, using a Sony Rx100 M3 – a high-end point-and-shoot that has DSLR quality. For a few of the shots, I borrowed my friend’s drone, and for the conversation scenes, I borrowed a different friend’s DSLR.

Aside from equipment cost, it was expensive mostly in time. I reckon it took 2-3 hours of editing per minute of video. Especially as my first time producing something of this length and quality, it was a monster of a project.

What’s it like living in Colombia?


I’ve lived in:
– many different cities in Florida, including Key West, Sarasota, St. Pete, and Gainesville
– Chiang Mai, Thailand
– Saigon, Vietnam
– Athens, Greece
– and now Medellin, Colombia

And I’ve traveled to 35 countries and lived for shorter periods of time in Prague, Cape Town, Bali, and Gold Coast Australia.

Medellin is easily my favorite. I’ve written about this before, but it’s the first place I didn’t have the “itch” to go to a new city after 2 months of being there.

More specifically:

– There are trees everywhere. It’s very green.
– Spanish is 100% necessary if you want any social life.
– Clean and safe. There are dangerous areas, but you know where they are and you don’t go there (just like any major US city). Those parts you wouldn’t want to visit anyway.
– Beautiful women are everywhere.
– Flawless weather. Sunny with a breeze during the day, low 80s (28-30C) during day and cool during the night – mid/high 60s (18C)
– Food is meh, but good ingredients (grass-fed steak, vegetables) are cheap so I cook.
– The music is awesome, and thus the nightlife.

It’s tough to describe exactly why I love this place so much, it’s something about the vibe – and I’m not the only one. Many expats go through the same thing of traveling for awhile and then not wanting to leave once they’ve been to Medellin.

Which resources do you normally use most?

One-on-one tutoring with a native speaker – ideally a professional teacher for the majority of the hours, as they are much better at explaining things, knowing how many mistakes (and which mistakes) to point out, how to keep conversations rolling, all of which are very important when learning a language. For finding these teachers, I’d recommend for Spanish learners, and italki for every other language.

I also use Anki SRS for flashcards.

What keeps you motivated to keep learning?

One of the most enjoyable feelings is when you are good at something. So every time you can handle a “difficult” conversation or situation in a foreign language, that feels awesome.

And when you can’t handle it, well… you want to be able to.

If I wasn’t living in a Spanish-speaking country where I need it though, I imagine it would be harder to maintain motivation.

What languages do you speak?

English and Spanish.

Who do you think is the most accomplished polyglot you’ve met?

I’m glad to call Benny Lewis a friend, and he’s probably the most accomplished – but I’m probably most impressed by Idahosa Ness of the Mimic Method. He sounds straight-up native in all of his languages.

Do you travel more now since you’ve learned a lot of languages?

Ironically, I travel less. I went to Medellin to learn Spanish, fell in love with the city, and now spend most of my time there. Whereas before, I was changing cities every 2-3 months or more.

How much time do you spend learning languages per day or per week?

I operate in bursts. So, when I learned Spanish, I spent 4-6+ hours a day on it. After a one-month sprint, I had achieved the level I was hoping for, and stopped studying altogether, just keeping it on maintenance. When I want to improve, I’ll generally spend a lot of time per day for a few weeks as it’s the focus of my life, and then go back to maintaining that level.

What would you recommend a new language learner? How to get started?

Start by getting the very basics down. Like, “I, he, you, his apple, It is an apple”. Once you have that down – the super basics – get a one-on-one teacher and spend as much time as you can with them.

I’d also recommend vocab training with something like Anki, and phonetic sound training for your accent/listening, but the most important thing by far is the one-on-one speaking with a native (again, ideally a teacher).

Do you watch movies to practice your languages?

No. I barely consume any entertainment in English either, though.

When you learn a new language do you always follow the same strategy?

I’ve only learned one, but when I learn my next language, it will definitely be in the exact same way.

What do you think of constructed languages? Would you be interested to learn one?

For me, it’s about being able to communicate with people in their native language, when I’m in their country. I’d never be interested in learning something like Esperanto, for instance.

Its uses as an accelerator for learning other languages is intriguing, but I wouldn’t do it myself.

Tell us more about your company BaseLang.

BaseLang came about three weeks or so after the “month of Spanish”. My tutor, who actually ran a similar company teaching English to Spanish speakers and taught me as therapy to get away from the office, was starting it – and he wanted me to co-found it with him.

BaseLang offers unlimited one-on-one Spanish tutoring with professional teachers, for $99 a month.

We also have our own apps, which include livechat to ask smaller questions or translations to a teacher, and flashcards that align with our curriculum. Students can use the service in “sand-box mode”, and just use us for the tutoring, or they can follow our curriculum, which focuses on communication first, academic perfection second – so that people can actually have conversations quickly. We cut out the irrelevant things (like the weather) and focus on what you need every day (giving directions, foundational vocabulary and flexible grammar).

You can watch his documentary on YouTube. To learn more about Connor’s company Baselang which is launching in January 2015 please click here.

How a Polyglot Can Help Us Become Better Language Teachers

“You’re so young! You have so many years ahead to learn more languages!”

~ 86-year-old Kato Lomb to her 54-year-old friend

I bet you heard the name of Kató Lomb.

If no, shame of you.

The chemist who spoke 16 languages fluently. One of the first simultaneous interpreters in the world. The author of the bestselling book How I Learn Languages.

And a polyglot who will help you (and me) become a better language teacher.

She managed to learn so many languages in times when there was no Skype, no online tutors (Gosh, I would be unemployed there!), no CDs with voices from native speakers…

Her ten commandments of language learning are worth remembering for students. But it’s interesting to note that teachers can consider these tips from Kató Lomb a method to improve teaching techniques, ease the process of language learning for their students, and become successful online educators.

1. Learn a language every day

How it can help a teacher: If you don’t teach every day, make sure to break homework into small tasks for your students to spend 10-15 daily on completing it. It can be reading a text, learning new words, repeating them, listening to a song in the target language and making a vocabulary of unknown words from it, etc.

Don’t give a time-consuming homework. Your students will learn everything by all means, but they are more likely to forget this “everything” once you give the next homework to them.

2. Create a lesson algorithm

How it can help a teacher: Sometimes, even your earnest pupils lose a desire to learn languages. So, the best decision is creating a lesson algorithm that would let them take a little break and motivate them to continue learning.

Do not force students to spend hours learning new words or doing exercises. If you see them bored or demotivated, listen to some music in a class, or discuss something interesting with them. It will take 5-10 minutes and not harm your time management, so you will back to the lesson with a clear conscience.

3. Remember the context

How it can help a teacher: We all know that context is everything, and it’s much easier to learn collocations, not separate words. So, always give your students new phrases to memorize.

For example, the expression “strong wind” will help them remember two words at once, and one will automatically recall the second one in their memory.

4. Write in and use ready phrases

How it can help a teacher: When you learn new words and phrases with your students, ask them to write them in. First of all, it will help them remember faster and better; secondly, it can make them love writing; and thirdly, it makes students able to use those phrases whenever they can, as they will always carry those words with them.

Encourage students to use written data in dialogues. It’s a proven technique that will allow to learn more collocations on different topics.

5. Translate everything you see

How it can help a teacher: I bet you used this trick! When you mentally translate everything you see – the titles of articles in newspapers, advertisements, etc. – you train your brain by memorizing new language units and associating them with visuals you see in billboards, for example.

Try the same with your students. Give them a task to translate every text sign they will see on their road to school. Ask to share the results with classmates.

6. Learn by heart

How it can help a teacher: Simple as that. Learning by heart is the first and most common task all teachers give their students. And nothing seems tricky here, but…

Ask your students to learn ONLY the phrases that are checked to be correct. Be the first one who will check them; otherwise, they might confuse students and cause a misunderstanding that leads to disappointments, motivation loss, and more.

7. Learn in the first person

How it can help a teacher: Ready phrases and idioms are better to learn in the first person, as we image them with the help of associations.

Thus, give your students a task to put new phrases into the first person, creating sentences or monologs with a collocation, phrasal verb, or idiom.

8. Communicate

How it can help a teacher: Your students will never learn a language if you are the only person they are listening. And your students will never speak a target language if their only activity is doing exercises in laptops or textbooks.

Engage different activities in your classroom: watch and discuss movies, listen to music, read books, talk to each other. Communication is the key factor for language learning, so don’t miss a chance to organize a chat with native speakers for your students.

9. Make mistakes

How it can help a teacher: Let students see it’s okay to make mistakes. Discuss the most common mistakes every language learner makes and help them understand how to avoid them.

Teach students to check everything they do, correct mistakes, and learn from them. All in all, the person who never makes a mistake will never make anything.

10. Never doubt

How it can help a teacher: Encourage your students that no matter what – they will learn the target language. And make no doubt about them.

Nothing is worse for students than a teacher who doesn’t believe in them.

So, use a personal approach toward your every mentee to understand what is the best technique to learn languages with them, and take it away!

Kató Lomb was able to learn 16 languages alone! So, I believe you can become the best teacher for your students and learn at least one foreign language with them.


About the author:

Lesley Vos is a private educator and online tutor. She teaches a group of ESL students in Skype, and she is passionate about blogging and writing. Lesley contributes content and shares her writing experience with readers of many websites on education, including Learning Advisor, Touro’s Online Education Blog, Bid4Papers Blog, and others. You are always welcome to follow her on Twitter at @LesleyVos.

The Beauty of German

Another guest post from user Robert Dupuis about the beauty of German. Enjoy! 🙂

When I began studying German I was simply overwhelmed. Accustomed as I was to lightly inflected languages such as English, French and Spanish, heavily inflected German was comparable to quicksand ― constantly in motion. There are six indefinite articles ― ein, eines, einer, einem, einen and eine ― and six definite articles ― der, das, die, den, dem and des ― which are declined differently according to the nuclear, gender, and case of their nouns. Add to them a few short words that begin with ein- and whole passel of short d- words, and I felt lost. It’s therefore essential that you, if you’re determined to master German, learn the articles upside-down and maybe even backwards, especially since the declension of adjectives depends on which articles they follow and the grammatical role of the nouns they modify. Find a table of declensions on Internet, print it out, and affix it to a wall that you often see. That is Step Number One.

Step Number Two is learn the word order. Most German main clauses begin with the subject followed by the verb, as in English, but then things get crazy quickly. What follows may seem backwards because it is backwards, at least to us Anglophones. While we would say “Erik is coming home on the train today,” a German would say “Erik is coming today on the train home.” Time-manner-place, TMP. So much for main clauses. In subordinate clauses the verb no longer comes in the second place but is sent packing to clause’s very end. The words that introduce most subordinate clauses are während, bis, als, wenn, da, weil, ob, obwohl, and dass. Put a list of them on the oft-seen wall too.

Step Number Three: Pay close attention to noun genders, otherwise using the articles correctly will be impossible and reading a guessing game. There are masculine, feminine and neuter nouns, some endings of which tell you the gender. Those that end in –keit, –heit, -schaft and –ung, for example, are invariably feminine, -ler, -ner and –ismus masculine, and –lein and –chen neuter, but there are many others whose genders simply have to be memorized. To help me do this I put everything in one of three locations: the masculine Platz (“square”), the feminine Straße (“street”), or the neuter Stadion (“stadium”). In the stadium I put only neuter objects: horse, car, baby, room, water, book, rope, bed, house, girl, etc. I’ve even created a surreal mental painting: The horse, ridden by the baby, is rope-towing the stuck-in-water car, driven by the girl. In this room too is a bed in which a deer with huge antlers and a yawning hippopotamus lie side by side. Through the window by the bed is seen the roof of the neighbor’s house and the inside of the curving stadium beyond it. The horse, by the way, is reading a book entitled Horse Sense splayed open on a portable podium extending from its chest. The nouns, all neuter, in order of mention are Pferd, Baby, Seil, Wasser, Auto, Mädchen, Zimmer, Bett, Reh, Geweih, Nilpferd, Fenster, Dach, Nachbarn, Haus, Stadium, Buch, Gefühl, Podium, Brustkorb. I’ve filled the street with feminine nouns and the plaza beyond it with neuter nouns. “Personalizing“ otherwise dry information using this or similar devices is very useful in language learning.

Am I saying that taking the above three steps will make learning German easy? No, not at all. German, at least in my opinion, is a very complicated language ― perhaps the most complicated. But to me it’s worth the effort. Why? With the exception of Dutch there is nothing similar, and Dutch is so much easier that its similarity to German may be less apparent than its differences. It’s much less inflected ― highly inflected languages such as German, Russian and Greek tend to be more syntactically flexible, therefore more specific and expressive. But there are two features of German that lighten the load, and one of the two make it creative and playful. The first is the capitalization of all nouns. Before you know a language fairly well, a text seems like a sea of swelling words, correct? What’s this? What’s that? Ai, just look at that thing over there!! Reaching the text’s end may seem as difficult as swimming from New York to Lisbon. In German, however, the nouns stand out and up like concrete pillars that make it much easier for you to identify the other elements in the sentence. And since the location of verbs is predictable, you can put them (the nuts) together with the nouns (the bolts) to get the gist. Noun capitalization is so handy that I recommend you do the same to your nouns in whatever language you use. I honestly think that world peace would come shortly.

Noun capitalization is proof that the sadist who invented German kissed puppies.

The other feature that makes German special is compound words. We have them in English too ― football, underground, without, hedgehog and undercut are examples ― but, perhaps because they aren’t capitalized, they lack the punch of those in German and are much less numerous. Many compound words are shorter than their translations. Verschlimmbesserung may at eighteen letters seem long, but compared to its translation is wonderfully short: “an intended improvement that makes things worse.” Good luck finding them in the dictionary since many of them seem to be and undoubtedly are made up on the spot by the Puppykisser or his Wordartistbuddies. Analogous to how explained jokes never provoke laughter, you either “get” compound words or you don’t ― if you don’t, it’s off to the dictionary for a Wildwordchase. Translation, however, consists of much more than denotation; connotation is usually untranslatable and phonetics always is: Sitzpinkler is comic while “a man who sits when he pees” is Dictionaryflat. Here’s one that might come in handy if you ever land a job in a German insane asylum: Unterhosenbügler ― “a man who irons his underwear.”

German is especially attractive in that it’s a great intellectual challenge. All languages are of course, but German is high up on the list. To use it very well will require a huge amount of blood, sweat and tears. At times that day of fluency may seem impossibly distant, but don’t give up. Remember that the longest journey begins with one step so, not only with language learning but with everything you set out to do, toss out the self-doubts and just keep walking. Just keep walking. Just keep walking…

What makes a good translator?

From our own experience finding the right translators for the LearnWithOliver project was always essential to offer a good flashcard site. Today’s guest post from Language Reach discusses this topic.

Translation Services

In today’s globalising world, language translation and interpreting services are one of the fastest growing industries in business. In 2012 the estimated size of the industry was an astonishing $33.5 billion, and as the international business is continuously growing, consequently the demand for translation services is also increasing and it is expected to reach over $37 billion worth only within the next three years!

Of course, due to some free translation tools such as Google Translate which are now widely available, translation has become somewhat ubiquitous. Nevertheless, any person who is professionally involved with multilingual publishing, marketing, legal, medical or any other niche specific documents which require a language translation, simply cannot underestimate the importance of human translators. Regular users of translation services are aware that the logic and reasoning skills that humans are capable of bringing to their documents and projects,  simply cannot be matched by computer software.

Finding the right translator who is suitable for the job isn’t however always a straightforward task. Can about anyone who speaks two languages fluently translate an official medical document or will a document translated by a person who isn’t certified be authorised in court? Indeed, there is a number of factors which can contribute to choosing the appropriate candidate for translating your project.


Of course, there are no rules which state that the longer someone works as a translator the more accurately they will be able to translate a document. Like any other profession however, the majority of translators will become more proficient with time. An inexperienced translator, even if extremely talented, will most certainly come across situations where talent simply isn’t enough and a deeper understanding of the given subject as well as specific knowledge may be essential for an accurate translation.


If you have never worked with a particular translator before, and you aren’t too sure whether the person is suitable for your project, websites such as the chartered institute for linguists, ITI, Language Reach or may help you in making a decision. These are professional bodies in the UK for translators and interpreters which set and maintain high standards of entry and “protect both members and the public”.

Field Expertise:

Let’s face it, due to a specific lingo or jargon, majority of people would most likely not be able to fully understand a conversation between two lawyers or doctors. Now, imagine working with a translator who although speaks your target language, is similarly to you not aware of, for example, any specific medical terms. When working with documents or projects from a specific sector, it is vital that you choose a translator who is not only capable of fluently speaking the language, but also has a first-hand experience within that particular business area, so that any nuances can be accurately interpreted.


Finding a reliable translator can be perhaps most important and essential for persons who translate projects regularly for business or professional reasons. In many cases, for example the legal sector, punctual delivery of the translated documents can be simply fundamental. The safest way of finding a reliable translator for business purposes is working with a professional translation agency such as Translation Services 24. Not only can such agencies guarantee that your documents will be delivered on time, but also accuracy and field expertise.


Yet another important aspect to consider when hiring a translator are one’s references. Has the person worked on similar projects before? If so, how did they do? Asking for a CV or a short free sample (although can sometimes be frowned upon by experienced translators), especially when working together for the first time, is always a good way of making sure that the person you choose is capable of delivering an accurately translated document on time.

As you can see, finding the right translator for the job can be, in fact, quite difficult. A number of factors must be taken into the account. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that alike any other profession, or perhaps even more so, translators value their time, knowledge and expertise and so choosing someone based entirely on their price can be a huge mistake, which may save some of your budget in the short term, but can be disastrous in the future.

Interview with Scottish polyglot Maureen Millward

Today we’ll interview polyglot Maureen Millward from Scotland. She tells us about her most challenging language, her most used resources and what she thinks about


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I come from Scotland and I did not start learning languages seriously until age 16 because they were taught very badly at school. I enjoyed languages but we had too many students in one class for it to be effective. At age 16, I went to a Spanish class with just 6 students and it suited me much better. I then went on to study Spanish at university, followed by Italian and then Portuguese. I went on to work in the European Finance Industry where I used my Italian and Spanish on a regular basis and I regularly went to both countries on business. I still work within the Finance Industry, but in my free time I tend to focus on learning languages I need for travelling rather than work. I still maintain my level in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese with weekly Skype sessions.

What languages do you speak?

Native English, fluent Spanish, Italian and Portuguese and intermediate Catalan, Norwegian,  French, German and Greek, basic level Gaelic and Arabic. I have just started to learn Chinese.

Do you dream in a foreign language?

Very often, particularly with my fluent languages.

What do you think of constructed languages? Would you be interested to learn one?

Actually I am quite different to other polyglots in the sense that I don’t ever learn constructed languages. I am very busy keeping up my existing languages where I can travel to those countries and speak to people so the constructed languages have never interested me.

When you learn a new language do you always follow the same strategy?

Usually yes. I always buy a course book with good reviews and I enjoy using websites where I can play word games to help me remember vocabulary. I usually buy a verb and grammar book and then I always try and find a tutor over Skype to help me with speaking skills.

Do you have a favorite language?

I think Italian will always be my favourite because I spent a lot of time working with Italians in both the UK and Italy and I love everything about Italy and the culture and the people made me very welcome.

Which resources do you normally use most?

I use italki tutors several times a week. It’s important for me to keep up my speaking practice. For my fluent languages, I just tend to maintain them by speaking but for the intermediate ones I still work my way through textbooks as well as having tuition on Skype once every 7-10 days. Depending on my level, I may watch videos of news reports and I like the Euro News website because they show a written transcript of the video report.

What do you think of

I am enjoying the site and I currently use it for beginners level Chinese. I like the word games and the fact you can customise what comes in your newsletter. It’s also very useful being given the vocabulary in pinyin and Chinese characters with audio. Not all sites offer that and it is important as a beginner in Chinese.

What would you recommend a new language learner? How to get started?

I would recommend starting either an online course such as or a textbook depending on what they prefer. After learning a few words, I would recommend trying to speak as soon as possible to build up confidence. Look on italki for tutors who specialise in teaching beginners.

Do you travel more now since you’ve learned a lot of languages?

Yes. As well as travelling for my usual holidays, I now travel twice a year to Polyglot Events around the world.

How much time do you spend learning languages per day or per week?

Usually I have about 4 Skype sessions per week so at least once per fortnight for each of my languages. I tend to study for around an hour a day and I do half an hour per language, so I have a schedule spread over the week.

Which language you learned did you find most/least challenging and why?

I would say Greek has been most challenging because it is not like any other language I know already and so memorising vocabulary was harder and the verb conjugations in the past tense are difficult although not impossible!

Any books about language learning you can recommend?

I really enjoyed reading Barry Farber’s book “How to Learn any Language”. I was very privileged to meet him New York a few weeks ago and he is a hyperpolyglot who started learning languages back in the 1940s. I also enjoyed reading “Fluent in Three Months” by Benny Lewis all about his language projects so far and he gives advice on how to succeed with languages.

To learn more about Maureen’s language journey please visit her website and Facebook page.





Interview with Don Cristian Ramsey

Today we’ll introduce Don Cristian Ramsey aka “Legend of Polyglot” from Finland who already speaks an impressive number of languages for a 25 year old.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I’m a native Finnish speaker with Finnish and Sri Lankan parents. I have lived in three countries during my lifetime and travelled in quite many countries, mainly in Europe and the American continent. I’m the author of the “Legend of Polyglot” Facebook site and the manager of a DJ (FB: Amourtech). On Legend of Polyglot I record everything about my language learning journey.

This journey began already as a child when we moved to England and Estonia. There I was forced to learn foreign languages just to survive at school, which was quite tough at first. I could say that life taught me my first 5 languages and then the rest of the languages I started learning intentionally.

I’ve got a lower degree in Medicine but I dropped out before graduating in order to fulfill my real destiny and purpose in life. My language learning is an obsession and one part of that is also studying the history of every single country in the world and their culture to understand our world better. Other major passions of mine are sports and learning about technology especially as a tool for my imagination.

I practice my body which I call Taj Mahal, because our body is the temple of our soul, and my body will be the Taj Mahal of all bodies. I’m learning web design, programming, photo and video editing to bring my ideas in life in interesting projects. These aforementioned passions keep me occupied most of my time.

What languages do you speak?

I’ve got 8 languages in which I have experience in speaking, reading and writing nearly a decade in all of them except Portuguese.

Finnish – mother tongue
English – C2 – started learning in 1996
Estonian – C1 – started learning in 1997
Spanish – B2 – started learning in 2007
Swedish – B2 – started learning in 2003
Portuguese – B2 – started learning in 2012
German – B2 – started learning in 1997
Italian – B1 – started learning in 2007

I’ve got 6 languages in which my communicating is restricted and I’m still on a beginner level

French – A2 – started in 2013
Dutch – A1 – started in 2014
Hindi – beginner – started in 2014
Mandarin – beginner – started in 2014
Arabic – beginner – started in 2014
Russian – beginner – started in 2015

What is your definition of fluency?

My definition of fluency is that you’re capable of transmitting your ideas and thoughts to the other person in a certain language. Sometimes you don’t find all the words but in these cases you know how to say them in a different way or ask the native speaker how to say the thing that you want to say. The capability of getting by in almost any situation with the language skills that you have. Nobody is 100% fluent, there are so many words in even your own language that you’re not familiar in, so the important thing is to become a bit more fluent every day.

How has your strategy to learn new languages changed over the years?

The best and most efficient way for me to learn languages was when I lived abroad and I just had to learn the language in order to communicate with other people. I don’t remember anymore how it happened.

In high school I started learning the first languages with the intentional purpose of learning them, they were Italian and Spanish. After a few courses I forced myself to speak Spanish with a Chilean exchange student. It worked out perfectly, in the end of his exchange I could communicate fluently in Spanish.

Maybe the biggest change in my strategy was in about 2013 or 2014 when I started concentrating quite seriously on language learning. I began using different resources for reading and learning languages. I started reading texts out loud for myself and translating different articles, which I reckoned interesting. Nowadays I sometimes speak to the microphone to hear more clearly my pronunciation in order to correct it and make it sound better. I also write down all the words that I don’t recognize while I read some foreign newspapers for example.

How has speaking multiple changes changed you as a person?

It has definitely given me more self-confidence and trust in myself because I know now that I could go basically anywhere in the world and survive because I got the skills to communicate and the intelligence to solve tricky situations. It’s also quite hard to answer because I’ve been a polyglot already since my early childhood so speaking multiple languages has been actually a part of my identity nearly all of my life. I knew four languages when I was 10 and five already when I was 13. Before high-school I didn’t even think this multilingualism part of myself that much because it’s quite common in my country to know four or five languages because everyone should speak at least the three mandatory languages which are taught in the elementary school and in addition many people take one or two optional languages. So somehow the change hasn’t been that big even though I’ve learned many new languages in the past years.

What keeps you motivated to keep learning?

The moments when you realize that all the hard work was worth it.
The feeling that you get when you’re communicating fluently with people from other countries and you understand each other perfectly.
The ease of life while traveling when you speak the local language and have to handle situations which would be quite hard if you didn’t speak the local language.
The excitement when you understand a new language for the first time when you hear it in a movie or with a real person, you feel like a door has opened to a new world, which was locked before and the walls have vanished around this new exciting world.

Which resources do you normally use most?

I’ve used Duolingo since September 2013. I use it to strengthen my grammar and to learn new vocabulary.
I use occasionally Memrise for languages that aren’t still in Duolingo and for example to learn the scripts of Hindi, Arabic and Chinese.
Readlang is a great new resource which I found recently, I use it to learn more vocabulary.
LearnWithOliver was a great finding and I’m using it to learn Russian initially but I’ll definitely use if for other languages too.
ChineseSkill is a great application, which I use to learn Mandarin. The user interface is so pretty and simple.
I have Complete Mandarin, Arabic and Hindi books to get the basic understanding of the language and I like to learn using a physical book as well.
I also have to mention Google Translate which I use only in languages that I know to remind about the words that I might have forgotten but which I recognize when I see them.

Have you ever started a new language and then given up for some reason?

When I start learning a language it means that it’s a lifelong commitment. My language learning will continue until I die and I will try to reach as high fluency as possible during my lifetime. The only language that I haven’t continued was Latin, which I learned in high school for one course. I’m not a fan of dead or constructed languages. I will not put effort in learning these and I didn’t even have the intention of studying Latin much further than the basics.

I have the aim of learning ten most widely-spoken languages in the world and become as fluent as possible. Every now and then I’ve tried something in Duolingo, for example Turkish, Irish or Danish. So I haven’t quit any language that I have started seriously learning and the secret of my current language level is the fact that I have continued learning more every single language that I have started in my life.

How much time do you spend learning languages per day or per week?

It depends a lot now when I have school, but I aim to learn at least 1-2 hours per day. When I have more time it’s maybe about 3-4 hours. First I strengthen all the languages which I’ve studied quite long. Then I continue to the new languages with the intention of learning the logic of them as well as possible. I spend more time to learn new languages and the time that I put in learning my fluent languages I try to use it learning new things that I don’t understand yet. It’s important to go out of your comfort zone and search for more complex articles to become more fluent even though it feels quite uncomfortable not to understand what you’re reading or hearing.

Which language you learned did you find most/least challenging and why?

German is really hard grammar-wise, I can communicate in German quite easily but to speak grammatically perfectly is really much more demanding than in Spanish or Swedish for example.
Taking in consideration the script, I would say that Arabic and Mandarin are the hardest. I still have a lot of work in both of these. The hardest languages to pronounce are Russian, Arabic and French. Hindi and Estonian have also some sounds which are a bit hard to pronounce.
The least challenging languages are by far Swedish, Spanish and Dutch. Swedish and Dutch have the easiest grammar that I’ve seen but the fact that I spoke English and German already before learning these both helped me a lot to memorize the vocabulary of these languages. As a learning experience Portuguese was one of the easiest. I started Portuguese in 2012 and I was already fluent in Spanish and Italian, so only after a couple of weeks I could communicate with it. It’s no surprise because about 80% of Portuguese is the same than in Spanish. The hardest part was only to learn the logic how to pronounce the words in Portuguese.

Do you dream in a foreign language?

This is a great question because I have seen dreams in foreign languages for years. I have spoken so many languages in my dreams and many of these dreams I’ve recorded on my dream journal. Always when I’ve heard sentences or words in new languages I have seen dreams where I use them. This happened me at least in Portuguese and Chinese for years ago when I hadn’t even started learning them. Usually in my dreams I’m in a situation where I have to use that particular language that I’m speaking and sometimes everything goes wrong or I realize that I pronounced the sentence so incorrectly, then I wake up and pronounce it correctly.

Words stick quite well into my memory, I will see dreams about new words and sometimes they pop up into my mind and then I repeat them for myself. This repeating and visualizing different situations happens unconsciously nearly every day, so I’m practically repeating foreign words nearly all the time if I’m not occupied with something else.

To learn more about Don Cristian Ramsey, please visit his website and Facebook Page.

Interview with language teacher Christine Konstantinidis

Christine Konstantinidis1

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. What languages do you speak?

I am German and I am a language teacher for several languages (mostly Italian). Besides, I run the blog “Erfolgreiches Sprachenlernen, write the blog for CourseFindersGermany and have a real passion for everything related to languages, learning techniques and time management. I speak German, English, French, Italian and Spanish, and I can translate Latin texts. I have also begun to learn Dutch and Portuguese, but having so many other projects I had to stop learning on a regular basis. This year in April, I published my first book “Sprachen lernen – Tolle Tipps und Tricks”, now it is available in German, I am currently working on the English and the Italian translation.

Sprachenlernen rot klein

When you learn a new language do you always follow the same strategy?

My strategies are more or less the same. I do not like using classical textbooks and I do not like the separation of learning and life. I think the most successful strategy for me is to integrate my languages into my daily life. I write mails to friends abroad, I have language partners who I speak with on a regular basis, I read books and blogs in my learning language, I listen to podcasts and I watch films and videos. I love computer-based learning, so I use some apps and computer programmes, even for vocabulary. However, this strategy only works for the modern languages, for Latin it is different. Here I have to use a classical textbook and I have to study grammar in a very structured and theoretical way.

How has your strategy to learn new languages changed over the years?

My strategy has changed a lot over the years, because I use the internet a lot – and ten years ago and even three or five years ago, the possibilities were rather limited. There were almost no blogs, no programmes and no apps. Nobody had a smartphone or a laptop – so my learning has definitely changed considerably.

Do you have a favourite language?

I do not really have a favourite language, but there are preferences that change from time to time depending on my goals. I love Spanish as I have found some very friendly and helpful language partners and a competent and patient teacher from Bolivia. French is also a great language – my language tutor Mathieu has been a good choice – and as my daughter lives near the French border now I can use French quite often.

Are there any language blogs or podcasts you follow closely?

I read many blogs on a regular basis, for example Benny Lewis’ “Fluent in three months”, Olly Richards’s “I will teach you a language”, “Languages around the Globe”, Lena’s “Sprachenlust”, “Sprachheld” and many others.

The same for podcasts. There are so many great podcasts, for example “The Actual Fluency Podcast”, “Creative Language Learning”, “Effortless English”, “English with Kirsty”, “I Will Teach You A Language”, “Real Fast Spanish”.

Which resources do you normally use most?

I use podcasts, blogs, apps and computer programmes. My favourite apps are Memrise, Babbel, HelloTalk and my Spanish verb trainer. I also love my iPod and my tablet (for reading e-books). I follow the Spanish course Fluencia and I love the Italki site. Facebook is a good idea for using a language – you can participate in language groups, you can comment, watch videos, read articles. As I said before I am a computer learner. Other resources are books, films, CDs, newspapers and magazines I buy in the countries themselves – authentic material.

What keeps you motivated to keep learning?

In my opinion, a language does not subsist on the drill and the grammar rules, but on the different cultures and points of view, the sound, the mimic, the gesticulation, the friendships, the culinary pleasures, the music – all these points make a language beautiful! The passion for the language and the country is what counts – and that is the most important condition for successful and motivated learning!

What would you recommend a new language learner? How to get started? And what point would you recommend to read up on grammar?

I would recommend the following strategy:

  1. Start now.

  2. Set a smart, realistic and measurable goal.

  3. Take a positive view of your learning sessions.

  4. Be well organised.

  5. Eliminate disruptive elements

  6. Write a list of activities you like (use the list when lacking motivation).

  7. Write a study plan.

  8. Find out what to learn and where to get information.

  9. Make breaks.

  10. Repeat adequately and variedly.

  11. Change your strategy if your goal changes.

  12. Have fun and do not panic!

How important do you think is talent when learning a language?

I think talent is not important. Successful learners are more disciplined, work hard on reaching their goals and are focussed on their priorities. They are patient and use the perfect learning methods. That is why they are successful.

How much time do you spend learning languages per day or per week?

I use all my languages every day, not only during my learning sessions but also in my daily life. Therefore, it is difficult to estimate how much time I spend on learning. In fact, I learn all day long. I am not a big fan of separating learning time and lifetime. You can perfectly combine both.

You know you’re a language nerd when…

You are aware of every single mistake on signposts. You also like reporting the mistakes to your friends and partners. You see a word and try to find ten examples for using it in different contexts and languages. Not to mention the endless grammar points you explain all day long – to everybody who wants to know and who does not!

To learn more about Christine Konstantinidis, please visit her German blog To buy her book please click here. 

50 languages and beyond!

Today we’ll interview Zach Krisl who has studied 50 languages at the tender age of sixteen.

Tell us about yourself!

Hello world! My name is Zach Krisl. I’m sixteen years old and I live in the American Midwest. I’ve been seriously studying language since December of 2013. Before that, I had taken roughly a year and a half of Spanish in school, but language wasn’t really important to me. For some reason, I picked up a German book that day in December, and my interest exploded. Within a month I had begun studying around 10 languages, and by now, I’ve at least dabbled in over fifty languages. By no means do I “speak” all of these languages, but I like to say I’m a “practicing polyglot” or a “polyglot in training”.

What languages do you speak?

So, as I said before, I’ve dabbled in over fifty languages, but my top three aside from English would be Spanish, German, and Serbo-Croatian. Over all, I have probably a total of five or six languages I could survive on, but I wouldn’t say I SPEAK them, simply because I learn more every day, and I will always be ABLE to learn more every day.

Do you dream in a foreign language?

Well, it isn’t often, but I have dreamt in foreign languages. Which for me is really surprising, because the languages I DO dream in, are the ones of which I don’t know much. I mean, I’ve heard that if you dream in a language, that it means you’re fluent in said language, but I know for a FACT that that is not true, because I have dreamt in French, Russian, Chinese, etc.… and yet I have trouble speaking Chinese and Russian when I am awake sometimes.

What do you think of constructed languages? Would you be interested in learning one?

Well, I am currently learning two constructed languages, Interlingua and Esperanto. I LOVE the idea of them, but at the same time… they have their downfalls. They’re simple to learn, and the concept of having a “World Language” or a “Universal Language” is great… but as of now, not very practical. Along with this, the other main downfall is that they don’t have a culture. To me, to learn a language is not just to memorize vocab words and work on grammar… but it’s also to have a nice time at a tapas bar in Spain, enjoy Japanese anime, eat some authentic Korean Kimchi, or maybe some Norwegian Lefse or German Rouladen.

Do you always follow the same strategy when learning a new language?

Definitely not. Each language is unique and so no two languages, in my opinion, can be tackled the same way. I use similar techniques for certain languages, but almost never the same. One thing I always try is to learn a third language from a second language. What I mean it that, well, for example. I am learning many Slavic languages, (Serbo-Croatian, Bosnian, Czech, Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, and Slovenian) of these seven, Serbo-Croatian is the one of which I know the most. So, instead of translating from English to Russian, I do Serbian to Russian. I love this technique because it teaches me new vocab while also helping me to remember and retain the same vocab in a different language.

How has your strategy to learn new languages changed over the years?

Mostly, it’s simply that I’ve been putting more time into it. The first time I attempted to learn a language was when I was in 5th grade. I loved anime at the time, and so I wanted to know what they were ACTUALLY saying on Naruto, rather than having to read the subtitles along the bottom. I eventually found some online resources, but didn’t really know where to go from there. I learned to read Japanese, and learned to pronounce the letters and such. I also learned some basic grammar… that was my mistake I think. That right away I went to grammar, rather than learn vocab first. After that, maybe a year later, I tried to learn Greek, as I loved the Greek myths we were covering in school. This one, I didn’t even get as far as I did with Japanese. I managed to memorize the alphabet in roughly an hour or two, but past that, nada. I didn’t really understand how to learn a language until I took Spanish for the first time in school. I feel that if you learn one language, you learn how to learn, and you then are able to learn others much easier. The first one is always the hardest in my opinion.

Which resources do you normally use the most?

Well, I really enjoy the Memrise app, and also Duolingo. Duolingo is actually what helped me first start out on my German, and from there, I began to work hard with it, and it came naturally from there. I enjoy duolingo and Memrise because they make learning the languages like a game, rather than work. Of course, for me, the work of learning them is fun, but I understand that it isn’t for everyone. Otherwise though, I have never worked really with any of the major language learning programs like Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur, although I have heard both good and bad about both.

What is your definition of fluency?

For me, even if I were to know every word in a language, I wouldn’t consider myself fluent in the language unless I knew everything about its culture too. Because for me, to be fluent means not just being able to count to a million, or being able to get around a city. For me, you need to know about the country, the people, the food, etc. A prime example. I heard a joke in Spanish, and understood every single word, and yet didn’t understand the joke at all. Everyone else was laughing ridiculously, and yet I was left out of it. It turned out to be referencing a children’s show in Mexico, one that they had all seen, but I had not.  These are the things I’m talking about, fluency depends on more than just your amount of known words.

What would you recommend a new language learner? How to get started?

Treat yourself like a child. Learn to speak first. Don’t try to start writing right away if it has an alphabet you need to learn. How I so often start it now, is I treat myself like I’m in kindergarten. I learn my colors, how to write my name, body parts, etc. Simple things. I always enjoy learning Head Shoulders Knees and toes also, because I’m just awesome like that. As I was saying, I make sure to get an okay grasp of spoken language before I begin writing. And the other thing, is learn simple things first. Don’t try to learn medical terms in Chinese before you learn your colors, or else you will be so confused. And the final part of this is to try to find someone who can help you. We all need help sometimes, and so finding someone you can talk with and get help from is so important. If you can’t find someone, that’s okay, but I seriously don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have helpers.

How has speaking multiple languages changed you as a person?

If anything, it has probably made me a much creepier person ha-ha. For example, a while back, a friend of mine and I were walking in the store, and I heard someone speaking Swahili around the corner. I nearly ran out of my shoes in an attempt to go and speak to this person, as Swahili is a language I don’t get to speak often. I get to the end of the isle, and with a cry of “KISWAHILI!” I knock over a middle aged woman.  Or one other thing I do that my mom absolutely hates, is when in public I sometimes… well, speak with an accent. I think to myself, “These people don’t know me, and I NEED to improve my German Accent” or I also do French or Russian accents. And so, with that, if I’m with my mom, she calls me either Hans, Pierre, or Vladimir (Yes, I know, the most stereotypical names ever, but oh well). And I agree that it’s kind of weird, but I am NOT insane, and it actually DOES help for when I’m actually speaking these languages, despite the stares I may get in the dairy section.

Do you watch movies to practice your languages?

I do watch some movies in different languages, but much more often I listen to music in different languages and have radio apps for over 20 different countries (Shout out to South Africa. I turned on South African radio at midnight here, which would be 6 am in South Africa, and they’re jamming out to Tupac, whoop whoop). And here, more than likely the manliest thing you’ve ever heard: I can sing “Let it Go” from Frozen in 25 languages. Yay for my masculinity! Next Question!

You know you’re a language nerd when…

You know you’re a language nerd when you specifically MEMORIZE the phrase “One language is never enough” in 50 languages. Or when you have anything in common with me. Like, at all. Though that could also mean you’re: a nerd in general, kind of chubby, incredibly handsome, a genius, straight up charming, an internet freak, or just amazing in general.