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Will John is a professional soccer player who is currently closing in on his ninth language! In this episode of the English LingQ Podcast Elle chats with Will about his career, how he learned all those languages and the exciting new channel he has created to help other language learners.
Elle: Hello everyone and welcome to the LingQ podcast with me Elle. If you are studying English, remember that you can study this podcast episode as a lesson on LingQ. I’ve added the transcript and the audio and created a lesson just for you. You can find the link to it in the description. If you have never used LingQ before, it’s an excellent way to study a language. You can study from anything you’re interested in. So take an Italian blog post or a Russian news article, Japanese movie, whatever it is, you can create a lesson with it on LingQ, work through the words and phrases that you don’t know, creating your own personal database.
It’s a fantastic way to learn from content you’re actually interested in and make a breakthrough in your target language. Speaking of making a breakthrough, if you would like to challenge yourself, we have a challenges page on LingQ in many different languages. So I’ve also popped the link to that page in the description. I’m actually starting a French 90-Day Challenge this September.
So I will be challenging myself to reach targets each day. And actually my goal is to read a novel in French for the first time over the 90 days. So join me if you want to level up in your target language, doesn’t have to be French, can be whichever language you’re studying. If you’re listening on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, wherever, please show us some love. Give us a like, or share a follow. We really, really appreciate it. This week I am joined by someone a little different. You guys are used to me interviewing YouTubers and this week’s guest is a YouTuber, but he’s also a professional soccer player. THis week I am joined by professional soccer player, YouTuber and polyglot Will John. Will, thank you so much for joining us.
Will: Thank you. It’s always good to be back and talk about languages. So I’m excited.
Elle: Great. And whereabouts in the world are you joining us from today?
Will: I am in Croatia. So I’m in Zagreb, Croatia, obviously originally from the U S but I play football over here and in Zagreb.
Elle: Excellent. Okay. And it’s your evening in Zagreb?
Will: It is evening. It is 7.15 In the evening. It is a nice chill afternoon.
Elle: Lovely. THat’s a part of the world I really need to get to, Croatia. One day. Um, so you’re playing soccer there?
You keep calling it soccer and with that accent, it just doesn’t sound right.
Elle: I’m trying. I know I was going to say in the beginning, soccer or football and I have the impulse to say football, but, uh, yes, yeah of course.
Will: No, I played, I played outside of the US you know, I played, I played in the MLS and, uh, I grew up playing soccer in the US but uh, since then playing outside of Europe, I’ve gotten used to calling it football.
And in my house, my dad is from Nigeria and we would call it football. You float in between. It’s not a big deal, but yeah it’s football for all these years.
Elle: Okay. Oh, so you say football yourself? Okay. So I’m going to say football from now on. It feels right. I feel strange saying soccer. Um, so good based in Croatia now for the next little while?
So at least yeah the season is just starting. Seasons in Europe, most of them start in August and they’ll end in May or June. So we’ll have a break there in the winter and because of COVID, you know, I have not been back to the US. This Is the longest I’ve been outside of the US. Normally in between my seasons I will, um, I will go back, uh, at least for a little bit, but it’s been almost two years. I think it will be two years.
Will: You know? Uh…
Will: Yeah, one of those things. So I’m enjoying it. I feel very comfortable outside, you know, as a professional football or you spend a few times, I’ve spent a large part of my career in Scandinavia.
Uh, large chunk in Serbia and in Croatia. This is my second stint in, in, in Zagreb. So I know this place very well. I speak the language and, you know, it’s, it’s a whole lot of fun.
Elle: Amazing. So it’s just taking you all over the world at this soccer playing career. That’s very cool.
Will: I think, I think in, uh, Steve and I probably talked about this in the last, uh, I think I’ve been to 60 countries? I think so, but I need to make a count and it’s all because of soccer. If that, I think there’s only maybe three countries that were not, three or four, that and were not soccer related.
Elle: Wow. You need to get one of those maps or you scratch off the foil scratch off countries. You’ve been to, put a pin in there.
I’ll get to them all eventually.
Elle: Yeah. Yeah.
Um, so let’s talk about soccer before we kind of move into the languages. Um, when did you know that you, I’m, I’m assuming it’s from a really young age, you realized you wanted to pursue soccer as a professional career.
Will: That is a question I get a lot and as a footballer, most, most guys don’t have a moment I’ve noticed, but I have very specific, I have a very specific story. Number one, my father was a professional footballer himself. So it was always part of, it was always part of my upbringing, but I never considered it. Uh, I had almost a, uh, uh, an insane, an epiphany one day when I don’t, and I don’t remember to this date, I don’t know why I wasn’t in school, but I wasn’t. I dunno if I was pretending to be sick because I wanted to watch the game or what the deal was. But, uh, someone scored a goal in the Champions League Final. This is in the year 2000 Real Madrid was Valencia, 1-0. I can remember everything about it.
I just happened to be, you know, at home it was, I shouldn’t have been. And, uh, this guy scored a header, Fernando Morientes scored a header and went off on this crazy celebration. I mean, he ran from the goal like 70 yards back to his bench to celebrate with his team. And I had the chills the entire time. And I’ve talked about this, I’ve told this story on, on one of our podcasts, um, that we have.
And, uh, it was then that I just knew I’m supposed to do this. That was what I knew I was supposed to do. What I’m doing now and that’s pretty early. I think I was 15. Uh, yeah. And so that’s basically the moment that I knew. And then I left college early, um, which is hilariously another one of my funny stories on the podcast, because I know exactly where I was sitting.
And I know the moment where I said, I’m not going back to class. And, uh, just a few months I went pro so that’s my story.
Elle: The Eureka moment. Um, so you were 15 and how is your, uh, your goal celebration now? Do you ha… do you do something wild and crazy because of that? Or are you more subdued?
Will: Oh, no, I’m I’m, I guess I’m somewhat in between, you know, it’s… the funny thing, when you score goals, I’ve played in all sorts of different clubs on all different parts of the world. Play, uh, you play at clubs where there’s, you know, 40 to 50,000 people.
And then I’ve played at clubs where there’s not a lot of fans at all. Like I say not a lot, just a few thousand, right? Or you have big stadiums, but empty crowds and stuff like that. Uh, and so, um, your celebration, it’s a lot of adrenaline. It’s really hard to explain. Strikers, and I’m not a true striker, they’re adrenaline junkies, but scoring goals is like being an adrenaline junkie. You want that feeling over and over again, and the higher the stakes, the better, you know, the better, it feels the, if it’s the last second of the game, you start chasing that stuff. And, um, when you start to have success with it, it just is, you know, so yeah, to, to, to answer your question, my celebrations depend on the moment.
Uh, but, uh, they’re not that subdued. I tend to have fun. I might do something dancing, you know…
Elle: Nice! No back flips or anything?
Will: Funny you should mention backflips. Two years ago, I decided that I would learn how to do a back flip. And it wasn’t because it wasn’t because for a celebration, everybody then was like, you got to do that as your celebration, you know, like, that’s your new celebrate?
I’m like, no, I just wanted to do a back flip. Uh, and, um, so yeah, I just went to a gym, uh, sorry I went to the place where the gymnast, uh, like, uh, I don’t know what you would call that gymnastic setup. And they’re like all these little, little girls and, uh, you know, honestly, mainly, mainly little girls, but they have an open gym where adults come in.
And so before that, the little girls are in there and they’re doing like triple axe flip, back flip flying through the air. You have no idea how they’re doing it. They have no fear and I’m like, okay, can I do this back flip? Like, I’m just like barely trying to do it, like a little kid. So yeah. Anyway, that’s what’s up.
Elle: And did you, can you do a back flip?
Will: I can, I can I, can I learned it in an hour. It’s not that hard. It’s getting over your fear. Like everything is the, is the thing.
Elle: Okay. Yeah.
I was going to say, you learned it in an hour? I remember trying, I kind of have done a back flip in high school and it did not take me an hour and I was terrified. So I think you’re definitely right. You need to just switch off, if you can, the fear that you’re going to break your neck, because it really feels like you’re going to break your neck. As soon as someone, they come away, you know they’re holding your back. And then as soon as they’re not holding your back anymore, it’s like, ah, am I going to die?
Elle: Yeah. Okay. So you mentioned there that, you said you’re not a true striker. I don’t know football, soccer, whatever you want to call it at all, I have to admit. So what position do you, do you play?
Will: I’m uh, I’m an attacking midfielder, uh, or what would be considered more, a second striker. So, uh, for those of, of the people who don’t really aren’t into soccer, uh Ibrahimović is, uh, if you know who that is, Zlatan Ibrahimović generally a fairly famous person or all right, we’ll go with, uh, Lionel Messi, uh, who you, hopefully have heard of.
Elle: Yes. I know Messi. I know who Messi is. Yes.
Will: Messi’s not a true striker. He’s a guy that plays a little underneath. He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s really technical. He’s really good with his feet. That’s my style and position. I’m also left-footed. I like to run a little bit behind where we try to cause problems without being the main guy.
Those big number nine, uh, striker guys, they get a lot of the attention from the big defenders. I try to avoid those big tackles with those guys.
Elle: Okay. Okay. That sounds wise. Does that mean you get less chance to score then or how does that work?
Will: It means I have to be more creative. I’m more involved in the buildup of the play.
It means, it doesn’t mean that I won’t get a whole lot of chances to score. You do. Um, but it’s generally the guy who’s your, generally, we call that number nine, he’s the striker. That guy’s always at the near the goal. He’s, that’s your job, just score goals. You know, it’s my, my job to provide and you know, to score.
Elle: I see. Okay. So let’s talk a little about the languages then. So as I mentioned in your intro there. Um, maybe I didn’t. You speak, you know eight languages? And you mentioned before we started recording that you’re closing in on your ninth language. So, um, first off, what are those languages? And I’m interested to know if you kind of moved into, as you moved around the world, did you collect these languages?
Were there extras? So yeah, first off what languages do you know?
Will: Okay. So I’ll, I’ll, I’ll the easiest way for me to do this as chronologically, uh, because I always forget when I try and tell people. Um, my, my mom thought it would be a great idea for me to learn Spanish when I was very, very young. Um, so I did not watch English, um, cartoons when I would come back from school and she also got me, she placed me into a Spanish like tutor, uh, class for some few kids after school. So, uh, Spanish was pretty heavy when I was little and I didn’t even realize I could speak it, but by the time I was 13, 14, my comprehension was excellent. Um, and, uh, I took a liking to languages then came, uh, Italian and French. Both of those languages were collected without going to the countries. I had not… my Italian is great and I have four or five days in Italy. So for those people out there that think they have to go there to learn, it’s nonsense, you have more than enough resources. Now, back then I had to go to the college library and find a TV that had RAI uh, their, their news, uh, thing to listen to Italian. So, uh, that’s Spanish, French, Italian, those are, those are those then German, which I’ve been to quite a bit.
I learned alone, uh, Croatian that’s from here, Danish, because I played there, uh, in Denmark, uh, Russian, because I played in Baku, Azerbaijan, and decided to learn Russian. Um, and, uh, did I still forget one after all? Uh, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Danish, Croatian, Russian, English. And right now closing in on number nine will be Swedish because I spent most of my time during the pandemic in Sweden.
Uh, so, yeah.
Elle: Swedish. I’ve heard tha,. I kind of dabbled a bit with Swedish too, but I heard it’s generally easy to learn coming from an English background. How are you finding it?
Will: Uh, after having learned Danish, which is pretty interesting. I moved to Sweden and started when I was there. Just for fun.
I would speak Danish to people. They were not having it. They make so much fun of Danish. The pronunciation is very different. I mean, they make fun of each other a whole lot, but my vocab was, was great. And if you’re an English speaker and you’re wanting to learn a Scandinavian language, Swedish is pretty, pretty easy.
Elle: Okay, excellent. Uh, did you with the languages, did you decide, you know, in your teens or as a kid that you wanted to be someone who spoke lots of languages or did it just kind of happen as you moved around in your career?
Will: Uh, I can, I can say pretty comfortabl this was by design. Uh, but I guess you could also say not, right?
I didn’t, I didn’t forcethat moment on me, on myself when I was 15, uh, that kind of put this, put these, the wheels in motion. Uh, but when I was 16, I read, uh, The Count of Monte Cristo. Uh, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that book, uh, but it’s about a guy who more or less goes through some challenges uh, to become the hero of the story.
He has to overcome learning languages, understanding all sorts of math and physics, and being able to travel the world and doing all that stuff. And I really, it had a very large impact on my, on my youth, my youthful mind, uh, at 16. And so I thought this is what I want. I want to be able to learn 10 languages.
I said that I wanted 10 and I was 16 then. Uh, and so we are 20 years from that now, and I’m at nine. So I underestimated my ability. Um, I think I’ll, I’ll be able to go past that. I, I have the desire to, but, uh, no, it was very much by design. I, the methods for getting it done, that was chaotic, you know, uh, trying to figure out how to learn a language, uh, and what the best way is for you yourself, you know, specifically or…
that’s that, that was the challenge.
Elle: Right. And what kind of methods have you landed on then? Do you, have you honed the methods that you use and that you’re now using for Swedish?
Um, which is… funny enough that, that’s what we’re going to be getting into in our new YouTube channel, which is Goluremi languages.
Uh, because going through that was, it was like I said, very tough. And so now, yeah, it’s a combination of a lot of things that you guys do. Uh, because comprehension is, is, is, um, incredibly useful. And one of the cool things about LingQ is finding, um, finding information, I guess you could say that’s comprehensible at a level that you are, uh, and that’s also interesting, but at your level, when you’re a beginner in a language is so important and so hard, because it’s really hard.
Okay. If you’re going to learn English, there’s a lot of resources, admittedly Spanish. Yes.
But for many of the other, other languages you need to find something that you can read that’s comprehensible that you can listen to, that you can understand immediately, you know, the natural approach and learning things from, uh, I believe his name is Stephen Krashen, uh, is, is who came up with, with that understanding that that is important.
And TPRS, uh, for the people that, you know, teaching proficiency through storytelling, right? Uh, through reading and storytelling.
Will: Those were huge boosts. Uh, I definitely, when I started German, I made the mistake of going the grammar route at first thinking, they said the grammar is tough in German and you got to understand it.
And I said, okay, I’ll understand it. Let me go and try and dive in… disaster for the first, you know, couple of weeks. You almost want to, you want to give up, throw the books out the window. So. It’s very simple. Yeah.
Now I start off with very, very basic, I find the most basic of basic things to listen, to, uh, and speak.
And I enjoy writing, uh, as well. So when I write all my notes are hardly in English. Um, so yeah, I break down and I will break down a whole lot more of my, my method over there on Goluremi Languages.
Elle: Yeah, let’s talk about the channel. So you have two channels. So the Will John channel is all about soccer skills. So you teach soccer skills and now this new channel Goluremi is going to be focused on language learning?
So what, uh, everybody who’s checking us out can see what we do is kind of a fun level up thing that a lot of polyglots are doing as well. So I will just go into the street and just start randomly talking to people and it’s a whole lot of fun. So the first video out, you can just see me in the Mall of Scandinavia, actually in Sweden, just finding random people to talk to in different languages and all the craziness that that happens with with that and surprising foreigners, uh, you know, with that it’s, which is fun over here in this part of the world is there’s not a whole lot of black people that speak Russian or, uh, Croatian in these Eastern European languages.
So it’s always funny for them. But, um, yeah, we have more than that channel. So, I mean, the company has, we have a podcast channel as well, which is called the 11th Commandment and, uh, we have all sorts of guests on and that’s where Steve, uh, actually was, was on as well. So, so yeah, we’re, we’re busy.
Elle: So what can people who will go and subscribe to your language learning channel and the podcast, what can they expect for the next little while? What type, what kind of content?
Will: Okay. So yeah, we are going to do a whole lot more of obviously the level ups and doing a whole lot of surprise, but the idea will be to, and you’ll see this in the channel intro, which is, uh, the, the video that’s up there, there right now.
Um, the idea will be to give people a simple avenue into learning how the best polyglots have, what they, you know, what they’re doing because that’s one of the things that I fight and combat against in, on our soccer channel is that, of course, now that anybody can just make a video, you probably want to make sure you’re getting, at least from some people who can show. You wouldn’t go to, don’t come to me to learn Chinese because I don’t speak Chinese. You really don’t want to listen to me about that. I won’t teach Chinese. I promise you, uh, and, uh, so in that it’s, it’s our hope that we can have people like Steve on, um, and that we will do a lot of these and I’ll actually want to display, um, a lot.
So we will have subtitles for everything of course, but I will, it’s always fun to see conversations, uh, in tons of different languages, always with English subtitles, and hopefully as we grow our community, um, we’ll have plenty of other, other subtitles for people, but, uh, we’ll have top five videos on best way to learn Spanish, the best way to learn X Y and Z language. And we’ll do some of those interviews just in, in those languages. And we’ll bring on different people like that in order to do that. And on the podcast channel, we, we bring on some of those interesting people. I just got off now with a guy who was a former mercenary because of what’s going on in Afghanistan.
We thought it would be cool to have somebody on to speak about what’s going on in the world and stuff like that. We’ve had, you know, all, all sorts of people from, you know, obviously we have footballers on somebody like Steve, a former Canadian diplomat is also cool, cool to have on, uh, yeah. They come from all walks of life.
The idea is just to learn from people who are doing really, really cool things and, uh, talk to them about their stories and just hear interesting things.
Elle: Fantastic. Well, it sounds amazing, super interesting. And I especially love the, the whole, you know, approaching people and speaking to them in their, in their language, those types of videos.
Will: Always fun
Elle: Yeah. A lot of fun. Yeah.
Listen Will, thank you so, so much for joining me today. It was a great chat and, um, yeah, I’ll pop the links to your two channels and to the podcast that you mentioned, uh, today in the description. So everyone go check them out for sure. Uh, yeah. Thank you so much for joining us and have a great rest of your evening in Croatia, in Zagreb.
Will: I will. Thanks a lot. I will throw one more thing out there. All of the clips for languages are also on Tik ToK, so that’s just Goluremi, yes. They’re all, the Goluremi Languages and all that stuff. It’s all on Tik TOK as well if you’re just, if you’re a bite-size social media type person who can only pay attention for 30 seconds, Tik Tok’s your friend.
Elle: Yeah. All you Tik Tok teens out there. I feel like I’m too old for the whole Tik Tok thing. I don’t, I can’t. Okay. Cheers Will, thank you so much. Bye.
Will: See ya.