What do you think is the advantage of teaching yourself a language, and finding your own method in comparison with following a regular course or enrolling in a language program?
The advantage is huge because first, you do things that interest you. Imagine you had to learn German and talk about something that is not interesting to you at all. While learning by yourself you can choose to talk about exactly what you like and that will make the learning process more efficient for you.
A big problem is that many people just don’t believe they can do it. One of the first things I think you should do if you want to learn a language is to learn how to learn. This isn’t something a lot of schools and universities around the world do.
I think most polyglots in the world are self-learners. Some of them do go to school, but even when they do, they still learn a lot by themselves.
I’m sure you get to travel a lot. What are people’s opinions in general when you travel and talk to them in regard to your ability to speak with them in their native languages? How do they usually react?
This depends on the country. For example, I look like a Southern European so if I go to some place and start speaking Spanish, a lot of people would take me for a Spaniard, so I don’t surprise them. For Spaniards, what surprises them is my accent.
For others the matter fact I’m speaking the language is a big surprise. In Russia for example, if you speak the language well, and don’t look like a Russian, they would be very surprised and impressed, and that makes me feel like I’m part of the family. The reactions are usually of positive shock.
It is always possible to succeed and do things that people usually don’t think they can do. Can you tell us a little bit about the power that can be found in relying on one’s self such as self-teaching.
I think I’ve made it pretty clear during this interview that learning a language is not just something that you do for the sake of it. Why did I learn 11 languages? Every time I learn another language a new world opens up.
The world is becoming so globalized that speaking only English is not sufficient anymore. There is value in speaking another language. Speaking languages opens up outside and the inner world.
I don’t think learning 11 languages is crazy. I think it’s crazy not to do it. Also, I have come to realize with time that learning multiple languages is not as difficult as people might think. Many people around the world can speak 5 languages because they lived in multilingual environments.
I think in 30 or 40 years, speaking 3 or 4 languages will be the norm for everybody.
The fact that I speak 11 languages doesn’t mean I’m constantly hitting the books. I found a way to keep learning languages while having a great life connecting with people. To succeed you have to create an environment to thrive.
My answer to people who ask “why learn 11 languages?” is “why not?”.
Now Luca, do you get confused sometimes when you try to switch from a language to another?
Normally it doesn’t happen because I develop a core in every language which gives me a personality for each one of them, so it’s not just about switching the language but also about switching to another world, another wavelength in my brain.
But confusion happens when I am learning a language that is very similar to a language I know. This happened to me for example when I was learning Dutch for the first time and I had been learning German for a number of years.
For a while, every time I used Dutch, words in German came out of my mouth. This happens because sometimes syntax can be very similar for different languages, or when I find myself surrounded by people speaking many different languages at the same time, and I try to communicate with them by switching the language every 30 seconds, that can be tiring, maybe not confusing, but tiring.
What would be your message to the readers of Youth Time magazine and more specifically to the people who don’t think that self-learning can be a successful way to learn a language and to monolinguals around the world?
First, speaking multiple languages is amazing, and it’s never a waste of time. You never know what’s going to happen in your life because of a language you’ve learned.
Second, you have to understand and believe that learning a language is easier than most people think. The process is made difficult because of the popular use of methods that just don’t work. I’ve prepared a free series where I give away over 3 hours of advice of my best tips to help people get started with language learning.
Visit my blog and sign up for the free series www.thepolyglotdream.com