Pronouncing well doesn’t mean pronouncing perfectly, it may require deliberate effort. That was my experience when learning Mandarin and French. In subsequent languages the pronunciation just came to me.
Hi there, Steve Kaufmann here and today I’m going to talk about pronunciation. Remember if you enjoy these videos, please subscribe, click on the bell for notification. And for those of you who listen on Apple Podcasts, please feel free to leave a review. We greatly appreciate it. So pronunciation, the reason I want to talk about pronunciation is actually two things that happened today. First of all, I had, we had house guests, my wife and I. These are very good friends, we knew them from Japan, uh, he was a consul general in Osaka. Uh, he was a language student of Japanese way back when I knew him in the early seventies, he married a Japanese girl.
And so, you know, we’ve seen them from time to time over the last 50 years. They live in Kelowna. They came by on their way to Whistler and they overnighted with us and we have, of course, we just talked forever, went for walks and, uh, we were talking about wine and he referred… and he speaks French and he said, uh, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon.
You know, I’ve heard people say Sauvignon Blanc. He didn’t, at least he didn’t say Blanc. And I thought to myself, he knows, I mean, we have the sound in English. It’s not Sauvignon it’s Sauvignon. So we have the word, we have that “o” sound in English. Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc. But because in English were a bit sloppy in how we pronounce things.
Now, I’m sure, but I know he’s a stickler. Like I think even in speaking French, he would say Sauvignon, it’s Sauvignon. So there’s a certain lack of attention to the sounds. You hear this all the time. And I think… I’m going to give examples in other languages where our English habits, if we’re English speakers, tend to dominate our efforts to speak the foreign language. Uh, now the other thing that was brought to my attention, and this is a, I think it was the person’s name was maybe Mike Murphy commenting here, uh, on my, uh, one of my YouTube videos about noticing that, uh, and he’s been teaching in China for a long time, and the, even with all kinds of work with the international phonetic alphabet IPA, which I find quite unhelpful, but people don’t notice certain things. And so he noticed though that a lot of Chinese people can’t pronounce the word “usually” they say… and absolutely I’ve heard so many Chinese people say…
So I’m thinking about those two things. So in English, we’re a bit lazy with our vowels. So the vowelss, we don’t say, we don’t clearly say Sauvignon. Uh, and that’s how English is, you know, we just kind of slur the vowels a little bit. We don’t give the vowels the full value, but there are languages where they do like French or Spanish or Japanese, full vowel. In Russian and in Portuguese, some of the vows kind of fall away, but in, in many languages, they want the full value for the vowel. That’s not to say that they don’t also slur. So in French, you know, we want to have a clear, you know… but people then end up saying…so that they don’t give it full value. And, you know, instead of saying… they say…
So all of these things happen, but we have to start by being able to notice the clear, clean, correct pronunciation, and we have to be able to do it. And only once we have that correct pronunciation, the ability to hear it and to reproduce that clear proper sound for that vowel in that language only then can we afford to get sloppy.
So, and going back to the Chinese example, of course, if you’ve ever been to Beijing and taken a taxi, you can, I mean, even as someone who speaks Chinese, it’s hard to follow them because it’s…it’s a very… type of, if they’re from Beijing. Uh, and so maybe that’s what carries over into the English instead of going “usually”, you know, if you really thought if that Chinese speaker would, would sort of look at it. And of course the problem in English is that the words aren’t written the way they’re pronounced. So it’s not… there’s not a soft… sounded like in French, you know, where you would have a J, which has a… sound usually has that same sound, but it’s written S U “usually”.
And of course, in most words, S U doesn’t have that, uh, you know, S value. We say Supreme, Supreme, suffer, uh, English is tough. It ain’t, it’s just tough. But I think that Chinese speakers and there’s so many of them who say… they have to sit down and look at that word and practice saying that word correctly.
And then eventually they’ll be able to incorporate that word into a sentence that they speak, you know, at normal speed. And I remember that, you know, now I’ve learned lots of languages, but French and, uh, and Chinese were my first and I actually worked hard at the pronunciation. I remember the Chinese sound… like …
we don’t have that in English. So I had to work at it and I would pronounce Chinese and I particularly remember… And to the point where the muscles here in my, in my jaw were kind of sore. Uh, I also remember trying very hard to improve my French pronunciation because even though we say like “pronunciation”, You really, if you’re an English speaker, you have to work hard to force yourself to say “pronunciation”, because the tendency from English, which, which is what our brain is set up for is to say “pronunciation” it’s not pronounced “pronunciation” it’s “pronunciation”, and it’s, it takes an extra bit of effort to give it that full value. And once you have the full value, you can then “pronunciation” you can kind of slur over it a bit, but if you don’t have that essential, you know, that core ability to make those sounds correctly, then you’re going to end up with the equivalent of “usually” that the Chinese use for usually.
And this is true in all languages. I mean, Spanish also has pure vowels and they’re not dipthongs, so it’s not “bueno” an English speaker will say “bueno”, “no bueno” or whatever. It’s “bueno”. “bueno”. We have to focus in on that. And I don’t think the, uh, international phonetic alphabet helps. I think you have to listen very carefully and then repeat very deliberately.
And, uh, you know, in a way, if you do the mini stories at LingQ you get sentence by sentence and you can hear the natural uh, you know, voice read those sentences. So you can, you can listen to the sound, text to speech for one word, but you can also hear a sentence and then try to imitate it. And when you try to imitate it, really work the jaw muscles so that you’re giving it the full value.
If in the case of, uh, if it’s Chinese, then it’s… The real… is coming in. If it’s French…if it’s, uh, you know, “bueno”, “bueno” cut that “a”, it’s not a “bueno” it’s a “bueno”. And we have to hear those things. We have to develop the ability to hear the difference between how we sound and how the native speaker sounds and focus in on some of these key sounds.
So you build up a base, the ability to make these sounds and it’s difficult at first, you might make it once, but then within a sentence, you’ll lose it. I’ll always remember in Montreal, I used to hitchhike to McGill University because you know, it was a long bus ride and there was another fellow hitchhiking and he was an immigrant from Southern Italy and we got friendly.
In fact, we ended up looking for work on construction sites in Montreal together, and his English was terrible and I was trying to help him. And, uh, so he couldn’t say small. He would always say “small”. And it was frustrating, I said saying no, no, no, no small. Uh, okay. So I would say go small. And he went “small” for whatever reason he was preprogrammed to say “small”.
Maybe he heard it from other people from Southern Italy. I don’t know. I don’t know. In the end we worked construction for a couple of months. And then I went down to the dock and I was able to hitchhike on a boat going across to Europe so I worked on a boat going across to Europe and I haven’t seen him since.
I don’t know if he still says “small”. Sounds like the… in French and in other languages where they have an…sound, that takes a lot of work. And you know, that traditional sort of suggestion is to go… put your mouth in sort of the shape to go… and then just try and say E so if you go…you’ll end up with an… even if you’re able to produce the…to get to the point where you can produce it on the fly in a phrase or a sentence, it takes a lot of practice.
Uh, so you got to notice it, you gotta practice it individually and then you want to get into doing it in sentences. So my suggestion on pronunciation is begin by really focusing, and so if you’re a Chinese speaker and you say you were really get ahold of that word, look at it, break it down, say u-su-a-lly, usually, usually, usually usually get to where you can say the word and then usually I like to go, you know, and usually when I study languages, I do this, that or the other. So throw it into a sentence. Now, second suggestion is to pronounce well there’s two things we have to do: we got to hear it and we got to be able to produce the sound. We don’t have to get a hundred percent, but more or less.
The second thing is we don’t want to resist that sound. You know, there are, we don’t want to resist anything that has to do with that language. So, you know, Swedish…and if you uh feel self-conscious about doing that, then you won’t do it.
So you’ve got to not feel self-conscious. And in that regard, I find that if you can get a hold of, in that regard our mini stories at LingQ are great because they’re kind of narrated without feeling. I enjoyed when I was learning Mandarin, I enjoyed the… dialogues because there was a lot of feeling in those, these comedians telling a story.
And, uh, I think the same when we learn languages, sometimes if we can get ahold of something that’s spoken with feeling, that we connect at an emotional level, and sometimes we can have fun with it in different languages. You know, we can say… just sort of get into the… you get into sort of almost like a situation where emotion is involved and so you, you play at the language and so that way you’re connecting, you’re creating some emotional connection. The phrasiology and the pronunciation. So I think all of those things are important.
It begins by getting a grasp on how it’s actually pronounced, uh, you know, making the effort to pronounce correctly, which is more effort. It’s an effort to say”pronunciation” “Sauvignon Blanc”. You gotta work at it until eventually it becomes natural. And then get a hold of something that you can emotionally connect to.
And then imitate when people speak with some emotion. In most situations, you won’t be, you know, kind of wrapped up in that. And, uh, but it, again, it helps. And, and I think for people having learned as many languages as I have, and I have to admit that the first few languages I worked hard on pronunciation.
And then I think that introduces a level of flexibility in the brain. So the subsequent languages, first of all, there’s a greater likelihood that there will be sounds in there that we have already noticed and been able to produce. We’re more confident, we’re less self-conscious and so things become easier.
But the first few languages, I think one has to make a special effort to get, you know, a certain minimum level of pronunciation. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but, um, yeah, when I hear Sauvignon Blanc, if the person is trying to speak French,, to me that’s just not good enough. Anyway, there you have it. Enjoy your Sauvignon Blanc.
This week on the LingQ Podcast Elle chatted with pop surrealist painter and creator Camilla d’Errico. Give it a listen, and don’t forget to click on the lesson link to study the episode as an English lesson.
Elle: Hello everyone and welcome to the LingQ podcast with me Elle. If you’re studying English, don’t forget that you can study these podcast episodes as English lessons on LingQ. Work your way through the transcript as you listen, translating words and phrases as you go. Those words and phrases will then be saved in your own personal database.
You can study them in vocabulary exercises, and they’ll be highlighted differently in future content. Excellent way to level up your English so check it out. The lesson link is in the video description. Don’t forget you can also start an English challenge on LingQ, check out the challenges page to see the different challenges that we have.
Another great way to boost your level and make a breakthrough with your English. This week. I am joined by a very cool guest. She is a comic book artist and pop surrealistic painter and creator. I’m joined today by Camilla d’Errico. Camilla, how are you?
Camilla: How are you doing, Elle?
Elle: I’m great. I’m great. Thank you. And thank you so much for joining me. You’re joining me from Vancouver Island today, right?
Camilla: That’s right? Yes. I used to live in Vancouver for, uh, oh my gosh so many years. And then just last year we moved to Vancouver Island and it’s amazing.
Elle: Yes, I bet. I got a kind of a mini tour of your places just before we recorded. It looks beautiful. How is, uh, what’s the lifestyle like on Vancouver Island?
Camilla: Island life is like being semi retired. Uh, it could, it could be because I think we moved into retirement community without meaning to, we’re just, we were like, Hey, that house looks nice. And then we’re like, wait a second. Everybody here is like, oh, like there’s no one under 70 or like ok. Yeah, so it’s, so it’s so peaceful and quiet.
You see golf cards, you know, like just motoring every day past the house. And I’m like, oh, there you go. You’re just like Phil going golfing. It’s really quiet. And honestly, it’s such a difference from, from living in Vancouver where I lived in, uh, or my husband and I, we lived in a loft that was just in the middle of downtown, right in the middle.
And it was just loud. There would be sirens honking. There would be people screaming or talking, or it was, it was quite… it’s, it’s very, very different. And I love it. I love this quiet, peaceful like life.
Elle: Excellent. It sounds lovely. It does. Camilla I want to talk a little about how you got into art essentially.
So were you always a bit of an arty child, were you always drawing doodling or did it kind of come later?
Camilla: Totally. So my mom, uh, she said that when I was born, she said my hands were that of an artist. She just knew right away that I’d be an artistic. And I mean, my mother, my mother was a midwife in Italy too. So like she saw a lot of babies.
Uh, and I don’t know. I mean, she was always so encouraging. When my mother, uh, when my parents immigrated to Canada, they ended up having a daycare center in the home, you know, they just, and I was surrounded by children all the time. And I was coloring in coloring books and painting and doing all these artistic things.
And uh, I think maybe it was meant to be, and maybe it was just that my mother was encouraging, but I always was drawn to cartoons and art and beautiful things. So yeah, it was, um, I think if I could have been, I would have been born with a crayon in my hands.
Elle: It sounds like the perfect blend. So you’re born with kind of skill and these hands and then you have parents who nurture that, especially your mum.
Camilla: So my parents, like they wanted to be… they’re um because my parents immigrated, they wanted me to have a really good life. So they, they were scared initially about like me being an artist, like, okay, you know, the starving artist is… there’s a saying for a reason, but they, so they were like, yeah, they were very encouraging, but also very practical.
And I think that really helped me develop as a professional artist. So it wasn’t just like a hobby, as soon as they realized I wanted to do this, like as a career, they’re like, okay, well you’re, if you’re going to do it, you get them to do it right. And I’m like, yup.
Elle: Is anyone in your family, were your, your parents are they artistic? Or anyone, your aunts, uncles, grandparents that you know of?
Camilla: So my mom, um, she’s artistic, and then my great aunt, my great aunt. My great, why can’t I say it? My great grandma. So she was very artistic too… and yeah, there was a, cause I guess it runs in both sides of the family.
Um, my sisters didn’t get any of it though. It was like all condensed into me. Um, just, but they’re, you know, my family, I think they’re creative thinkers and they definitely are very unique in how they approach life. And so it’s not just like, Um, yeah, so my family’s creativity kind of comes out in different ways.
And for me it was a very visual kind of way.
Elle: And did you know then from a young age that art was what you wanted to do for your career then?
Camilla: Oh yeah, I actually thought that, um, so I was really big into dinosaurs. I don’t know if you were, but I was like obsessed with dinosaurs. And I thought, oh my gosh, this is the best thing ever.
I could just have a career of drawing dinosaurs. I thought that was what a paleontologist did. When I learned that, nope, we have to go into the hot sun and dig up dinosaur bones, and then there’s all this other, and I’m like, I have the, I mean, I’ve got this skin the color of, you know, mozzarella.
So I would have burned so quick. I mean, I burn, I get sunburns just being indoors. So imagine if I had gone outside. Um, so yeah, but, and so after… and it’s funny because, um, you know, my mom being like, so like around kids all the time, we watched a lot of cartoons and it wasn’t until The Little Mermaid, the Disney movie that I was like, I turned to my mom and I’m like, oh my gosh, this is so… I love this so much.
And my mom mentioned, she was like, yeah, well, that’s somebody, you know, that’s a career right there. I said what do you mean? I’m like, well, she’s like, well, people get paid to do to do that. Like people get paid to um, like, are you kidding me? People get paid to animate. And my mum was like, yeah, like that’s it.
I’m going to be an animator. So I, and that was when I was 12 and I was like, yeah, I’m going to be… no, younger than that, I don’t even remember. And my mom was like, okay, well, if you want to be an animator, you have to like, take all of the electives in high school and, you know, go to courses. So that was what I had planned to do.
Now, I apparently I’m just a terrible animator. I actually was like the worst. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the repetition of it. Uh, so it wasn’t for me. So I found other avenues to express myself creatively.
Elle: And did you go to school for art?
Camilla: Yeah, I did. So I went to, um, uh, the Kelowna University and I went there and I did a semester of fine… of um practical arts before I ended up going to the, the Vernon college to do the animation program.
So I learned, and I mean, I took all sorts of electives in high school. And then when I did the, after I did the, the, uh, graduated from the animation program, I, I went back to the school, um, in Vancouver and that was at the Capilano University. And I did the Idea Program, which is design illustration and painting.
So I had a very, I have a very, uh, like well-rounded creative history, you know?
Elle: So I mentioned in your intro that you are a pop surrealist painter and creator, because you don’t just paint you create jewelry, fashion, like toys, you’ve done so much. Very cool. Um, so, so what is pop surrealism?
Camilla: So, you know, it’s funny, I didn’t even know that pop surrealism existed until somebody mentioned it to me years ago.
And so pops realism is basically a faction of the low brow movement, art movement, which developed in the seventies. And it was this movement of artists who were doing a bit darker stuff, but more cartoony, you know. It was a branched off from what the traditional art was, you know, like realism and pointillism and abstract, like they were taking, uh, essentially like cartoons and elevating it.
And so pop surrealism, it’s the lighter side of that. It’s um, Yeah, it’s it’s, uh, it’s, it’s really fun. So it’s like essentially taking pop art and then twisting it with surrealism. So I fell into that without knowing it. I was just painting girls with, like I was, my style was inspired by animation, which anime in the Japanese style.
And, and portraiture is from Italy. You know, like I’m, uh, obviously my, my background is that. And so I was always obsessed with the Renaissance. And so it was like a, an amalgamation of the two. And because I did this kind of surreal element of having like giant animals on a little girl, like, like small heads, it was like, oh, that’s surreal.
And I got, like, I just was absorbed into that movement of art.
Elle: You were doing it before you even knew there was a name for it, essentially.
Camilla: Yeah, exactly. I didn’t even know. I was like, cause the movement was in Los Angeles mostly and I’m, I was in Vancouver and I didn’t even know about it until a collector from Los Angeles kind of mentioned it, you know?
Elle: An you say animals on the heads, I’ll show some images, um, for those, uh, people watching and links of course, to your art for those who are just listening, but I especially love the tentacles of yours. Just so cool.
Camilla: Oh, thank you. Well, you know, and it’s when I started out, I mean, I’ve been doing this for so long that there’s been so many stages in my career. So I started out with like, um, head gear, the helmet girls, and then it evolved into girls with, um, animals on their heads.
And now it’s, I’m slicing rainbows. It’s so much fun.
Elle: Yeah, has there been, uh, like you say, you’ve been, you’ve been at this for a while. You have so much work. Has there been a kind of highlight of your career so far?
Camilla: Oh my goodness. Um, well that might be an easier question if I wasn’t a Libra that can’t make decisions.
So I definitely know that I think a pivotal show for me was my, um, my Niji Bambini show, which means rainbow children. And it was a point in my career where I took off from doing just girls, like with animals. And it became the rainbow, the rainbow children. And like, this is, this is one of mine.
Shay Purser is a Welsh wrestler who also runs a Twitch channel. In this week’s episode Elle chats with Shay about the skills needed to be a wrestler, the things he gets up to on his livestreams and, um, dressing up as a granny and breaking his wrist in a nightclub!
Elle: Hello everyone and welcome to the LingQ podcast with me Elle. Remember English learners, you can study this podcast episode along with all the other episodes in the podcast as an English lesson on LingQ. Work your way through the transcript, translating words and phrases you don’t know while you listen. It’s an excellent way to level up your English. If you’re up for a challenge, check out the LingQ challenges page. There are all kinds of different challenges in lots of different languages. I’m currently just over halfway through my French 90-Day Challenge. I’m reading a Stephen King book in French, which is challenging and also super fun.
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Today. I am joined by someone from the exact same city as me, Cardiff in Wales. He is a pro wrestler and he runs a wrestling Twitch channel. I’m really excited to be joined today by Shay Purser.
Shay, How’s it going?
Shay: Hey Elle, how’s it going? It’s good to see you. I’m happy to be on, yeah I’m. Uh, yeah, excited be on. Good to get to do something different.
Elle: Excellent. Well, it’s great to have you, um, I’m usually interviewing people in the language niche or I have been. And so it’s really, it’s going to be interesting for our listeners, for sure to, to learn about wrestling something I really know nothing about to have to say. So I’m really looking forward to learning something new. First off, uh, you are joining us from Cardiff in Wales, as I said, um, where I also come from, how is life in Cardiff?
Shay: Yeah, it’s good. It’s changed a lot in the past like decade. It’s always been an evolving city, but, um, yeah, in the past 10 years it’s really taken a like cultural leapfrog and it’s a really fun city to be in. I like… it’s nice to see something always changing in the cities and there’s always something to do. So you really can’t complain.
Elle: Yeah, it, it’s such a beautiful city too. So Shay, wrestling… first off, I want to know how a guy from Wales where wrestling, isn’t really huge and it’s not like we have wrestling in high school or primary school. How did you even get into wrestling?
Shay: So, yeah um… it Just so happened that the one wrestling event in Cardiff, and for the most part in South Wales was two doors up from where I lived.
So when I was like five years old, I, um, started going to shows and watching like people that would eventually become my trainers, just starting their careers. Uh, and I, I watched like two or three shows and then I fell out of love with it. Um, then around the age of like 10 or 11, I, um, I hate television wrestling by the way.
That was the other… I didn’t, like, I thought it was fake, obviously. Uh, but I thought the stuff that I was watching was real, uh, just to let everyone know it’s all fake. I just was convinced by the illusion, the illusion of television. The like, oh, the television stuff is fake, but the stuff that I’m watching in this community center is real.
When in reality, it’s the exact same thing.
Now I use the, I use the word fake as I like a umbrella term. Predetermined is the word to use. Um, We we work together in the ring to create the most interesting match possible for the audience is the way to think about it. Injuries still happen. I’ve torn my MCL. I’ve had multiple concussions, uh, but, um, yeah, not a fun time, but, uh, I, uh, But in the same vein about some really fun experiences in it.
Uh, and I eventually started to understand this aspect of wrestling and started to really appreciate it and started to watch all kinds of wrestling. I was watching wrestling in community centers in America on YouTube because I thought it was cool and interesting and different than I’d go and uh, and then I really started to get back into it when I was a pre-teen into teenager.
I really started to enjoy wrestling again. Um, I started going to live events, so started bouncing around city to city and just trying to find out everything from what was going on in Japanese wrestling to what was going on in American wrestling to what was going on in European wrestling. I started to dig into the Britishwrestling scene and I was like, okay, I want to do this now, how old do I have to be to start? And in Britain we’re notorious for starting incredibly young. So I found a training school in Newport, which is about a 20 minute train journey from where I live. Uh, and I phoned up the trainer and I’ve always had like quite a deep masculine voice anyway.
Like I, I hit puberty voice-wise at like 13, so it really, uh, it really, so I pick up the phone and he didn’t even question my age. Where are your parents? I was like, ah, I’ll be okay. And then, yeah, I kind of weaved in from there and I started a training in Newport originally. Then I went up to the Midlands to go and train with a man who is now one of the biggest themes in wrestling, which is great.
Um, and then I bounced around the United Kingdom scene over to America. I’ve done, I’ve done a lot of bouncing to train and I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been fun.
Elle: So is it then, is it a growing scene in the UK, the wrestling scene since you started?
Shay: Uh, so I, as I started, I’d say the year after that, or if wrestling came into what we call a boom period, uh, and it, it really started to flourish.
Um, and it was a really, uh, it definitely, you know, uh, we eventually got to a point where in British wrestling, people were selling out the SSE Wembley, which is the smaller Wembley next to the actual Wembley stadium. Uh, we had people, uh, going to the hydro in selling it. We have people going to the NEC these huge shows are happening to the point where like WWE began to capitalize on it, major companies now view British wrestling as somewhat of a battleground, which is incredible. Um, admitedly due to to the pandemic we’ve had quite a big fall off and some other factors as well. Uh, but there’s a bit of a rebuilding scene in the United Kingdom right now. And I mean, if you look at it objectively as well, a lot of the people that were around five to six years ago are doing incredibly well for themselves now.
And that’s great. Like it’s, it’s good to see a lot of people that were around are now able to live their dreams full time. And a lot of the people that are still around helping rebuild or have found their own paths that make them incredibly happy. So yeah, the scene’s on its way back up again, after a bit of a dip.
Elle: Great. And I feel like it must be in the US too, just because, I say that I don’t know it’s just because there’s that show on Netflix, um, Glow.
Shay: I was going to say Glow actually, um, started… there’s now a, uh, women of wrestling it’s called, they’re having a reboot essentially, which is inspired directly from Glow.
Uh, and that has been, the amount of wrestling that is influenced by mainstream culture is incredible. And the fact that if wrestling gets mentioned in passing in something, wrestling suddenly gets a massive turn upwards, and it is really beneficial. It’s, it’s bounced back and forth. And I think like wrestling is at its best when it tries to keep up with pop culture.
Um, Uh, at like at it’s always the most fun, like, I dunno. I just really enjoy that.
Elle: Yeah. And there’s that movie too, I don’t know the name, with Florence Pugh, that British…
Shay: FIghting with My Family.
Elle: Yeah. I thought that was such a lovely fun film.
Shay: Yeah. Yeah.
It was a great, it was a great, um, I said this cause a lot of I’ve watched it with a lot of wrestling fans and wrestling fans are quite like ambivalent towards it for the most part. Some people liked it. Some people didn’t. I thought it was great because I was like, well, the target audience for this is young women. I was like, this is like, girls are gonna watch this and want to become a wrestler. It was like that that’s…
Elle: That’s good for wrestling.
Shay: I was like, that’s good for wrestling. That’s good for film. I was like, that’s good for everyone. Um, I know the family quite well, uh, wrestling in general is quite like a tight knit circle. So like, you tend to be like, uh, like two degrees of separation from every wrestler. Like it’s like, it’s like, oh, it’s like that guy who knows that guy he knows that guy and then I’m friends with The Rock plug. It’s like, it’s that kind of vibe.
Elle: So let’s go back to something you said earlier, and we talked about it being fake and you said as a predetermined show. So how predetermined I wonder. Do you go when you train, are you basically uh, rehearsing like a show?
Shay: So that’s a really interesting question and it varies. It actually does vary from where you go.
Uh, wrestling has different cultures, and I think that’s a really cool thing about it. So the way people wrestle in Mexico to the way people wrestle the United Kingdom to the way people wrestle in Japan is it’s the same sport and we will all wrestle each other, but we go about it very differently. The same way a basketball team might play very smashmouth offense and try and get to the basket to score two points. And another team may stay at the perimeter and try and shoot three. We’re playing the same sport, but we’re going completely different ways about it. Um, and that that’s kind of like that in wrestling as well, where like, um, So I like where I’ve trained and in the United Kingdom, we tend to train for practical situations.
So you’ll, you know, work with each other to make sure no matter what happens, you’ll get a good wrestling match and then maybe you’ll work on other things, but it’s primarily, you’re getting it down and making sure it’s okay, then you’ll go to, um, maybe Japan where they do tend to go a week or two in advance and prepare everything and make sure everything’s at least somewhat clean and smooth.
Elle: That doesn’t surprise me.
Shay: Yeah. I was going to say, I was also going to say the cultures of the wrestling replicate the actual culture very well too. Um, uh, and, um, then in America there’s kind of, uh, America’s kind of, um, uh, Again, ref representative of the real world. America’s kind of a melting pot of wrestling culture where like there’s a Mexican wrestling culture, there’s a British wrestling culture, there’s a Japanese wrestling culture there.
And it kind of, it’s a bit of a melting pot and you can go there and really do anything. And yeah, it really does vary on where you go. It’s really interesting.
Elle: Right. And speaking of the states, what about like Olympic wrestling? That’s a completely different thing, right?
Shay: Yeah. Completely different. But we do see a lot of Olympic wrestlers transition to wrestling because I think there’s this thing about being so fluid with your body and being able to move very cleanly that translates to wrestling. And also fundamentally just being coachable because wrestling is a, uh, something that involves, like you could be the best actual wrestler, as in the fundamental moves of wrestling in the world, you could be the best, but if you can’t pick up a microphone and talk, you’re never gonna succeed in the industry.
And that’s, that’s the performative side of it. Or at least people will have you believe that there are other ways of succeeding, but, uh, um, like you can, some people may, and that’s a great thing about it as well, some people could view… legitimately the wrestling is the one sport where you could be the best wrestler in the world to one person and the worst to another.
And there’s no real, it’s incredible.
Elle: And is there any, there’s no beef between, you know, the Olympic wrestlers and the other kind?
Shay: I don’t think so. I think we take it very in stride. Like, um, the only animosity I’ve ever felt is like from MMA fighters tend to be quite like, oh, like again, that’s a big generalization.
I’ve met some great ones. Um, I did, uh, I I’ve worked with people like Ben Askren and they’ve been great. And they’ve been super like nice and supportive of wrestling, but the issue is they can, the issue is you can never really complain because some of the most successful amatuer wrestlers of all time have gone on to work for WWE and be professional wrestlers.
So it’s like, it’s like, it’s like an, also the big thing, even if it’s not all levels, there’s uh, money and like, uh, a lot more money in professional than there is amateur, because amateur wrestlers don’t get the contracts. They don’t get, they don’t, you don’t see amateur wrestling on TV every Monday night.
Whereas you do see professional wrestling on TV every Monday night. So it’s a, it’s a logical transition for a lot of them.
Elle: Yeah. How about the skills to be a good wrestler then, as you mentioned, it isn’t just physical. It’s more personality. And that makes total sense. WHat else do you need?
Shay: It’s crazy, there’s so many different… so a base level, so I’ll describe like, and there’s several different aspects of wrestling as well, so like if you’re a television wrestler to an independent wrestler, there’s a lot of different things you tackle and take on, but the, the, the, the actual in ring, uh, physics, you, first of all, have to be, to be able to carry your opponents. You have to have enough endurance to be able to continue between an eight to sometimes 60-minute match. Sometimes you can go 60 to 70 minutes in matches. I’ve seen, I’ve been in those matches. It’s insane.
I have wrestled people that are 4’2″ and uh, 80 pounds. And I’ve wrestled people who are 7′ tall and 300 to 400 plus pounds.
Elle: And you have to be able to lift that 300 pound person?
Shay: It’s a, it’s a, it’s a help. It’s a help. Um, uh, especially when you’re training, you have to do a lot of training with people that are heavier than you.
It’s kind of like the worst case scenario, you know, run, run around with a guy who’s 6’8″ on your shoulders for 10 minutes. You’ll never do it in a match, but do it to get used to it. Um, get, get that uh… and then there’s this other aspect where the entire time you’re working with your opponent.
So you have to also have great communication skills. You have to have, uh, the ability to convince everyone who is watching the feeling you’re trying to convey as well as the stage performance side of it. And then on top of that, you’ve also got to go and sell your merchandise afterwards. You probably had to set up and help pack down the ring as well.
You’ve probably, you’ve probably driven five to 10 to 20 hours if you’re in the states, like it’s, there’s so many things that go into wrestling. It’s, uh, it’s endurance for the mind and body. There’s the acting side. It’s a lot, a lot of things go into it and there’s a… yeah, definitely. Um, it’s definitely, uh, something that, it takes a lot of determination, skill or passion. One of the, one of the three usually.
Elle: Right. Yeah.
I guess the passion for sure. As you say, you’re traveling, you’re spending so much time, hurting yourself.
Shay: Yeah. Like I said, I’ve had multiple concussions. I’ve broken my hand. I’ve torn my, I tore my MCL. I’ve torn my ACL.
Um, I, yeah, I’ve had a rough time of it. I perforated my eardrum, which is a horrible thing. It was a horrible thing when communication is key in wrestling.
Elle: And just a horrible thing in general.
Shay: Yeah. Um, yeah, not fun. It was… the best way I could describe it as well it’s like being underwater, like it was like, I, it sounded like it just sounded for a week like I was underwater. I certainly don’t have perfect hearing anymore, but, um… it’s a, we do it for what we love. Hey, we do it for what we love. That’s what I always say.
Elle: And what about your most recent injury? Before we started recording you told me about your wrist.
Shay: Oh, yeah. Um, so I do a separate job. Uh, again, like I said, stage performance comes with professional wrestling, uh, shout out to Bingo Lingo. They’re an 18 plus bingo company based in the United Kingdom. I am one of their, uh, stage performers, or they’re also known as grannies and apparently injury just follows me in life. Uh, I’ve managed to break my wrist and, um, Just there.
If you’re, if you’re watching, if you’re just listening, you won’t be able to, but it’s, uh, it looks like I’ll, I’ll describe it for someone that may be listening, it looks like it looks like a cartoon shark bite. It’s actually like that. That is exactly what it looks like.
Elle: Oh my goodness. How, how long ago was that surgery?
Shay: Uh, I’m three and a half weeks now. Post surgery. Four and a half to five post injury. I think so. Yeah.
It’s a pretty, it’s been, it has been a time. Yeah.
Elle: Ooh. Okay. Well Bingo Lingo.
Shay: I’d recommend checking it out.
Elle: I look into to that for sure. And that’s just inCardiif or is that around the UK?
Shay: It’s all around. It’s all around. It’s all around Europe. Now we did offer some in Ibiza last month. Yeah.
Elle: Why does it have to be, well, I mean an 18 plus I guess it’s gambling, but 18 plus you mean it’s run in the clubs?
Shay: Yeah, it’s run, it’s run in nightclubs and it’s catered towards it’s catered towards like a student. I mean, I say it’s catered to students hen parties, everything. I dress up as an old lady and, um, my job is to get everyone hyped up and excited, but I, I, I, one of my taglines as a wrestler is that I am more than a wrestler.
I think this encapsulates it.
Elle: Right. Okay. And do you incorporate any wrestling moves?
Shay: We actually do. Like, it was weird. They came up to me and they went, so obviously an iconic number in, I think British culture and every culture is the number 69. Um, uh, and that there is a, there is a move where I will jump on to my other Bingo Lingo granny partner in a 69 position, which is a very common training thing we do in wrestling.
I was like, oh no. I was like, oh, this is easy. I was like, I’ve been doing this for years.
Elle: So tell us about your, now I don’t know the lingo around Twitch because I do not use Twitch. I honestly, I don’t even really know if I understand fully what Twitch is. Maybe my listeners are as old as me and don’t know either. First, what is Twitch and what are you doing on Twitch?
Shay: So Twitch is a video streaming platform and you’ll, I’ll emphasize the word video. So Twitch got its brand and build by being a livestream service that would primarily stream video games and people would play on there. The most famous Twitch stream or streamer that I can think of is a guy called Ninja.
He’s become quite popular in like modern culture. He’s known as being like the Fortnite guy I think a lot of people call him, um, and it became a big gaming platform. A lot of people went on there, game and get viewers because we live in a world where people like to watch people play games. People like to watch people share their common interests and like to interact in a community where they can feel like they can share those interests.
And it’s really cool. And the Twitch live chat is perfect for that. Twitch has slowly started to expand now um, and it’s grown into a bit more of a. Um, well, multimedia platform, you can do anything from whatch someone, uh, cook on there, to what someone, uh, bake on there. I mean, that’s the same thing. Nevermind… you can go on there to watch someone react to sport. That was a horrible comparison. Could watch someone cook on there. Now you can watch someone play sport on there. Uh, there’s literally anything you can think of is probably being streamed on Twitch. As an example, last night, I streamed myself being turned into Pat Butcher for Halloween.
If you don’t know Pat Butcher, she’s a popular EastEnders character. She’s about 60 to 70 years old. So turning this into a 60 to 70 year old woman from the East End of London was certainly interesting.
Elle: She has a very, a very unique look, shall we say.
Shay: Definitely unique, but I’ve done everything from that to, um, I put, uh, during the height of the summer heat wave, I put a paddling pool in my front garden, set the camera up and sat on my street and just talked to strangers and asked them about how their day was going.
Um, and that’s kind of like, that, I think that does show… and then on top of that, I do daily sports streams where I’ll talk about the news and wrestling and, um, Football really or anything. And it’s not just about like, you may, you may not even be interested in the topic that I’m talking about. Like, I guarantee that several of the football and MMA fans that were watching me last night were not interested in watching a makeup artist talk to me about how Pat Butcher’s eyeliner is done, however, On the flip side, I believe my LGBTQ audience that would have tuned into whatch the Pat Butcher stream probably don’t have the biggest interest in how Ciryl Gane is going to overtake Glover Teixeira, in the, uh, in MMA. Like they probably don’t, there’s not those shared interests, but I think the, I think again, I used the term melting pot earlier.
I do use my stream as a melting pot to several people. Also, the more I stare to the people who are watching this on video, you can see a slight tint of scar on my eyes from the Pat Butcher look, I haven’t washed all of it off yet. I only just noticed.
Elle: A little bit of a mascarra is good for any time. Any person, any time. Emphasizes the eyes.
It’s all good. It sounds like you’re just have such a fun life where you’re able to do what you love, incorporate your passions into these different activities.
Shay: I think like, um, I have like a big thing, like I’ve actually actively taken a bit of a step back from wrestling in the past since the pandemic, because I had a big realization with this with 18 months off of wrestling.
I don’t know if this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, a real, like a real… am I going to, am I going to, for the rest of my life pursuing this singular sport, is this all I want to do? And the answer I came up with was, no, but I don’t want to stop. So I had to kind of find a compromise within my head.
Well, if I just carry on doing this for the rest of my life, I won’t be happy, but if I give up on it, I’m taking a huge part of my life that I’ve enjoyed so much and will continue to enjoy it. And I, I, I hit a crossroads when I went, tell you what I think I’m going to do wrestling, take an active step back and try and look into other things to pursue. Twitch came up at that time, I started Twitch and I was like, well, this is incredible, I absolutely love this.
Um, and as Twitch took off and I managed to very luckily get a contract with Twitch’s sports accelerator program. I, uh, I really wanted to take all of this under my wing. And then I was like, well, what else can I do to enjoy myself? Because in the meantime I was working jobs I wasn’t enjoying, uh, I was just not something, you know, when, when you, when you, when you’re trying to, like, I honestly, if you’d like as a bit of a pursuit of happiness and I wasn’t pursuing happiness. So I, I took myself back to a point where I could, I found a means of income that will make me safe. And then I found the most enjoyable way of doing it. And I think I’m doing well at the moment. The plan is just to keep growing and keep making myself have more fun and daring myself to do more things.
Elle: So you, are you saying that no more wrestling in the future, you would just stick to the….
Shay: No, I am, I will still be wrestling. I’m still, I’m just being actually I put a large video, uh, on my, uh, Instagram and Twitter explaining it, but essentially I’m just taking a bit of an active step back from… I’ve gone from training five times a week and wrestling three times a weekend to wrestling on my own terms. Now I want to be able to, I’ll still be training hard when I have bookings to come up to, but those bookings are going to be a lot less frequent because I’m very much, very much happy doing what I’m doing. I think I just have to put myself first and that’s it. I think that’s the important thing as well.
I think a lot of people get burned out from their passions and sometimes forget what their passions are. I love wrestling more than that. Like I, in the, in the time I’ve taken away from it and the step back I really appreciate how much I love it. And I actually have, like for the first time in a while, a real want to wrestle, I’m like, oh, I really, really re I have a hunger to wrestle.
Now. I’m like, I want to get back into a wrestling ring and I’m stopping myself. I’m like, I’m like, oh, I really want to get back into a wrestling ring and then I’ll get offered something. Then I’ll pause and go, no, I’m still gonna wait. I want to, and it’s like, I’m making myself hungry, I’m hungry and like driving my own passion back up.
And it’s really, yeah. I I’d say it’s a really nice thing that I’ve been able to do. And I found otherfulfillment in the meantime with stuff like Bingo Lingo and Twitch, which has been great.
Elle: Yeah. I was going to say, when you, when your passion becomes a chore, I think that’s the best thing to do is take a step back.
And now, like you say, you have this renewed passion, desire, interest in wrestling.
Shay: It’s so true, especially when you can like speak to other people that have gone to where you want to be, or like maybe have reached where you want to be and you see them snd you go, actually, it doesn’t look like the best thing on earth.
And it’s like, I think I’m, I’m gonna, it’s like, if, if all of this work leads me to something that may not fulfill me, I think I’m going to be okay. Uh, I think, I think I can, I think I can work on other avenues and other, other ways of making myself happy and I really say I have. And the other thing is to make work I’m proud of, and that is something you need full creative control over and very sadly in wrestling, you don’t always get given creative control.
Uh, so I I’m very cautious of that. I want to make sure that when I’m like 50, 60 years old and I look back on like my scrapbook of memories or my obituary, that is just pretty much my Instagram and I can look at it, I can look at it and just go, I really enjoyed that, that really made me happy. I’m proud of myself, and I think that’s really hard for a lot of people to do nowadays, but I think, I think I’m on my way.
Elle: Excellent. So what is in store for your Twitch channel?
Shay: Uh, yeah, we do, we do like a bunch of different content on there. I’ve always had big, uh, big plans. The big thing we did at the start of the year, which I’ll definitely be doing again, uh, in the coming months was, uh, we did a, I stayed up for 25 hours.
Um, and streamed with a bunch of guests, popular wrestlers from companies such as AEW, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and other places joined me. Uh, it was, it was, uh, tormenting. Um, uh, it was hard, but we, we raised over, I think 1500 pounds for charity, but we donated that to local food banks in Cardiff, uh, in the Midlands and in each city that I wrestled in while I was out in America.
Elle: Fantastic. Fantastic. Well, listen, Shay, this was super interesting. I learned a lot. I think my listeners hopefully did also. Um, yeah, I want to thank you so much for joining us and best of luck with the channel. Best of luck with Bingo Lingo and all that good stuff. I hope you don’t have any more injuries because you’d think having a break from wrestling, your body was getting a break, but it seems that’s not the case.
Shay: So the re the, the real funny thing is I’ve been, I’ve been in, I’ve been injured every October for the past four years. And there is something about the spooky month. There is something about spooky month. Yeah.
Elle: Okay. Well, at least now, you know, next October, just lock yourself in your house.
Shay: Bubble wrap.
Elle: Don’t go anywhere. Yeah.
Shay, thank you so so much. Uh, I hope it heals well, your wrist and, yeah, thanks for joining us today.
Shay: No worries. Thank you so much for having me.
In today’s episode Elle caught up with Bong of the YouTube channel BigBong. Bong is a language learner, mentor and entertainer. Check out their super interesting chat, and don’t forget to click on the lesson link above to use the transcript and audio as an English lesson.
Elle: Hello everyone and welcome to the LingQ podcast with me Elle. If you would like to study this podcast episode as an English lesson, I’ve created it for you. The lesson link is in the description. The lesson is on LingQ. You work through the transcript, listening and reading and translate words and phrases that you don’t know. While you’re on LingQ why not check out the challenges page? We have various challenges in many different languages so see if your target language is there. I’m currently studying French, and so I’m in the French 90-Day Challenge. I’m about halfway through. I’m meeting targets for 90 days and I’m using the challenge to read my first novel in French. For those of you listening on a podcast platform, Apple, Google, Spotify SoundCloud, please give us a like a share a review. It is greatly appreciated. This week’s guest is YouTuber, performer, teacher and language learner, Big Bong. Bong, thank you so much for joining us. How’s it going? Bong: Thank you for having me. Not too bad. Thank you. How are you?
Elle: I’m good. I’m good. Thank you. So, um, so I’m in Vancouver, Canada, and you today are joining us from Montreal in Canada, right? Bong: That’s correct. Yes.
Elle: And how is life in Montreal? I haven’t been, I need to get there. I know it’s a beautiful city. Bong: Yeah, well, it’s the same country, but, uh, as you know, it’s a very, a very big country, so it’s, it’s uh, we have a three hour, three hour difference, but, uh, the weather right now is pretty similar to Vancouver I would say. It’s a very cloudy, foggy, uh, we, we feel like winter is coming. Elle: Yes. I was going to ask you actually how is early fall/ late summer. So the same. Yeah.
We’re having a… Bong: The same yeah, but when we have the nice colors, you know, orange, red, and yellow, but that lasts for about two weeks.
And then after that, it’s just all gone and winter is what follows. Elle: Right.
So not so many… because in the west coast of Canada, we have a lot of evergreen trees, I guess, more deciduous trees on the east coast, right?
Bong: Well, actually what we do, but, uh, yes, we do. We do. Um, but, uh, yeah, we have all sorts of trees. So depending on where you are, sometimes you don’t see any leaves. Sometimes if you go skiing… like we have, we don’t have huge mountains like in Vancouver, but, uh, it really depends where you are, but, uh, yeah, right now we still have a bit of a greenery, but it’s going to be gone soon, I think in a couple of weeks or a month. Elle: Yeah.
Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s all of a sudden, it seems very wintry. Yeah.
Funny how that happens.
Bong: It’s Canada, right? Elle: Yeah.
At least we don’t get too, well, I guess in Montreal that you get a lot of snow in the winter, right? Bong: Yes, we do. And it’s very nice for skiing, but again, we don’t have the same mountains, so it’s not as enjoyable as on the west coast, unfortunately, but, uh… yeah, we do with what we have. Elle: And so did you grow up in Montreal?
Bong: Nope. I was born and raised in France and I moved to, uh, to Montreal, uh, almost seven years ago now and, uh, by myself and, uh, yeah, it’s been a pretty, uh, nice experience so far, I would say. Elle: Yeah.
You staying for kind of the foreseeable future?
Bong: Yeah, well, I came here with a working holiday visa and it was like, yeah, this is a good place to, to live so I’m just going to stay a little bit. And then after that, I completed a master’s degree at a university here and now I’m working. So, you know, time flies by, but, uh, Montrealkeeps me here so I’m staying. Elle: So you grew up in France. So tell us about your, your kind of childhood, cause reading up on you. I, I read that you spoke multiple languages growing up. Is that right?
Bong: Yes. Well, multiple is, is a big word. So I was born in France. My father is half French, half Lebanese. And unfortunately he, uh, he’s never spoken the language so Arabic was not part of the languages I could speak growing up. And also my Lebanese families, uh, everybody in my Lebanese family is fluent in at least English, French, and Arabic.
So they would speak French to us. There was French and my mother is Japanese so my mother tongue is literally Japanese. It’s the first language I’ve ever spoken. Um, and, uh, yeah, so it’s mainly the two languages. And after that at school, we started English, German and Spanish. Um, and, uh, and after that, uh, graduating from university, actually at the French university, I started a bachelor’s degree in international affairs. And I was, uh, I was lucky enough to go to Korea, South Korea, uh, to be an exchange student there. So Korean was also a language i, uh, a language that I studied in, uh, at the time.
Elle: Okay. I’d say that’s multiple languages. I think most people, I just spoke one, so yeah. That’s, that’s very cool. So, so, uh, so the French and the Japanese, and then at school, um, English, German, Spanish, have you gone on to study, uh, more languages after that as well?
And sorry, the korean.
Bong: Yeah, there’s Korean. And then by myself, uh, well I have a lot of friends from all around the world. And so, uh, I have friends, uh, in Italy. I have friends in, uh, Brazil, so, uh, it’s not too far from French and Spanish. So I decided to start learning for, uh, my, uh, my trip, uh, like for, for eventual travels there.
Uh, and also Chinese ’cause uh, apparently I have a few Chinese people watching my channel. So I might, you know, maybe develop that a little more, Chinese and, uh, Arabic of course, for my family. So again, it’s very difficult because it’s easier for them to speak English or French, but then I’m trying to, uh… and Arabic, you have MSA, which is the Modern Standard Arabic, but then you also have dialects, and I’m focused on the Lebanese one and also Russian, but that’s just for fun. I like reading different alphabets. So I started Russian and, and Greek, but mostly to be able to read and not necessarily to be fluent in the language.
Elle: I see, okay. So that’s a big motivation for you then the different, um, scripts? Bong: Yeah.
It’s yeah, it’s fun. And then, you know, if you meet people who can actually read them, you can kind of, uh, you know, write secret messages to each other. I think this is fun.
Elle: So then how many languages, I know this is a tricky question, would you say that, you know? Cause I, as you said, some you can read some but not, not so much speak. Um, what would you say if I were to ask you how many languages do you know? What would your response be?
Bong: So I would say, I would say that, yeah, it’s a tricky question because even Japanese, I haven’t studied in Japanese, so it’s not a language I’d be, you know, maybe I might not be able to professionally work, uh, in a Japanese environment, but, uh, I usually say that I’m fluent in French, English and Japanese, and, uh, I can survive in a Spanish, German and, uh, and speaking countries and Korean as well. And after that, like the languages I know. So I know the, the basic in, uh, in Russian, Arabic, uh, and Chinses.
Elle: Okay, so it’s safe to say languages are your thing. You enjoy it. Okay. So you are a teacher also as well as a YouTuber, which we’ll go into, we’ll talk about your channel in a bit. You teach French and Japanese. Tell us about your teaching style. Do you have a teaching style?
Bong: Well, I’m not a teacher anymore. I used to teach actually, I’m not a teacher cause I haven’t studied that at university. I’m not qualified to be called a teacher. Elle: Right.
Bong: So I would, yeah, I would use more tutor just to be politically correct. Say I’m a tutor, a mentor. Absolutely. And actually I would have been more like a coach because, um, my, I see myself as a motivator more than an actual, um, teacher. I’m not the one who brings the knowledge. I’m more the one who motivates you to, well, I… who used to do that, motivates you to, uh, um, “okay it’s time to learn”. Uh, “have you done your homework? Show me.” Uh, more that approach than actually a teaching. Okay. We say that, that way we do things this way. Uh, though I do play a… I play a persona. I play characters on my YouTube channel, a French teacher, a Japanese one.
Uh, but I, I think there’s more, um, performance oriented than actual teaching. So people can learn through that, but it’s really, I’m not you, you wouldn’t be able to become fluent thanks to my content. It’s more like, uh, entertaining and even someone who doesn’t necessarily want to, uh, learn English, French or Japanese could learn a few words or expressions just for the general knowledge. Uh, so that’s more my approach than being a teacher or tutor or, so I used to do that before it’s now, um, I have a full-time job working in communication and marketing. I have my YouTube channel, but I do not teach anymore. Uh, the following question was, uh, how do I, so there’s teaching and there’s learning. So my methods, uh, would be, uh, so, you know, when we think about a, uh, Uh, a language learner.
We usually have in mind, someone who is sitting at a desk, surrounded by books and who spends, uh, who spends hours studying, uh, I’m not really like that. I’m more of a field guy. And the way I learn languages is really being, um, traveling or, uh, through the internet and meeting people and, and speaking and trying to, uh, uh, how to say that?
Really, you know, um…
On the field and, and, uh, and having no choice, but to ask, how would you say that? Or, uh, so, so I’m that person don’t get me wrong. I’m not, I’m not saying that I don’t like reading books, but it’s not the way I learn languages. And, uh, so yeah, traveling was mainly the way that I learned languages. And again, as you said, as we said, uh, I, um, I started learning English, Spanish and German when I was in high school, back in France, but it’s really when I traveled, uh, in those countries that, uh, my, my level skyrocketed. So yeah, so, so when I’m by myself and I can speak to someone. For example, I usually use the shadowing technique, which is to watch content, TV show podcast or a movie, and just repeat after the person learning by heart, everything that’s being said. Uh, so yeah.
Elle: Great. I find that really effective too, the shadowing technique. It’s kind of exhausting I find. Maybe I’m too low a level. Yeah.
It’s effective for sure. I like what you said there about a coach, as opposed to a teacher.
I feel like that’s what most people… you think you need a teacher to give you all the technical details of the language, but I think most of us actually do need a coach because it’s such a long, you know, struggle a lot of the time learning a language. You need, even just someone saying, you know, you are doing well still, keep going.
Elle: Yeah, for sure. Uh, but you don’t, you’re not doing that anymore. You’re busy, you’re busy. You are running your YouTube channel and you have a full-time job. Um, so tell us about your YouTube channel.
Bong: So that’s the thing. So I said, I’m not really a teacher, uh, but I see myself more as a performer. And at the beginning, when I started my channel in 2015, it was more a portfolio, uh, to showcase my, uh, my acting skills.
Uh, because back then I wanted to explore that, um, you know, theatrical, uh, projects, improv or anything that’s related to audio visual, the playing characters. Yeah.
So that’s also my way of learning languages, you know, playing, cause we don’t have the same behavior when we speak a different language because it’s very cultural. It’s not just the linguistic, it’s also, you know, the body language, how you express yourself, uh, through, uh, your voice, the pitch. Uh, that’s funny also sometimes people, uh, see me switch from speaking French to answering the phone to my mom and, and, um, and speaking in Japanese and they say you have a completely different voice. So yeah, one thing I hated, uh, while watching TV shows or movies is when, uh, actors or actresses were chosen and they were supposed to play someone from a country, but clearly you could tell that they didn’t speak the language from the country. And, uh, and I do respect the work. You know, that the actors, they, uh, do their best and they’re, uh, followed by a coach. But sometimes, uh, actually many times, uh, especially in American productions, I felt. Come on, you know, if it’s a small country like Tuvalu or a, I think Tuvalu is a small country, right? Elle: Yeah.
Bong: It’s very difficult to find someone who speaks Tuvaluan, but, uh, French or Japanese, and then come on it’s not that hard, you know? In Hollywood you have a lot of Japanese speaking people, French speaking people.
So why would you choose someone to pretend who speaks French and for an American audience? That’s fine. But, uh, as a French speaker, I’m like, nah, So I decided to include that as part of my portfolio and, uh, and show that I could speak different languages and that will be my strength as an actor. Uh, but then also, you know, play comedy with that.
And then after that on YouTube, there’s a guy called, called Jake Wardle, also known as, uh, Truseneye92. And he made that video, uh, of him performing 67 different accents in English. And it was very motivated by that. I’m like, wow, that’s impressive. And he’s the best when it comes to that. Uh, but I thought that’s never been done in Japanese, so why not give it a try? So I did, there’s actually an actor, his name is, uh, Tamuri, Tamuri-san, he, uh, he’s good at, at accents, but he doesn’t speak the languages, but he’s just good at, uh, playing the stereotypical person from a country. And so she got very famous for that. Uh, but for me it was more like the linguistic.
How can you really exaggerate, um, the accent because their letters or their, uh, pronunciations that, for example french people are not able to say in English or in different languages. So I decided to do that in Japanese. And it was my first viral video. It was in 2017 and a lot of people like the video showed it and, uh, it was like, okay, well I have my niche now.
So it’s going to be comedy, uh, languages, accents. And I did the same with French, which was, which was also very successful. And so there is a thing for accents, uh, because if you think about it, we might speak the same language on paper, but if two people are not able to understand each other, then for me it’s the same definition of speaking two different languages. Like French from France, French from Quebec in Canada or Spanish from Spain and Spanish from Puerto Rico.
If two people from these countries, uh, speak, they might not be able to understand everything. And sometimes it’s even, you know, just half of the conversation. So it’s enough to say, okay, it’s different languages. Um, so yeah, from then on, I had a new audience that was more focused on language learning.
Uh, and I went along with it. So, so yeah, that’s where I’m at now… Elle: So are you still, I know you mentioned earlier, your full-time job is not in any well it’s marketing and communications. So do you still now pursue the kind of acting performing outside of YouTube? Do you go to auditions?
Well, auditions less because it’s a bit more difficult with my full-time job, but I have an agent for, uh, um, you know, to appear as an extra in movies. So that’s a bit more cash on the side, and then it’s also, uh, you earn credits and, uh, so you, you couldn’t really call yourself an actor when you’re doing just extra work, but it’s fun you on a, on a set. And it’s nice to see all the cameras, all the actors. We have a, there are a lot of, uh, big productions at the same in Vancouver, but in Montreal we have a lot of American productions coming here because it’s cheaper. Elle: Right.
Bong: So there was a movie actually. Um, Fatherhood with Kevin Hart. Uh, and I was, uh, I appeared two seconds in there and a lot of people were like, oh wait, I saw you in that.
Elle: Oh no way, people could actually see it was you? That’s great. That’s great. Bong: Yeah.
So, so it’s fun. Of course. I’d like a bit more, uh, if I can, but it’s a very difficult, uh, an unstable environment. So for now I have my job, I have my YouTube channel, so it’s perfect right now. So yeah, not asking for more.
Elle: Okay. How about the, uh, the French speaking, uh, movie and TV industry there, is there a lot of call for…
Bong: Right, so that’s, that’s a bit tricky here because, um, they have a different accent, uh, which I could fake it, but it’s, it’s not authentic. And, uh, and I think they’re looking for local people, so. So, yeah, on the paper, I I’m allowed to work here. Um, and they, they also enjoy, enjoy, they, uh, they’re trying to, to, uh, you know, uh, promote also diversity cause I, I fall into that category as well, but, um, to be honest, no, every time I have additions for, uh, uh, for French speaking content, uh, yeah, it doesn’t work because, because of my accent. Elle: Uh, that’s so… dang! Cause you speak French and you’re in this French speaking movie and TV industry city. Must be annoying, but at least, like you say, more American production companies are in Montreal.
Cause it’s cheaper to film there. So you get those opportunities.
Bong: And they’re more flexible with the English. Actually you can have a British accent, then you can have an American accent. You have a Canadian accent. They’ve been more flexible with auditions and things like that. But to be honest, uh, the work I do is mostly for, uh, ads or uh, yeah. Extra or yeah, things like that. Not too serious at the moment, but we’ll see. Maybe I’ll be contacted by an agent soon and it’s going to change, but for now I’m happy with that with YouTube and my current job. Elle: Excellent. So Bong, tell us about, uh, the languages that you are currently learning. Are you actively studying any languages?
Bong: Yes. Um, actively again, it’s very relative, but, uh, there was supposed to be in 2000 and in 2020 there was supposed to be the polyglot conference, uh, in Mexico. So I started, uh, so I know Spanish from before, but, uh, I decided to, to be a bit more intense in my learning, uh, but it was postponed, uh, it was postponed on 2020 in 2020, 2021.
Uh, is it going to happen next year in 2022? I don’t know, but yeah, um, um, I’m focused on Spanish right now, also Italian and Brazilian Portuguese, um, because of, uh, of trips, um, uh, planning. Uh, Korean, I put that on the side. German as well, unfortunately. Um, and sometimes I have language learning apps, uh, and I’m learning also Russian, but it’s slowly, it’s really slowly step-by-step so. Elle: Just four languages, no big deal.
Bong: But again, you know, it’s like maybe 15 minutes, 15 minutes every day, each language, sometimes Spanish a little bit more, but it’s not too intense. Elle: Okay. And so I know you before you mentioned, uh, being in the country, a country where the language is spoken was a big motivator for you. You just throw yourself in, but of course you, you are unable to do that right now. So what kinds of, um, methods do you use, you say 15 minutes a day, what are you generally doing in a day for each language?
Bong: Right. So, um, actually, you know what, Japanese is also one of them because I don’t really have a lot of opportunities to speak Japanese. So I’m kind of losing my mother tongue. So I do have a partner, a Japanese girl, and you know, the conversation is very, uh, natural, but still sometimes I forget words and it’s good to remind me. Or sometimes, you know, very technical terms, especially for during the pandemic. There are a lot of words that I forgot, for example, the vaccine, um, um, quarantine, you know, these kind of words that have forgotten Japanese.
It’s good to know because there’s a kind of vocabulary I would, I use, uh, on a daily basis when I speak Japanese, because that’s what’s happening right now. Um, so, so the ideal situation for me is to have a language partner, a language buddy. Uh, I do have that for Spanish. I do have that for Japanese. Uh, my level in, um, Portuguese and Italian is not there yet, so I still need to learn a bit more by myself.
Uh, but, um, so yeah, I try to call, usually I say, okay, wait 15 minutes. And it’s an exchange. So we call for 30 minutes and then it’s 15 minutes of. So my Japanese, uh, partner, she wants to learn French. So we speak 15 minutes in Japanese, 15 minutes in French, uh, for, uh, Spanish. It’s the same. She’s from Columbia. And we speak half an hour of not half an hour, 15 minutes in Spanish and 50 minutes in English, but it’s always a bit longer than that. Uh, but yeah, if you can find a language buddy, of course at the beginning, when you don’t even know the grammar or any, you know, structure, it’s very different. Uh, but, uh, I guess it’s pretty easy to get to the plateau. And then after that start speaking, um, so that’s what it looks like. I’m trying to call maybe twice, three times a week for Japanese and Spanish. So during the evening after work, uh, one day would be Japanese and one day it would be, um, uh, Colombian Spanish. And during the weekend I would have a break, you know, intense language learning.
Uh, and apart from that during the day when I have a uh, during my lunch break, just have an app and play on it for about 15 minutes again. And I think, uh, it’s, I don’t know if it’s working pretty well for me, but, uh, it’s better than nothing. And by the end of the day, I’m looking back and I’m like, yeah, I learned something today. You know?
Elle: Exactly, right? You think once you’re in it, you can’t see how much you’re progressing, but yeah, you are always for sure. Excellent. Well, um, tell us a bit about your channel then. What can anyone who will go from this interview and subscribe to your channel expect from the channel moving forward?
Bong: Yes. So that’s also a very tricky question because, um, as you know, I read of course, a lot of articles about how to grow your channel, how to have more subscribers, but the problem is that, uh, and everybody says that, although the experts, they say, if you want to strive, you need to find your niche. My niche is the language and culture.
But you have to stick to it. And usually when you study a language, then it’s supposed to be one language. Actually, it’s not true. I have a lot of friends who, who their channel is about learning any language, but, uh, but to be more successful, I should ideally just stick to one language. Okay, I’m going to teach French iand it’s the only thing we’ll be doing and maybe have another channel for just Japanese. Uh, but for me, it’s really like, no, I don’t really follow that rule. I’m just doing whatever. Uh, so you’ll find videos of me singing. You’ll find videos of me, uh, again with playing different accents, um, you know, impressions and things like that. You’ll see me teach, uh, playing characters to teach Japanese, French. Uh, I’ll invite people also that’s something I’m very, um, uh, I like doing, because it changes, uh, you know, just speaking to a camera, editing can feel pretty lonely. So sometimes I have guests. So it’s a bit more enjoyable for me too. Uh, and, um, yeah, I would learn a new language.
I did that with Romanian. I did that with, uh, uh, Arabic. I did that with a couple of languages and also accents as well. So yeah, it’s very difficult to say what type of content I make, but, uh, Um, I’m trying to be as entertaining as possible. So yeah, again as a performer, I think if I had to describe my channel, uh, in one word that would be, uh, entertainment.
To be entertained. Uh, and yes. Yeah, if you, if you, uh, I hope that’s my hope that if you watch my video, one of my videos, at least be able to learn one thing. Uh, and, and if I can, I can put a smile on your face, then that’s also what I’m aiming for, but if not, then that’s fine. Elle: Excellent. I like that. It’s authentic. It’s self-expression, you know, people are… people like that, you know, it’s real. Excellent. Okay. Well, thank you so, so much for joining me today, it’s been a great chat. Uh, I will pop the link to your channel, and I know you’re active all around Instagram and, uh, TikTok I think as well. Okay. So I’ll pop those links in the description and yes thank you so much. And enjoy the rest of your day, I guess what are we? You’re in the afternoon now in Montreal, right? Around 2.30.
Well, there we go. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon and evening and yeah thank you so much for joining us.
Lisa of Accurate English has some actionable tips for anyone hoping to improve their English pronunciation. Don’t forget to check out the Accurate English YouTube channel for more!
Elle: Hello everyone and welcome to the LingQ podcast with me Elle. If you would like to study this podcast episode as an English lesson, I have created it for you on LingQ. The lesson link is in the description. With LingQ you can follow the transcript and audio, so read along as you listen. You can slow it down, speed it up. You translate words and phrases you don’t know. You can then do vocabulary activities with those words and phrases. So an excellent way to study a language. If you feel like challenging yourself also, why not start a LingQ language challenge. I’ve also put the challenges page link in the description so go check that out to see if your language is there. We have many, many languages. I just started a language challenge in French, it’s called the 90-Day Challenge. So I am dedicated to intense french study for 90 days. And my goal is to read a French novel for the first time. So I’m going to read a Stephen King novel in French.
So by the end of the 90 days, I will have leveled up my French skills and also finished a novel in French for the first time, so pretty cool. If you’re watching or listening on YouTube, Spotify, Google, or Apple podcasts, SoundCloud and you would like to give us a review, a like a, share, a follow we would greatly appreciate that.
This week I am joined by a very interesting guest. Her name is Lisa Mojsin. She is an accent reduction specialist and founder of Accurate English, which is a training center in LA. Lisa, thank you so much for joining us.
Lisa: My pleasure Elle. Great to be here.
Elle: And so you’re joining us from LA right now. How, how are things in sunny LA or is it sunny?
Lisa: It’s very sunny. It’s usually sunny. And that, that’s one of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles. The sunshine is important to me. It makes me happy.
Elle: Yeah. That must be nice waking up most days and knowing that it’s going to be just a lovely day.
Lisa: I, I never take it for granted. I still appreciate it.
Elle: So, Lisa, as I mentioned, you are an accent reduction specialist. For anyone listening and a lot of our listeners are studying English and hoping to improve their pronunciation and accent, what is an accent reduction specialist, and what kind of techniques do you use to help English learners with their accent?
Lisa: Well, an accent reduction specialist does, uh, one of two things. Um, I either help people reduce their strong accent and very often it’s for professional reasons.
There’s something about the way people speak that’s holding them back professionally. And then they usually come to me because there’s some kind of crisis, they’re not getting the promotion they want, or someone complained to them I don’t understand this person. And it’s, it’s an emergency in a sense.
So when people come to me, they know that in order to get ahead in their careers, they have to speak clearly. And they have to be understood every time they speak. Um, or they, they want, um, they want to go after their dream job, but they don’t even dare go for the job interview because they’re so… that the moment they start speaking, when people hear their heavy accent, they’re not going to get the job.
So that’s one type of student that I see. And of course, because I’m in Los Angeles, I work with people in Hollywood, people who are born in another country, but they’re actors, they’re living in Los Angeles and they need to compete. Uh, acting, acting in LA is already extremely competitive. When you go on an audition, there are so many people that want that one job.
And so if you have an accent, then you might not get the job because of that. So people who already are maybe quite advanced, who already have a very good accent, uh, but all it takes is making one mistake during your audition. You might have a script where there’s a word you didn’t pronounce correctly and suddenly the director or the casting director might say, you know what?
I don’t think we’re going to hire this person for this role. They have a strong accent and no, they do not have a strong accent they just mispronounced one or two words, but it’s perceived as a strong accent. If you need to sound a hundred percent like a native speaker. So those are the other types of people that I’ve spent my career working with.
And as far as, uh, what techniques I use, it really depends on the individual. Um, I would say my number, the number one thing that I do is I find out, uh, the psychological aspects to why they came to see me because so often they already have so many blocks and so many insecurities about the way they speak.
And that’s already going to interfere in how well they speak and, um, how much progress they make. A lot of times they hate the sound of their voice. Well, we’re going to have to record your voice and that’s part of your homework. You’re going to have to regularly record your voice. A lot of them say, I’ve had people say, you know what, I’m not doing that homework because I refuse to listen to myself.
I really don’t like the way I sound. And so I try to make them feel better about their image, uh, anything related to the way they speak, uh, their accent, their voice. So the number one thing I do is I tell them, you sound a lot better than you think you do. And I’m telling them the truth, because like I said, when they come to me, usually there’s some kind of crisis, some kind of emergency, and they’ve probably created that crisis and made it even bigger than it is.
They’re sometimes traumatized. So I want them to relax and to have it be a fun experience because when you make it fun, when you say I can do this, this is going to be interesting. We’re going to work on interesting scripts and different topics that are not so boring and not. So, um, just by the book, um, they get excited about it.
And then I feel like I’ve broken that barrier and now I can reach them because there’s nothing worse than somebody who is so terrified and they don’t think they’ll ever make any progress. Then I feel like the lessons won’t even be very effective. So that’s the starting point.
Elle: And are there any, uh, you’ve been doing this, you, you founded accurate English, I believe 20 years ago, 20 or a little more than 20 years ago?
Elle: So you’ve had lots of students come through. Are there any, um, standout success stories that you recall specifically, and are there any things that you think those students did, that others didn’t that that made them successful?
Lisa: Definitely. Uh, as I said before, the attitude is extremely important. My favorite types of students to work with, because that’s when I see the most success, is people who have, who have had success in other areas of their life.
Let me give you an example. I worked with a young man who was an actor and he had, I could tell when he came in that he was very focused. He was, uh, just, uh, there was something confident and driven and focused at the same time. And through the course of getting to know him, I found out he had a black belt in martial arts, and I said to myself, aha, okay, this person knows how to work hard.
I don’t know enough about martial arts, but I know it’s hard to get a black belt. And I knew it took a lot of discipline. And so he had that discipline. And that, that drive and the success story was that, um, he came back, he had a few lessons with me and then he came back maybe six months later, later he said he just wanted to get a review to see how he was doing.
And I, there was zero accent. He sounded totally American. And I said, what did you do? He said, well, I just did what you told me. And so what I had told him, uh, these mistakes that you’re making in order to fix them, you need to speak with yourself daily, talk to yourself. And so that’s a, he said, Lisa, every time I woke up, I would just talk to myself in English for an hour or for two hours.
Um, and that did it. But he, he, you know, you speak to yourself, but you’re thinking about how you’re speaking. So if you’re making a particular vowel mistake or constant mistake, you’re paying attention when those sounds. And you’re making an effort to pronounce that well, and it worked, it worked. So I love that.
I love that.
He just said, well, you know, of course this is going to be hard, but I’m going to do it every single day. And that’s, I love that. And a couple of other success stories, I would say the ones that really inspire me is I had a couple of ladies separately from different countries. They were both in their seventies who made great progress.
And so when I get somebody who says, oh, I’m 25 or I’m 30, is it too late? Listen, I’ve had people in their seventies who made very good progress. And also these two women were, um, just, uh, successful, driven, uh, and inspirational their, their whole life was, they learned how to learn. They learned how to overcome challenges.
And when you have that mindset, you can do a lot and age really doesn’t matter. And I suppose my final story is, um, it’s always nice to see actors when I turn on the TV and suddenly there’s a commercial and I worked with someone on that commercial. That’s fun, you know, that’s, that’s always exciting. It’s like, oh wow! We did it.
Elle: I bet .You’re seeing your work in action. You know?
Lisa: I know, I memorized the whole commercial myself site, the whole ad. So I’m saying it with them because we went over it so many times and that’s, that’s always really fun just because in LA you get these types of people to work with and it makes your job fun.
Elle: I bet I actually was when I was looking through your channel, I was especially interested, I am a huge movie TV fan, and I watched the one video, sorry, I forget his name now, but, um, the actor who was in The OA, I recognized him from The OA
Lisa: Oh yes, Ego Mikitas.
Elle: Because that’s an excellent show. And I was like, wow, that’s so cool. It must be very cool to work with…
Lisa: it is an I, I also like film and I, and I, and so part of my job is also, I try to keep up with what’s happening in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, because so often they say, you know, I have an audition with such and such director. And so I like to keep up, so I know who these people are and what my students are going through and what they’re experiencing. Yeah.
Elle: Do you bumped into… this isn’t so much a language and accent reduction question, but do you bump into, do you see famous people all the time in LA? I feel like, people often say, you know, I live in LA and I, I see, you know, Leonardo DiCaprio walking down the street. Is that actually true as someone who’s lived in LA for a long time?
Lisa: Well over the yearsI mean, yeah. I mean, I’ve been in LA most of my life. Yeah, absolutely. I’ve seen lots of famous people, but, uh, I think depends. It depends on the neighborhood where you live or which if you go to certain restaurants, you’re much more likely to see them. But I would say, if you’re coming to LA as a tourist, hoping to see a famous person, chances are very strong that you will not owe this person.
That’s just, you know, it’s not that common, but in the course of just living here, yeah, you do, you do. I’m trying to think of who I, I mean, obviously lots of them, lots of them, you know, Tom, Tom cruise, uh…
Elle: whoa. That’s like the biggest…
Lisa: I don’t know if your, your viewers know who this is, but she was very famous in my mother’s generation. Sophia Loran.
Elle: Oh yeah.
Lisa: I was standing next to her in a bookstore and I said to myself, you know, She looks really familiar. Does she go to my gym? Suddenly? Somebody said, oh, miss Lauren. And I said, that kind of stuff will happen. Or I’m just like, okay, I know this person.
Elle: Wow. She’s an icon. That’s amazing.
Lisa: That does happen. Sometimes in the most, I was in some really weird, kind of like tiny little hole in the wall restaurant and I saw somebody that I had recently seen on TV. And it’s something you think, wait a minute, aren’t you supposed to be in this glamorous place? So, no, they’re not necessarily at the glamorous places.
They’re just at the market, for example.
Elle: Yeah. They’re just regular people, I guess, until they get so much money they don’t have to even go out, leave their mansion compounds, who knows? Yeah.
So Lisa, Accurate English, um, is your, uh, your training center, but also, uh, the YouTube channel that you run is called Accurate English and it is just packed full of amazing videos, super helpful for anyone who is wanting to reduce their accent, improve their English pronunciation. What would you tell someone who’s a new subscriber to your channel? Where would you tell them to go? Where should they start?
Lisa: Gosh, you know, there are so many videos there at this point, um, I think if they’re specifically focused on reducing their accent, I do have a playlist where I talk about different sounds, but I would say any one of my videos, depending on, even if I’m in, or sometimes I’m talking about grammar, I’m still integrating, uh, pronunciation in it. Um, because every, the reason I call my company, when I started it, I decided to call it Accurate English, English.
And now my channel is called accurate English because I believe, um, I’d like to, it’s important for me to focus on all aspects of English. So it’s not just about pronunciation. I really believe that all of the different things go together. So for example, if you’re working on your accent, chances are that you’re also want to improve your vocabulary.
Chances are you feel like you don’t quite have the expressions that native speakers do. Uh, so if I’m teaching maybe the most or some of the recent videos have been interviewing native speakers and analyzing not only their accent, but the expressions they’re using. So if you just watch one of my videos, you will be getting an accent reduction less.
Elle: Right. So, Lisa, is there anything that someone listening to this episode could do tomorrow or even straight after listening to improve their pronunciation, their English pronunciation?
I would say the number one thing you should do is listen to the melody of the language. English is about stress and reduction, stress and reduction.
That’s such an important component of pronunciation and accent. Uh, we stress the key words. So stress means longer vowels, louder and higher in pitch. So if you’re going to say a sentence “I need to talk to you”. If your language is pretty flat and each word gets equal stress, it might be difficult to understand your sentence, but we’re going to ask ourselves, what is the key word I want to talk to you?
The keyboard is talk. So talk has a really big vowel. It’s “ah” so we’re going to say it like this. “I want to talk to you. I want to talk to you.” So when you open your mouth on the stressed part of the sentence, it makes your accent better. It makes your speech much clearer. Uh, and, uh, it sounds natural.
Uh, but if you stress every word “I want to talk to you”, it’s not going to sound right either. So do Americans… ask yourself, do Americans speak quickly or slowly? Both. They mumble, they speak really quickly on the unstressed parts of the sentence, but the, they emphasize and they slow down on the key words.
So “I want to talk to you”. And then the same thing, ask yourself the same question related to individual words. Usually there’s one vowel inside that word that needs to be stressed. So if we say, um, fantastic, three syllables. So the second syllable is going to be stressed. So we open our mouth really big. Fantastic.
So open your mouth more, prolong the vowels on the stressed parts of the words and the stress words in the sentences. So that’s fantastic. Open your mouth. That’s fantastic. Otherwise, you’re going to…that’s fantastic. If you’re not moving your mouth, your accent is going to be difficult to understand.
Lisa: Listen to the, listen to, uh, the stress, listen to the melody and remember, yes, native speakers do slow down on keywords and I speak quickly with everything else.
Elle: Wonderful. Okay guys, anyone listening who wants to improve the accent pronunciation these are some things you can do as soon as you, as soon as you finish listening.
Thank you, Lisa. Um, so Lisa, you aren’t just an accent reduction specialist, you are also a polyglot. What languages do you speak?
Lisa: Well, I majored in French and German in college. I was absolutely passionate about, uh, studying languages. And then I taught myself Spanish and I’m always learning other things, other languages, trying to, trying to figure out how they work. These days I don’t have so much time to, um, to really devote to mastering any languages. But, um, what of my, one of the things that I really like to do is to learn about how other languages work to to be able to help my students. For example, when I work with Russian students and I work with their pronunciation, there’s a mistake that they tend to make.
That makes me curious, well, wait a minute. How does Russian work? Because everyone’s doing that. So then I do research in Russian pronunciation and that helps me, uh, to better prepare myself and to better explain to them what they’re doing and what they need to do. So that’s something that I’m really fascinated about.
And I’ve done that with Japanese as well. For example, Japanese has like sa se su so, but then they don’t say, see, they say shi, shi, they change that S to an S H when there’s an I that follows. Well, that explains a lot because Japanese people frequently say make Mec-shi-co instead of Mexico. And it’s because they don’t have a C they change everything to shi.
Or instead of saying situation, they say shi-tuation. And that kind of stuff really fascinates me. But, um, I, uh, used to be a French teacher. That’s how I started. Yeah.
I taught French in high school for a short amount of time. And later I got a master’s degree in English and that led to changing my career and teaching English.
But French is my first love. And I taught English in Germany when I was in my twenties. And that was exciting too. And that’s when I got a chance to improve the German that I had studied in college.
Elle: Amazing. So languages really are and have been your life?
Lisa: Yeah. Yeah.
I love languages, but my favorite thing is teaching English.
Elle: So you speak these other languages, uh, did that influence the way that you help people with the English?
Lisa: Absolutely. Very much. So I always remember my favorite teachers when I was studying different languages and people who’ve inspired me. You don’t become a good teacher without having good role models in the past. There are so many different techniques that teachers use. I remember there was one professor in Germany. When I lived in Germany, I was in a city called Konstanz in the south of Germany, near the Swiss border. And I took German classes at the university. There was a teacher whose method was amazing. She was so experimental in the way that she taught German.
And she did so many interesting exercises and she brought in real life, and we read the newspaper in German, and then we had to memorize all the vocabulary of the newspaper article and we had to pronounce things correctly. And, uh, I do that a lot. I bring in different things like, like newspapers, we read them and we, the goal, the goal is to sound like a native speaker, not only in your pronunciation, but using the advanced vocabulary that you’re learning from the newspapers.
I think the most important part of it is that I know that it’s really challenging to learn another language and to change your accent. It’s really hard work. But I also know that if you’re passionate about, if you have to find something that really excites you about it, and when I was a teenager, I really wanted to go to Paris.
I watched some French movies and I fell in love with French and I, I just romanticized it and that motivated me. It made me work hard. And then when I was 19, well, I went to Paris when I was 16 and then I went again when I was 19. And I had a teacher at UCLA and I think this is the story that really is my favorite one.
I had a teacher at UCLA who taught us French phonetics and French pronunciation for the whole semester. And she would give us dictations and we needed to write French sentences, just using the phonetic symbols. That class was super difficult, but it changed my life. After that class finished, it was summer vacation and I went to Paris and I remember going to a boutique, a store. And the lady said, which part of France are you from? And I couldn’t believe it. I thought I’m not from France, I’m from the United States. That was the greatest compliment you could possibly give me because I really, really wanted to speak French with a good French accent. And it was because of that teacher who taught us French phonetics, who taught us how to hear the subtle difference between the vowel sounds of French and the nasal consonant sounds. And I didn’t know that before. And so then when I started teaching English at Santa Monica College, and I had students from, a lot of students from all over the world who had studied English for many years, But when they spoke, people couldn’t understand them.
I thought, why is no one teaching them pronunciation? Why is no one teaching them accent reduction? Like, like Madame Brichant. That was her name, Madame Brichant. Uh, Madame Brichant changed my life and I don’t think I would be doing this job if it weren’t for her. And she was teaching French at UCLA. Long time ago.
Elle: Wow, what a compliment, eh? Where in France are you from? I bet you would just like…
Lisa: Oh, and I know that my students want that same thing. You know, the actors in Los Angeles who are from other countries, they want that same. They want it. They want to hear “you sound like you might be from Texas”, “you might be from New York” instead of, oh, you know, typical thing is that my students tell me, you know, Lisa, I just said, hello and somebody said, “where are you from?” Or I said one sentence and they said, “oh, you’re Russian, aren’t you?” And there’s nothing wrong with having an accent. There’s nothing wrong with that. But after a while, it gets tiring. Every time you open your mouth, if you live in the United States and you have a foreign accent, you go to the store. “Oh, what a charming accent.” That gets annoying. I had a student who is an architect from France and she said, I want to talk about my designs and my architecture plans to my clients, but they say, “oh, you know, I love your accent. And by the way, I was in Paris. Five years ago. And I went to this place…” and it gets tiring.
It’s gets really tiring. So even if they don’t necessarily eliminate their accent, if they reduce it and neutralize it so that people don’t necessarily always know, oh, you’re from India or you’re from Italy or you’re from wherever that makes them feel better. That’s, it’s just, and it’s exciting when I can help them achieve those goals. If that’s what their goal is.
Elle: Right. Excellent.
Um, so Lisa, anyone who is listening and is going to subscribe to your YouTube channel, Accurate English, uh, after this, what can they expect from your channel uh, moving forward, what’s in store?
Lisa: A lot of exciting things I want to do with the channel. Um, I love interviewing native speakers in Los Angeles, and I particularly try to find people from different professions because my students, the viewers are potentially in these professions. And when the people that I interview use the vocabulary and different expressions, idioms related to those professions, it helps not only with their accent because I teach them how to pronounce those things. But also it’s so important to keep expanding your knowledge of vocabulary, terminology, all sorts of everyday idioms that people in that job might be using.
So I have a lot of people that I’m planning to interview. In addition, I’m focusing more on grammar and writing a grammar course. And, uh, I love teaching grammar. I, uh, really, really am passionate about teaching grammar. And I think that’s sometimes overlooked. We emphasize too much just, uh, how people sound with their accent and maybe increasing vocabulary, but you have to have this strong foundation.
You have to know that when you’re saying a sentence, you’re saying it correctly. And that’s how I learned the languages that I speak. I started with grammar and I like feeling confident that when I say a sentence in French, it will be grammatically correct. Well, maybe these days it might not be because I don’t use it so much, but I remember at one time, you know, we had so many advanced grammar courses and tests that when you know why you’re saying something and why you’re using this particular verb tense, whatever it is a certain construction, you feel a lot more confident and you can communicate professionally. You can write email. And so I want to take my channel more into that direction. Correctness of speech, not just accent, but also all aspects. That’s why the channel is called Accurate English. I believe the goal should be aiming to make everything accurate, your grammar, your pronunciation of vocabulary usage and so on.
Elle: Fantastic. Well, I will pop the link to your channel in the description. And Lisa, thank you so, so much for this chat full of packed, full of really useful info, especially for our, um, English learners. Yeah.
Thank you so much and enjoy the rest of your evening in LA.
Lisa: You too in Vancouver.
Elle: Thank you. Bye-bye.
Lisa: Thank you so much. Thank you. That was fun. Bye-bye.
Study this episode and any others from the LingQ English Podcast on LingQ! Check it out.
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.
Deni Mintsaev creates videos about learning Japanese, his travels in Japan and… Rubik’s cube! Elle chats with Deni in this episode of the LingQ Podcast about his methods, the content he’s enjoying and taking the infamously difficult JLPT.
Elle: Hello everyone and welcome to the LingQ podcast with me, Elle. English learners, don’t forget you can study this episode and all past episodes as a lesson on LingQ, the lesson link is in the description always. If you’re studying any language, in fact, you can use LingQ to study from content you’re interested in: podcast episodes, blog posts, TV shows, news, whatever. Make a lesson with it on LingQ and study from content of interest. And don’t forget to give us a share, a follow, a like or a review on whatever podcast platform you are listening on. We really appreciate it. This week I am joined by a guest all the way from Russia. He is a YouTuber. He creates videos about learning Japanese currently it’s his language. And also something language learning well, unrelated to language learning, which we will get to so stay tuned. This week I am joined by Deni Mintsaev. Deni. Welcome. Thank you for joining us.
Deni: Hello. Thank you for having me.
And so, uh, joining us from, uh, Russia, as I mentioned, uh, how are things in Russia these days and whereabouts in Russia are you joining us from?
I am currently in Moscow. I’m just here for the summer break. I am studying abroad in the United Kingdom. Uh, but, uh, I, right now I’m back in Moscow. I just finished my exchange year in Japan. Uh, and yeah, it’s not too bad here. Uh, so yeah.
Elle: So… good. Excellent. And did you grow up in Moscow?
Deni: Yes. Yes. Uh, so I lived here for pretty much all my life. Uh, I mostly just stayed abroad for study. Uh, I’m now going into my fourth year, um, which will be now, uh, back in the UK. Elle: Oh, in the UK. Excellent. And so you just left, uh, Japan, right? You were just, you were just a few months in Japan.
Deni: My third year was an exchange year, uh, which I spent in Japan, uh, well, to be precise, it was a little over eight months.
Um, and, uh, yeah, now I’m going into my fourth year, which will be back in the UK. Elle: Excellent. And so, as I mentioned, uh, at the beginning in your intro, you are studying Japanese, you’re really hardcore studying Japanese, um, and creating lots of videos about your journey and help, helpful the videos for other people studying Japanese. So, firstly, what got you into Japanese and why did you decide to study Japanese?
Deni: Well originally, uh, I got some kind of idea to maybe try and learn it through just watching stuff in Japanese, which was at the time mostly just anime. Uh, and I thought it would be interesting to watch it in the original, uh, version, uh, without any subtitles, uh, just like I do anything in English or anything in my native language.
Uh, so that’s where I got the initial idea. And then once I actually started learning Japanese and talking to some Japanese people online, I grew more and more attached and more and more, became more and more interested in the culture and the kind of everything surrounding Japan. And it kind of just spiraled out of there.
Elle: I see. It is fascinating culture. Right. So how many years has it been now that you’ve been studying the language? Deni: It’s now been five and a half years, a bit more than five and a half years even. Um, and yeah, it’s been quite the journey. Uh, most of the time I spent, uh, doing self study. Uh, it is my major in university, but that’s mostly just because I needed to pick some degree. And that was what I decided to go with, but I’ve still continued to mostly study, um, in my own time with my own uh, method. Um, so yeah.
Elle: Excellent. And so tell us about, you say your own, your own method. What, uh, what is your method, how you going about studying Japanese, the self study part?
Deni: Well, uh, I’m kind of now in the stage where you just need to watch a lot in Japanese. Listen, read, just consume as much as possible. Uh, and I can, I’m pretty much good to go with that. The only exception is the writing, obviously Kanji, you can’t learn passively. You have to sit down and actively study the different characters. And, uh, right now I’m sitting at a bit over 1700. I’ve not really done much a study recently. Uh, but yeah, overall, uh, I’m able to converse with relative ease. Uh, um, I can talk about, uh, all sorts of topics and I don’t really have much difficulty with that. Um, well listening is a bit more tricky, uh, as well as reading because there, uh, you never know what kind of stuff you can encounter. And it very, very much depends on the material, uh, you’re consuming. Uh, I would still say that stuff like anime or TV shows are not very easy for me. Uh, but I can watch YouTube videos and understand them quite well. I would say.
Elle: Excellent. Wow. That’s a great stage to be at where you’re kind of able to enjoy the language, enjoy content in the language. What, uh, what kinds of content are you watching right now for anyone listening who is maybe at a similar level in Japanese? Um, can you suggest any YouTube channels or you said anime, shows, movies.
Deni: Yeah, well, uh, lately I’ve been watching a little bit more anime again. Uh, I’m watching Attack on Titan right now. Uh, and I’ve also, uh, spent a lot of time watching YouTube. I quite like watching, uh, like video game let’s play videos. And, uh, there are certain games that are popular in Japan.
So I like to watch some of those channels. Uh, there’s a very, uh, interesting channel. For me, I, I really, I find it very enjoyable, uh, on YouTube called Nichijō-gumi and, um, yeah, it’s like a, uh, a group of friends, uh, who all play, uh, like video games. And I don’t know, they have, they have a very good like energy and a good chemistry with each other. So it’s quite fun to watch. Uh, well, yeah, that’s mostly it. And then as for reading, uh, I’m trying to read. But more like the light novel type of thing. Um, because I’ve mostly read manga, which I still do. Um, but now I’m, I’m still going through my first, a proper book in Japanese. And, uh, it’s taking a while, but I’ve not been very, very intensively reading it. Uh, but it’s not too bad if, uh, um, if I can use a dictionary, it’s not really too bad. Elle: Ok. And what’s the book? Deni: Oh, uh, it’s um, A Windup Bird Chronicle, uh, by Haruki Murakami. Elle: Yeah, I’ve read that in English. I wish I could read that in Japanese, but yeah, I read that. I, I really, I really liked that book. He’s such a great author. Deni: I’ve read the most books, uh, from Murakami, uh, out of the different books I’ve read. Um, but only in English and Russian, never in Japanese.
Elle: Great. Right. Well, good luck with it. At least you have, Murakami has, is still writing too. And he has, uh, he has lots of books so, you can get through all of those in Japanese maybe, that’s a challenge. Um, so Deni you, uh, studying or have studied in the past for the JLPT.
Elle: Tell us, tell us what is the JLPT and, um, how have your experiences been with taking it?
Deni: Well, I have taken it a good number of times at this point. I think I’ve taken the N3 once, I failed that one, uh, I’ve taken the N2 three times and finally passed it on the third attempt. And I just recently took the N!. Uh, but I don’t have the results yet. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was very difficult though.
I there’s pretty much no chance that I passed it but I just kind of did it for fun to try and see what it’s like. Uh, yeah.
Elle: I think that’s wise. Yeah.
Just to get an idea, you know, go in with no expectation of actually passing maybe. And like you say, you think you maybe didn’t, um, but getting an idea of what it’s all about, and then you try again. I’ve heard it’s, for anyone listening who doesn’t know first off what the JLPT is, it’s the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. And it, I believe there are five levels, right? N5, N4, N3, N2 and N1, N1 being the final one, the most difficult. And I’ve heard that it’s extremely difficult. So, um, yeah. And you can, there you go you can confirm, so, wow. Okay. So you’ve tried the N1. And when will you get your results? Do you know?
Deni: I should get them sometime this month. Um, but I checked a few days ago and, uh, I didn’t have my results yet. Um, I did do a little better than I expected though.
Cause I went in completely expecting that I would just really, you know, just the worst possible result. But the first, the first section was exactly as I expected. Uh, however, the, the reading and listening was not quite as bad. It was still pretty difficult, but I at least did better than I expected. Uh, so at least there’s that. Elle: Well, you never know, you never know, fingers crossed. So I’m assuming then there’s a listening, a writing, a reading and a speaking aspect? Deni: So there are three sections, um, for the first two are done together. Uh, you’ll have to just kind of manage your time and it’s up to you, uh, to spend as much time as you want on each of the sections. I think the first one is, uh, vocabulary and grammar. And the second one is where you have a text and you read it and then you answer a question. Um, and then the listening is done separately, uh, where they play a CD for you, for the big like room of, um, students. And you just answer questions. Uh, some of the questions you don’t even see the answers written down, they also say out loud the different ones. Um, pretty much the whole test is multiple choice, by the way, I should have mentioned that there. Yeah.
So it’s, uh, not the best test to actually show one’s ability. Uh, but I guess it, it does show it in some way, but it shows, uh, from what I can tell from what I’ve heard, it shows a lot more how well someone prepared for the exam, uh, versus how well you speak perhaps. Elle: Hmm, that seems like most tests for language learning, right? How well are you, how, how well can you prepare for a test? How well can you understand a test as opposed to yeah actually conversing in a language or knowing the language?
Deni: Well, there is one that I can think of that I thought was pretty well done, uh, which was pretty well made, which was the IELTS exam for English.
Um, and that one had, it’s a very different format. There are some things that are multiple choice, a lot of them, um, like there’s a big section where it’s writing and you just write like an essay or something like that. Yeah.
And, uh, there is also a section where you speak to an actual person. Uh, so it’s, uh, it’s a fair bit better. I would say.
Uh, I’ve taken now one without doing any preparation and got um, 8.0, out of nine. Uh, so it has a weird grading system. Um, and, uh, yeah, nine is the max. Uh, but you know, like they say for a lot of, uh, tests, uh, even a native speaker is not going to get the nine out of nine without, you know, putting in hours and hours, uh, preparing for the test.
Uh, but I got 8.0 overall, um, without doing pretty much any prep.
Elle: Fantastic. Okay. That, that, that makes way more sense, actually speaking to someone face to face and so they can assess your language ability that way. So. Okay. So Deni, tell us about your time in Japan. Like I mentioned, you just left a little while back.
Deni: Yeah, just a month ago.
Elle: Okay. Uh, so. Did you experience any culture shock? Oh, was this the, was this your first time in Japan? First off?
Deni: It was actually my second time. Uh, first time I went there in 2017, uh, for one week. uh, for one week.
Elle: Okay. So this is your first time staying for an extended period.
Deni: Yeah, it’s actually, that was my longest consecutive time spent in another country because, uh, due to the pandemic, I couldn’t even come back for like a break for a holiday. Uh, so I had to stay there until the end of my year.
Elle: Ah, okay. So you hadn’t intended on staying for the full, like the time you had wanted to come back, but then COVID. Deni: Yeah.
When I was studying in the UK, I would always come back for the holidays, uh, to see my family. Um, but I, that was, that was not an option in Japan.
If I came back, then I would have not gone back again. So to continue my second semester.
Elle: Right. And now of course, this question is, maybe you would have answered differently if it weren’t a pandemic, but, uh, what would some of the things that surprised you about Japan? And did you experience any culture shock while you were there?
Deni: I wouldn’t really say so. Uh, I think I’ve already experienced culture shock remotely from because, um, even like throughout my years, learning Japanese before I went there, um, I had a lot of experience communicating with Japanese people and I’d already kind of had, uh, some, a couple of moments of culture shock. Uh, so that was not really as big of an issue.
I did have, um, the situation which I’ve had in the past. Where sometimes when somebody doesn’t really want to talk to you, they can’t really say, or even give you a hint. They’ll just ghost you. Uh, obviously that’s not everybody. Uh, but some people like that in Japan, unfortunately, because it’s a very closed down country. Uh, people, even among Japanese people themselves, they seem to be quite closed down. Quite an unfortunate situation. So I made a friend there, uh, during my stay, but one day they just stopped replying for some reason, uh, that’ll just remain a mystery. I’ve had that experience in the past. So I wasn’t much of a culture shock, but it was still kind of a bummer overall. Um, it was obviously not as, as good of an experience as I was hoping for before the pandemic started. Uh, but I did at least managed to, um, sneak in a few, uh, trips here and there. Uh, when we had like the, you know, the, a better periods, uh, in terms of the cases COVID cases, um, there were, I had a trip to Oita, uh, on the Kyushu island.
Uh, I had a trip to Okinawa. Uh, I had, uh, like a smaller trip, uh, to neighboring, uh, Kanagawa, whoa, sorry, Kanagawa was where I was living. Um, in Shizuoka Prefecture. Uh, I actually went on a few hikes and one of them was in Shizuoka Prefecture where, uh, me and my friends, uh, from the UK were studying, uh, on the same course as me, uh, we climbed the, Mount Aichi
I think it was called. Okay. Oh, uh, oh actually, that’s not what it was called Ashitaka I think it was the name of the mountain. Um, and from Mount Ashitaka you get the perfect view of Mount Fuji. Uh, and that was a very nice experience. Um, it was 1,504 meters above sea level at the peak. Uh, that’s high that’s high up. Elle: Did you get the whole. Kind of altitude, not altitude sickness, but the, you know, deep breathing.
Deni: Um, but me and my friend went to another hike where I did feel it. Uh, we, and we started a much lower there. Uh, it was, um, oh shoot I don’t think I’ll be able to remember that one. Uh, but there was another mountain, uh, on the, in the west of Tokyo prefecture where it’s very rural. Um, yeah. That mountain was 1,736 meters at the peak. And we started at 340 meters above seal. So that was a big difference, like altitude change, uh, and, um, at about a kilometer altitude change. So that was a 400 meters above sea level where me and my friend really started feeling it. Um, and at one point we even went through a cloud, uh, which was quite the experience.
Elle: I bet. Yeah.
I remember when I was in Japan, I, I climbed Mount Fuji with some friends and they had these, uh, we had these oxygen tank, not tanks, but like a little aerosol mini oxygen inhalers. And I thought, wow, we’re not gonna not going to need those. My friend actually really did need it. Um, he was feeling really dizzy and this was a very fit person too, way fitter than me.
I think it just depends on your physiology or something, but, um, yeah, a lot of these people were just like sucking on these oxygen inhalers as they kind of trudged up in a, in a line up Mount Fuji, but that was an experience for sure. Um, so Deni, tell us about your channel, for everyone who’s going to rush into subscribe after listening. Your channel is, uh, named Deni Mintsaev and you, as I mentioned… it’s your name, you, uh, create content about your, um, language learning journey with Japanese. What can people expect moving forward for your channel when they subscribe?
Deni: Uh, I’ve actually never really thought about specifically making videos about Japanese. I just really make videos about whatever I’m interested in and if it’s Japanese at the time, then that’s what I’ll make a video about. Uh, I actually still, uh, want to make a video. Uh, where I made a video before I left, uh, where I spoke Japanese. And the idea was this was actually from a comment that somebody left, uh, suggesting this, that I record myself speaking Japanese before leaving, and then once I return, uh, I still need to the return video.
Uh, so that’ll be interesting. And, uh, I recently, um, Made a, a video, which I had a lot of fun making uh, about my adventures in Japan, uh, I would definitely recommend people to check out that one. Uh, I detail my different trips that I went on and show all sorts of photos. And, uh, yeah, I had a lot of fun making that one, so I hope you guys will see it and enjoy it.
Elle: Excellent. Give people that, that travel bug, which I know a lot of us have, who haven’t been able to travel for sure. So, obviously you’re all about the Japanese right now. Do you think you’ll move on to another language sometime soon? Or are you sticking with the Japanese for the foreseeable future?
Deni: Uh, I’m actually taking a little bit of a break. Uh, I I’ve done this many times in the past. Um, uh, so I’ll probably get back to Japanese very soon. I don’t think I’ll be switching to another language quite yet. But yeah, I’ll be getting back on the Japanese train and the thing I’m the most interested in right now is the writing. I just want to learn more and more Kanji so I can read more, uh, because I’ve kind of been enjoying reading more than, um, watching stuff lately. So, uh, when it comes to Japanese. So I think I’ll, uh, focus more on that. Um, as soon as I, you know, get the, get the kick to, uh, to learn from it. Uh, but yeah, I, I have a few different hobbies that I, uh, work on from time to time. Uh, so I might make videos about other things too.
Elle: Okay. Well, one of those hobbies is something you also create videos on, on this channel, and I want to ask you about it.
So your channel is about language learning, but also about Rubik’s cube which I find fascinating, this whole thing. I’ve never been able to complete one. So maybe that’s why, I haven’t really tried not mathematically minded at all. But, um, I wanted to ask you, do you think that, uh, your interest in kind of the strategy and the way your mind works around Rubik’s cube has helped you in any way learn languages? Deni: I, I would say that maybe it’s the opposite, that it’s the same kind of interest. Uh, just like subconscious interests that I have that has made me interested in both of those, uh, Rubik’s cubes aren’t really as much about maths as there are just about I guess, logic. Um, and there is also a lot of logic when it comes to languages.
Um, and yeah, because you know, there is a grammar rule. Uh, there are, uh, also in Japanese, you have the Kanji, uh, which there’s also some logic in how you write them, uh, and how you read them. Uh, there are all sorts of things that are about languages that are, um, kind of that make you think. Uh, and yeah, I, that’s something that kind of interests me a lot. Um, in the same way I find programming interesting. Kind of makes you think and yeah, just different things like that.
Elle: Great. There’s a great movie on Netflix. I’m not sure if you’ve seen it at, uh, and I don’t remember the name right now, of course, but it’s about the championships. It follows a bunch of the people who are training to be… I think there’s a championship in the states. Um, I’ll find the, the title. Deni: Are you talking about the Rubik’s cube championship? Oh, oh yeah, the Speed Cubers yeah.
Elle: Okay. I thought that was such a great film. It was, it wasn’t just, you know, it was so well done in that it wasn’t just about Rubik’s cube. It obviously followed these people and you got to know them and everything that they get out of being part of the Rubik’s cube community is just very, very sweet. Deni: Yeah.
I actually met a lot of those people and, uh, I thought, cause that was, um, most of the filming was in the, in Australia, at the world championship in 2019. And I went to that one and I played a lot.
Elle: Oh, no way! So you were there when they filmed that exact…
Deni: Yeah, was watching the, the filming crew, um, and, uh, I have a video that I made myself as well.
Elle: Oh, nice. Is that on your channel?
Deni: Yes. Uh, I think it’s just called like world championship in Australia or something like that. Uh, I uploaded it at the end of 2019.
Elle: Fantastic. And do you, are you in the movie? I know they show the audience a bit. Did you ever see yourself?
Elle: You didn’t make the cut. Okay. Excellent. Well, listen, Deni, thank you so much. That was a really interesting chat. Uh, I will pop the link to your channel and the content you mentioned. And that movie that we just talked about too, in the description, uh, best of luck with taking the, the JLPT N1, uh, maybe you passed this this first time you took it, who knows, but if not best of luck.
Deni: I hope that I at least got like a 70 or something like that, although that’s out of 180, not out of a hundred, so it’s a low bar, but it’s a very, very difficult. Elle: Yes. Like I said, I’ve heard, I’ve heard, I know one person who living in Japan, who, who passed it quite recently and he was just over the moon, the amount of work that went in to him actually finally getting it. So, um, but yeah, best of luck. And, uh, yeah thank you so much for joining us Deni and, uh, yeah have a great rest of your week.
Olly Richards discovered the power of learning a language through stories the hard way… a near-death experience! In this episode Elle chats with Olly about his language learning journey, how he developed his story learning method and the awesome and creative videos he is creating for his YouTube channel.
Elle: Hello everyone and welcome to the LingQ podcast with me Elle. Remember, if you are studying English, you can study this podcast episode as a lesson on LingQ, the audio and the transcript. I’ve created it for you and the lesson link is in the description. In fact, on LingQ you can find a full course, so every episode of this podcast is there for you to study as an English lesson.
LingQ is a game changer tool for language learning. You can create a lesson from any content you find online. Perhaps you want to start reading your news in Spanish in the morning, or watching movies in Japanese, you can make a lesson with it on LingQ and start enjoying content in your target language. If you’re enjoying the podcast, please feel free to give us a review on Apple, follow us on Spotify or SoundCloud, subscribe on Google Podcasts. Whatever showing love is on the platform that you’re listing on. It is greatly appreciated. This week’s guest joins me from across the pond in the UK. He is a teacher, language learner, YouTuber and author. Today I am joined by Olly Richards.
Olly, thank you for joining us.
Olly: The pleasure’s all mine. Thanks so much.
Elle: Excellent. And so how are things in the UK right now?
Olly: From what perspective?
Elle: Uh, yours and I guess, you know, why not talk about COVID? Why not? If you want to.
Olly: Well, I mean, I’ll give you the quick version. COVID’s, uh, actually on the way out. I think we’re, most people here are mostly vaccinated for the most part.
Um, I think we did slightly better than, um, than, uh, than other places. Things are Opening up. So like, yeah, it’s the end in sight here after a pretty abysmal year or so. And then personally, things are great. I’m doing what I do. I’m writing books, I’m making courses, making loads of YouTube videos.
YouTube is kind of my pet project at the moment. So, uh, so yeah, I’m enjoying, enjoying life.
Elle: Excellent. Yeah, and I have to say, I did notice that you’ve been making a lot of YouTube videos lately, it’s great, on your channel: Olly Richards, which I will add a link to of course. So Olly, as I mentioned, you are a language learner and you know, is it eight languages I think I saw online, or has that changed?
Olly: Yeah, I tend to, I tend to say 8. It’s my least favorite question because as time goes on, you know, you forget some languages and other ones go up, but yeah, I I’ve definitely, I’ve definitely learned, uh, 8 languages to a good level. Those would be, uh, after English obviously French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Cantonese, Arabic, and then smatterings of a few others like German and Thai.
But, um, yeah, it’s all kind of, it’s a massive sort of smorgasbord of stuff. Um, all kind of in flux at any one time.
Excellent. And, uh, now I have to ask you, uh, I love asking… you are a polyglot, you speak all these languages, so I love asking polyglots who come on, what sparked their passion, what motivated them to start this language learning journey.
And I’ve had all kinds of interesting answers, but I’ve never had near death experience. So tell us about that.
So the near-death experience, well I’m going to get to that, cause that, that was actually how, that’s what sparked my interest in stories and teaching through stories. It wasn’t how I got interested in languages in the first place.
Like, so I grew up, I grew up like your classic monolingual, English guy and no contact with languages at all. I mean, I did French classes at school, but that’s about it. Um, but when I was 19 years old, I, I was living in London and I got a job in a cafe where I was just, uh, I came across, uh, people, everyone working in that cafe – and it was, it was Caffe Nero in Seven Dials for anyone who knows London,it’s still there to this day, I sometimes pop in. Uh, everyone who was working there with me was from it was from different countries. So there were Italians and Swedes and I kind of got talking to these people and I was just like blown away by how interesting their, their backgrounds were.
I was kinda thinking of what do you, what are you doing in the, in London? And then I realized that these people were all, not only speaking their own languages, but they were speaking English and, uh, and often each other’s languages too. So I just found it all very, very interesting, and that kind of just sparked this interest in learning languages.
So I started learning French. And then, uh, shortly after that, my girlfriend decided to break up with me, sent me into a tailspin. I ran away to Paris. So I lived in Paris for six months and kind of learned French there. And then it was just, you know, flood gates were open after that. Um, but the, the near death experience you referred to was a few years later, I was trying to learn Spanish and not doing very well.
And, uh, I was traveling through Argentina when I was in this tiny village, up in the mountains, on the border of Argentina and Bolivia, um, called Iruya. And, um, and it was very, very high up high altitude. And I woke up in the middle of the night, one night, uh, in this hostel and I couldn’t breathe. And I thought, well, maybe, maybe it’s just something to do with the Malbec I’d been drinking that night. So I… but it didn’t get any better. And I still couldn’t, I still couldn’t breathe. So I ran outside of the balcony, like starting to panic thinking, what am I going to do? And it got worse and worse and I literally could not get any oxygen.
And so I was kind of, sort of sitting there on the end of this balcony heaving thinking, this is, you know, this is the end. And then luckily of course the breath did eventually come back after a few minutes. Um, but I was too scared to go back to bed at that point. So all I could do is sort of sit down.
So I’m just sotr of sitting down on this balcony, looking out over the, this, this kind of this huge valley. And, uh, all I had with me was this Spanish book that I bought from some secondhand shop or something a few weeks earlier. And of course never touched, but I was too scared to go back to bed. We didn’t have iPhones back in the day.
So I just picked up this book and started reading and it was kind of, it was really hard work cause my Spanish wasn’t very good, but I kind of kept, plowed through as I must have sat up for two or three hours reading this book. And, um, didn’t think I’d understood all that much, but was was just about following the plot, which is something key that we might come back to later.
Anyway, the next day I woke up happy to be alive. And I was walking down the street in this, in this village, um, and I found all these words popping into my head. I was like, it was these random Spanish words, like… which means the Bishop. Um, and then I thought, well, that’s weird. Cause normally I, you know, I don’t remember learning these words.
And then, you know, normally I have to try really hard to remember words, but these words are somehow stuck. And then I realized it was because I’d sat up for hours last night, reading this book, and I’d certain words had been, had come up in the story over and over again. Um, and so it, that kind of was one of those kinds of Eureka moments.
And then, so I kept on reading the book and then eventually went back to see my friends in Buenos Aires where I’d been staying before. And all of a sudden I realized I was so much better at speaking. I could speak in more complete sentences cause I had all this vocabulary. Now I can understand a lot more of what people were saying.
So it just sparked this big interest in, in stories. And so from there on, I kind of went… this was many years later, but like, I started to try to develop a way of teaching languages using stories, because it was so powerful for me. And, uh, and loads of people like stories after all. So that was, yeah. That’s how, how that happened.
Elle: Wow. My goodness. So did you ever, um, Not to focus on it, just for a second to come back to what happened to you. Did you ever find out what that was?
Olly: I think it was, I think it was just, I think it was just altitude, you know, that’s, that’s what happens when, when you’re, when you’re so high up. I mean, it was right up on top of a mountain in the Andes.
Uh, so I guess that’s what it was. I mean, maybe I was drugged or something. If I was, then they didn’t do a very good job of stealing my stuff.
Elle: No, the plot thickens though near-death experience or attempted murder? Um, so previous to that, what kind of methods uh… so that’s when, as you said, there’s the kind of focus on stories began. Previously what kind of methods had you used to study languages?
Olly: What I used was all I knew, which was what I’d done at school. So when I was at school, uh, you know, it was a very traditional learning. It was, um, you know, repeat after me, grammar, conjugation tables, uh, memorizing lists of words. That’s all I knew as far as I was concerned, that was, you know, that’s how they taught us at school.
It must be the best way to learn, right? So, so, um, that’s all I did every time I, I had started a new language. Uh, I would just kind of go down to the European book shop in Soho, um, w where it was at the time in London. And, uh, I would, I just, I just thought, I’d see whatever, whatever textbook I liked the look of and buy it and just work through it and then, you know, make my own paper flashcards and things like that.
Uh, you know, it’s, um, it’s, it’s a very, very traditional way of doing things. And, you know, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve sort of learned since that there’s nothing necessarily wrong with doing it that way. In fact, lots of people do have quite a lot of success, but it’s what comes afterwards that, that matters. You know, I actually think more and more that the method itself is just a way to get started.
The journey from kind of competence to actual fluency is it’s down to something a lot more kind of fundamental, I think. But yeah.
Elle: So was Spanish the first language then that you would say you became, as you say, very competent competent or fluent in?
Olly: No, I’d say it was probably, it was probably French. Um, but I was living in Paris, so it was kind of, it was, I had that advantage.
What changed was that when I, when I left France and I went back to the UK, I kept learning languages. Right.
But I had to figure out how to keep learning languages while not being immersed in the country, which after all is most people’s situation. Right?
Olly: So really for most language learners, um, you know, it’s not that living in the, in the country is necessarily a panacea because there are plenty of people who go to live abroad and don’t learn the language to any good degree. Uh, but for the, for the ambitious, dedicated learner, living abroad is a huge advantage because you just have access to the language all the time. But for most people, you know, the challenges, how do I learn a language as a busy adult living at home, you know, by myself? Well, maybe with the help of a teacher a little bit, but that that’s the challenge that most people face and that’s, that’s who I also try to, to help with the stuff that, that, that I do.
I’m very focused on the practical side of life.
Elle: So you run the website, I will teach you a language.
Olly: That’s right, soon to become soon as it becomes storylearning.com. Depending on when people are watching this, we’re actually, we’re actually… cause because the method that I now teach using stories, I call story learning, um, and so we’re actually changing the name of everything over to story learning.com. Uh, but that, that may or may not have happened by the time this goes live. So, but anyone watching this well into the future. Will uh, will yeah. Story learning.com sould be where it’s at.
Elle: Storylearning.com. Okay.
So we’ll talk about the story learning method in a moment. I just want to mention your short stories series, because two of the past guests I’ve had on this podcast have mentioned them. So I always ask, uh, you know, what would you recommend, uh content-wise and I’ve had two people now say Olly Richards’ short stories, readers, which are available online have, were really helpful for me.
So I believe, for cantonese and for Spanish. Yes. Cause that’s right. They’re offered in Spanish and Cantonese, right?
Olly: No, not, not, not exactly. Not exactly. Not Cantonese, but we do have Spanish and we have, we have about 20 languages at this point of which Spanish is one. Yeah.
Elle: Wow. Okay.
Excellent. I’ll uh, I’ll put the link in the description for those, but so they came before you developed this kind of story learning method, or I guess they were…
Olly: Yeah, and so the way, so the way, the way it happened was that I, um, so I’ve been searching for these ways because I found myself learning through stories. Right.
And, um, the way that I was learning was up, I was just getting, getting books and reading those books and.
And that’s fine once you get to a certain level, but it’s not much comfort for people who are kind of just getting started or who are kind of at a lower level because reading novels is pretty tough and you’ve either got to be already be at a good level, or you’ve got to be extraordinarily persistent, um, uh, in order to kind of make your way through and all.
So what, so my first where I went first was to think, okay, well, I want to write stories that you can, that can be useful for them. Um, and you know, graded readers are hardly a new concept, but, but graded readers have always been traditionally extremely dull and boring and, you know, there are often kind of, you know, it would be a translation of like Sherlock Holmes or Jane Austen or whatever, which is fine, but it’s not my cup of tea.
So I wanted something more, more fresh and modern and fun. Right.
So, so I started writing short stories, um, in originally in Spanish and then after that in many other languages. Uh, and, and, and I kind of really went down this rabbit hole of figuring out here what exactly do learners want in, um, in the books like this? Uh, because I think a lot, it’s probably, it’s probably to look at these books and think, oh, well, he just wrote a few stories, but actually I did a huge amount of research into everything from like how long should the average sentence be?
Uh, what genres of stories should we have? Um, what’s the ideal chapter length? I mean, I I’ve, I went deep on this stuff. Um, yeah. Uh, and so that’s why I think these books have become so popular because it is exactly what people need when they are at a, kind of A2, upper beginner level to start reading. So they came first and then, but that’s still not a method for beginners.
So I started to think like, well, I’ve got these, I’ve written these books and they’re, they’re super popular. I want to do something that, I want to create something so that complete beginners in a language can learn using stories too. So it took me a couple of years to figure it out, but then eventually I, I, I kind of created my story learning method, which is, which is specific specifically for beginners.
So if you want to learn Japanese or Spanish or French or whatever, um, I would start to create these courses whereby um, so that you’d have these courses that were based entirely on stories, but you add onto that tuition and, um, and activities and things like that, that they get you, um, actually kind of processing the language and learning. Um, and so that, yeah, that came after, because it wasn’t obvious to me how to do it. Well, I could have, I could have thrown something, I could have thrown something together at any point, but I really wanted to do it well. Um, I’ve got a long, a long background in teaching. Um, so I kind of, I was quite, you know, insistent on, um, on doing that the right way.
Elle: Excellent. And what’s what did you used to teach before?
Olly: Well, when I was a lot younger, I taught music for a few years. Um, I used to teach piano and guitar cause I have a background in music. Um, I have a degree in, I have a degree in jazz piano, which not many people know.
Elle: That’s very cool.
Olly: And I used to, I used to play professionally. That’s like what I did for the longest time. Um, and then I came to a kind of crossroads in my life and I decided to go and teach English so I moved to Japan, taught English in Japan for a few years. And then did my, you know, certificates, diplomas. I did a master’s degree in applied linguistics, you know, I’ve really kind of… whatever, when I, when I do new things, I tend to kind of go, go at it quite hard.
So I went down the full on teaching routes. I almost went and did a PhD and all that, but I didn’t do that in the end. Um, but yeah, so I’ve got quite extensive experience as a, uh, as a TEFL teacher and teacher trainer and kind of academic ish.
Elle: Wow. And do you, are you by any chance left handed?
Elle: No way. Okay.
So the last podcast episode with, I don’t know if you know Nate of Nate’s adventures, YouTube channel, he mentioned your, uh, your readers. Uh, he said that apparently people who have musical talent or are able to play, uh, instruments multiple or just one, and are left-handed are apparently more likely to, uh, be good language learners, whatever that means.
Or be maybe interested in language learning, but there you go. So you point his point. I’m going to ask every guest moving forward.
Olly: Yeah, I mean, yeah, it’s, it’s, I, I’m not aware of any kind of research that shows that. I mean, the difficulty is that, I mean I’ve got, it’s often people ask me like Ddoes a musical background give you, help you have a better accent? Or does it help you or does it help you with languages? And my, my feeling on that is yes, it has helped me in certain ways. It does with my accent in other languages, I think tends to be, tends to be quite good, better than, I mean, there’s plenty of things in my languages that are not good, but accent is, accent, I I’m, I’m better. Yeah.
And also the thing of, um, I actually get the discipline of training yourself to get good at something that was once hard.
Olly: Which is what is what classical music in particular trains you to do. Um, but in general, the thing is that for every example of someone who has a background in music and he’s good at languages, you can find 10 examples of people who are just as good at languages with no musical background.
Elle: Yeah, like Steve I think for example.
Olly: Right. Um, yeah, Steve doesn’t strike me as a musician. He, maybe he is.
Elle: I don’t, I don’t think he plays anything. I could be wrong.
Olly: I could, I can imagine him sort of sitting in some izakaya in Japan seeing someone kind of do some crooning or some, all Japanese songs or, but yeah. It’s, I don’t know. I don’t, I don’t really know.
Um, I remember speaking to Stephen Krashen about this, about the musical question and, and, and he, and he, he replied quite similarly, like, you know, our, our intuition, like likes… based on intuition we’d like to think that there’s a connection, but it’s not born out in research as far as I’m aware.
Elle: Yeah, for sure. Yeah.
Um, so as you mentioned, you have your short stories, your reader short stories in whichever language, are available in 20 languages. I won’t ask to recite those.
Olly: Yeah aproximately.
Elle: That’s, that’s amazing. Um, what about your, so your story learning method, which is more focused on beginners, what languages are those available in?
Olly: Yeah, so this my story learning courses are basically, yeah, they are just your standard beginner courses, just like any kind of beginner textbook or, or, or whatever. Uh, and we have those in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, uh, Chinese, Korean, Turkish, Portuguese and Russian.
Elle: Wow. Okay.
Elle: Okay, you heard it here first. Um, so I want to talk, as you mentioned about your YouTube channel, you’ve been making a lot more videos on your channel, Olly Richards. Um, how’s that going? And what do you have any kind of projects in the works? How’s the channel going?
So the channel’s going great. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks for asking and anyone who’s listening and watching go subscribe to the channel on YouTube because I’m putting out some very, like I’m trying to, I’m trying to, I’m having a lot of fun with the channel. So for example, recently I published a video on how Mormon missionaries learn languages, which has done super well.
And I also find like videos of celebrities speaking, speaking languages, and, and kind of talk about how, about how they are, how they do it and give some kind of commentary and things and things like that. So everyone go subscribe to, to that. Or you can just search Olly Richards on YouTube and drop me a comment and say hi, cause I love to get those comments.
Um, but most of all, it’s, it’s a way for me to just kind of, I guess it sounds corny, but it’s a way for me to express myself really, because I I’ve always been a content creator. I started my website and this whole business started off as a blog. Back in 2013. I just, you know, I heard, I heard, I read, I heard about this guy, Benny Lewis and how he was blog blogging.
And, um, so I thought, well, I could, I could do that. So I started a blog and then that all developed into, you know, everything that’s happened since has kind of developed from that. But my first passion around this was always, um, blogging. Cause I just, I’ve got a long background in languages, language learning, teaching, and I wanted to create stuff.
I wanted to blog about my experiences and um, and so… that I did that I did for years and years, but, but one of the trends that’s happened, you know, on, on online in recent years is the video has become so much more, um, important, you know? And, and so I’ve been, yeah. I’ve decided I decided to get, to make a go of my, of my, of my YouTube channel.
So I can, I’ve learned how to do YouTube. I’ve been uploading videos on and off about seven years, but I just never, it was always like a way to make my blog more interesting by making a quick video of me speaking Cantonese or whatever. Um, but I recently, I sort of decided to, you know, quote unquote, “do YouTube” or “learn YouTube”.
So I, um, I, I took it quite seriously. I recruited a team who helps me, uh, with the channel or kind of a production team and, um, have been making or experimenting with all these different videos. And, and I just love to have ideas. I have like a million ideas a minute. I’ve always been that way. And so I, YouTube is kind of a very cool way to just have an idea and be able to put it out there.
So, like, for example, I remember watching the US presidential elections last year. Yeah.
Uh, and thinking to myself well that’s interesting, because I’ve watched these, these debates that they had. And, and it’s complete cliche now that you’ll get, you’ll get someone who’s like speaking to the audience in English and then they’ll turn to the camera and speak in Spanish.
I thought, well, that’s kind of weird. I know why they’re doing it, right? But it’s also quite cool. Wouldn’t it be fun to make a video with like, talking about the Spanish that they use. And, and so I just made this video on, on US presidential, analyzing us presidential candidates. I found some clips of them speaking Spanish.
And then just talked about it. And that for me is just so fun to do. And so I use YouTube as a way to just, just, just kind of get my thoughts and ideas out there. And, um, and fortunately it seems to be really resonating with people.
Elle: So are you actively learning a language right now or are you in that polygto maintain mode?
Well, what I’m actually doing right now is I’ve, I’ve gone back to learning Kanji. So Japanese or Chinese characters in Japanese, it’s like been a bit, a bit, a bit, a bit of a love-hate relationship with, for me for four years. But I haven’t, I have to say in the last few years in particular, I haven’t been all that active with language learning, um, as much as before. And I often think about why that is. I’m very influenced by my surroundings, right? So I’ve often traveled a lot and, um, you know, my ideal… well, my ideal scenario for learning a new language is either when I’m, when I’ve got a community of people around me. For example, when I lived in London, I had a bunch of Brazilian friends, learnt Portuguese, or else when I travel or go to the country.
So when I went to Japan, learnt Japanese, um, and, but then kind of right now, I’m in a stage of life where I’m quite like, um, I’m quite chilled really. Um, I live in like in, in, in a little village, in the middle of the countryside in England, I hardly ever hear foreign languages. Uh, so I don’t kind of have this big, or I haven’t had this, this, this real urge to be studying for, for a while, but it, but it kind of comes back in fits and starts. So recently I’ve kind of decided, right, it’s time to properly learn to learn, to, to, to read and write Japanese, like… like I said, that kind of big unfinished project.
And so I’ve got, I’m working on that currently, so I’m, um, I could tell you how I’m going about it, if you like, but given that I haven’t had that much success in the past, I’m not, not sure it’s particularly useful information. Um, but yeah. Um, but I do maintain languages a fair bit. I mean, I always regularly speak Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Cantonese, French from time to time.
Um, um, but yeah, it always kind of changes. I I’m, I’m always very I’m full of admiration for people who are, who dedicated lots of time every day to actively maintaining languages, even, even without a, um, a particular reason do so. Cause I’m, I’m just not like that. I I’m, I’ve always been someone very much kind of led by my surroundings.
Um, so, so yeah, but I suspect when the world starts to open up again properly and, um, and, and, and more traveling is to be done. I suspect I might, I might pick up the bug again quite quick.
Elle: And how about your kind of entertainment time then? Do you find you watch movies, TV shows, read books, blog posts in the different languages, you know, or do you kind of just gravitate towards maybe English or the langauges you know best?
Olly: It’s the same answer, right? I don’t do stuff for the sake of the languages, right? I know this is probably a quite, it’s probably quite an uncommon answer among the, the guests you have here. Cause I know a lot of people are just incredibly dedicated to the way that they kind of structure their time to practice different languages.
See, for me, it’s never, it’s never been in about the language as such. It’s always been about what I can do with that language. So I’m, it’s not that I’m particularly interested in learning Japanese it’s that I want to be able to communicate with my Japanese friends and talk to them in Japanese. It’s not that I necessarily love the act of learning Portuguese, it’s because I love to go and hang out with, with Brazilians in Brazil.
I just love being there. So like, so when I don’t have that immediate environment, it’s not something that I just really seek out. Um, so it’s difficult. I do think about this sometimes. I mean, I, I will watch movies in Japanese and Portuguese and stuff. Well, whatever, um, but, but again, like I say, it’s just not something that I, I try and force.
I think one kinf of relevant question here is what it means to maintain a language. Because I think for me, the languages I’ve learned fall into kind of two categories, the languages I’ve learned and I, and I’m still pretty good at, and then the languages that I’ve learned and I’ve kind of let them fall away.
And I very much believe that once you’ve learned the language to a strong level, which I normally, uh, pinned down at about a B2 level, B2 or higher. You never lose that language. Right?
So for example, my French is probably not great right now. But I still understand everything. And given 15 minutes of practice, I can get it back to a good level, even though I haven’t really spoken to for 20 years when I, when I was last in France, but that’s, but that’s quite common among, among people who, who have got languages to that kind of level are going to B2 or, or, or above level.
And so when I think about the languages that I’ve, that I’ve had at that level or I’ve got to that level still, I, I’m not worried about losing them because I know that the day that I need them, I’ll get it, I can get them back very quickly. So for that reason, I just choose not to spend my time in some arbitrary maintenance mode.
Um, but rather I just, I just do what I want to do in my life. And, you know, if languages are part of that, great. If not, no worries. Um, I know I’ll come back to them later, so yeah, I’m very, I’m very much, um, I’m very kind of Laissez-faire with that, that, that, that kind if thing. It’s not very practical, not very practical, practical help for people, but that’s the truth.
Elle: But that’s like, you know yourself, right? You’re not going to force it because, and also if you do force it, if you’re like, Hey, I’m going to spend X amount of time each day on these different languages and you’re not necessarily enjoying it, you’re just doing it as a chore, is it really that helpful? You know, maybe.
Olly: I think it can be helpful. I mean, if you’re spending a lot of time, if you’re spending regular time, picking up a language, it will have an effect.
For sure. For me, it’s more a case of, I won’t enjoy it if I’m forcing it. I, you know, I, I, I’m always, I’ve always been very busy. I’ve always worked hard and I have, I have a lot of things I like to do. Um, you know, I spend a lot of time, you know, walking, cycling, for example, seeing family. Uh, so I don’t, I don’t feel like I have time to do something that I don’t really want to do and, you know, maintaining languages that, that maintaining languages where, where there’s no particular outcome there, it kind of fits into that category.
Elle: No, don’t apologize. Um, so for everyone who’s listening and watching, who’s going to rush to Olly Richards, your YouTube channel, what can they expect from your channel moving forward for the rest of the year and beyond?
Olly: A lot of fun language stuff is what you can expect. You’re not going to find videos of me saying, you know, here, here is my six month uh, Korean progress or anything. It’s, it’s I used to do that, but I don’t do that anymore.
I, what I try to do is I try to think what will people enjoy, what will people find interesting? Um, so I’m working on a video right now, for example, about the defense language Institute. So the green Berets in the US, what methods they use to train their special forces to learn languages faster.
Um, I’m working on, uh, on, on some videos about, um, about different, about different languages, obviously. Bit of a statement of the obvious. I’m working on, I’m working on a video right now about how we create our book. So like when we’ve got these, you’ve got these books in different languages, or how do we create a Brazilian Portuguese book and that, or how do we make a Korean book? Making A video describing all of that. We’ve got, um, you know, videos of like celebrities speaking Japanese and things like that. And I’m having a great time, uh, at their expense. So yeah, a lot of, a lot of stuff where I’m trying to sort of,but this isn’t, this isn’t frivolous. I’m trying, I always try to sort of talk about different language topics, and then tie it back into what you can take away from it.
So if I’m, if I’m making a reaction video to Colin Firth speaking Italian, I’m not sure. Well, he speaks great Italian by the way. Yeah.
And you can, if you want to see an example of that um…
Elle: I do, because that just makes him more attractive. I’ll check that out right after.
Olly: But what I’ll try and do is I’ll kind of I’ll I’ll, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll try to like analyze it and then tie it back to what you can take away from that.
So, so actually I try to make it informative and educational as well as, as well as fun. So yeah go now, go subscribe. Like I say, um, if you’re listening to this and leave me a comment on my video, say that you came from the, from the LingQ podcast and, uh, I will, uh, I’ll look out for those because I love getting, I love, uh, I love getting comments from people.
I love hearing from people that come from different places.
Elle: Excellent. Well, I will of course pop the link in the description to your YouTube channel Olly Richards. Also, I will teach you a language.com. Actually no, it will be storylearning.com moving forward. So I’ll just say story learning. I’ll change the link when it, the website changes in the description and also a link to your excellent readers, which polyglots are raving about on this podcast as well.
So, um, listen, Olly, thank you so, so much, it’s been a great chat. I wish you the best of luck with the story learning method and with your YouTube channel and, um, yeah, thank you so much for joining us today.
Nate’s Adventures is a fun channel and a wealth of knowledge for anyone studying Spanish. In this episode of the LingQ podcast Elle chats with Nate about where his love for Spanish started, his preference for grammar (whaaaat?) and what he hopes his next adventures will be.
Elle: Hello everyone and welcome to the LingQ podcastwith me, Elle. Are you learning English? If so, I have made this podcast episode into an English lesson just for you. Actually you can find all past podcast episodes as English lessons on LingQ, there’s a full course there. I’ll always add the link to the lesson in the description.
If you’ve never used LingQ before, it’s an excellent way to learn a language. You learn from content you love, that means you choose the content: podcast episodes, YouTube videos, news articles, music lyrics, whatever you’re into. You can create a lesson on LingQ and work your way through it translating words and phrases you don’t know, adding them to your own personal database. If you enjoy this podcast, please give us a like subscribe, follow share, and if you are listening on Apple Podcasts, feel free to leave a review. That way we can get in front of more listeners and help them learn English too.
I am joined this week by another wonderful guest. I’m joined by Nate of the YouTube channel Nate’s Adventurous. He is a language coach and also YouTuber. Nate, thanks for joining us. How are you?
Nate: Very good. Thanks for having me. I’m really excited to chat with you today.
Elle: Excellent. Me too. Uh, whereabouts are you joining us from today?
Nate: I am joining you from Los Angeles, California.
Elle: Oh, very, very cool. And how are you guys doing down there in terms of the heat? Are you, were you in that whole heat dome?
Nate: Yeah, it was pretty hot. Um, it’s, it’s still definitely very hot, but not as bad as it was, um, a week ago or so, but yeah.
Elle: Excellent. I guess down there you’re more prepared. Is it mostly air conditioned?
Nate: It is. Yeah, it is. Yeah.
Elle: Good, good. That’s great. That’s much needed in a 40 degree hell hole heat wave that we just had here, so, okay. Good to hear. Um, so Nate, you run the channel Nate’s Adventurous as I mentioned. You focus on Spanish and your story is one thing that jumped out to me when I was reading your bio, you’re a little different from the YouTubers I’ve had on before in that you actually learned a language in high school.
Nate: Right. That’s correct. That is correct.
Elle: Wow, so like you’re in the minority. I would say most people in general and also the YouTubers that I have on are like, no, it didn’t work for me in high school then I went on to find my own methods. So how is it that you learned Spanish in high school?
Nate: Sure. Yeah.
Good question. Very common question. So, you know, it’s funny actually, because like you said, I am definitely in the minority. Um, to be honest, I mean, I can’t speak for everyone here, but I feel like it’s kind of one of those things where, you know, when most of us are in high school, we’re not necessarily interested in actually learning the language when we’re in school, it’s typically I need to meet a requirement or I just need to pass my classes or whatever, so I can go to college kind of thing. So sometimes I feel that, you know, because when people are in high school and they’re like, oh, I just want to pass a class. And that’s it. Um, but also for me, I just, I loved it. You know, I, when I started taking classes, I was like, oh man, this is amazing. I love this. And so I just enjoyed it. And then, because I enjoyed it. I paid attention and then I learned.
Elle: Excellent. It’s as simple as that. Did you have a, did you have a particularly good teacher would you say, or what was it more like you say your, your interest was sparked by the language?
Nate: Definitely a mix of both. Um, you know, I had, I had great teachers throughout high school. Uh, the majority of them were Mexican. Um, just because, you know, LA is very close to Mexico. Um, but yeah, it was definitely a mix of both, um, me taking an interest to it.
And also my good teachers. Also, it’s funny because I don’t know if this applies to me, who knows, but I’m also, I’ve read that, um, a lot of the times, if you’re left-handed, uh, or you play an instrument or something else that can help you learn a language easier. And for me, I’ve grown up playing instruments and I’m left-handed.
So who knows? Maybe I have a little edge.
Elle: Interesting. I haven’t heard that before. Huh. Now I need to ask people when they come on if they’re left-handed or play an instrument just to do my own research. And, um, what, uh, what musical instruments do you play out of interest?
Nate: Guitar, piano, a little ukulele, but mainly the guitar.
Elle: I wonder if people, people listening can comment if they, mostly they are language learners, because they’re listening for that reason, if they play an instrument. Okay.
Um, so tell us about your channel Nate’s Adventures. Obviously the focus is on learning Spanish.
It’s a super fun channel from perusing it myself. I’m not learning Spanish, but I enjoyed especially the video where were you surprised the online teacher with your Spanish. You were fumbling along and then burst out with this perfect Spanish.
Nate: Sure. So I actually started my YouTube channel when I was in high school. I was 17 and I was like, man, it’d be really cool to be, do this YouTube thing. You know? So Nate’s Adventures was born. And at first my channel was just me going around, doing fun stuff, going camping, and going rock climbing. And then one day, this was maybe just over a year ago, I was like, you know, let’s speak Spanish. You know, I feel like making videos about it would be a good way to practice. And I thought to myself, you know, I want to share the language with people and I want to share with people just how cool it is to know another language, whether that’s Spanish or another language.
Um, And yeah, so I wanted to make kind of silly videos. I wanted to make like entertaining videos kind of funny videos, as opposed to the typical like, Hey, like, this is how you learn the predicate tense or here’s the subjunctive mood. Like things like that. You know, the reality is, is less people are going to find that to be interesting or entertaining.
Right. It’s not as fun. So I started making these silly videos, you know, surprising teachers with funny Spanish or, you know, going out and trying different food or hanging out with my friends, speaking Spanish, um, things like that. And then the channel started doing pretty well. Um, especially like the silly teacher videos and videos like that.
Elle: People love that . These are hard times, especially now. Um, so your website, Spanishwithnate.com, you offer Spanish, uh, coaching. What kind of methods would you say you use in your spanish coaching?
Nate: Definitely. Okay.
So good question. Um, I’ve never been asked this before, so this is a good question.
Um, well it depends, it really depends on what the student needs and what their goals are, because I don’t want to teach someone grammar if they just want to go, you know, on a trip to Mexico for a week or two, you know, then we’re going to focus on, you know, simple phrases and things like that, that they can, can have down.
Um, but typically I actually really like teaching grammar. I feel like a lot of times people think that grammar is this horrible thing. Maybe it’s just the word grammar. People are like, ah, that’s scary. Um, but I’ve never understood how you could learn a languageto an intermediate or advanced level without learning some grammar.
Um, you know, I always say you, you know, when you’re learning Spanish, First off, you got to learn the present tense, the preterite tense in the imperfect tense. And then like the informal future is important, but like, if you can get those down, not extremely difficult tenses, you have a, you know, a good amount of the main grammar that’s used.
It’s kind of like the 80/20 rule, you know, learn 20%, most important stuff then you have 80% of the language, right. Um, and then from grammar that comes along with, you know, doing flashcards through, you know, whether it’s Quizzlet or Amki, um, are two great softwares for, for learning vocabulary. And then it’s reinforcing the things you’re learning in a classroom or in a book, or a course, whatever, reinforcing that by going out and speaking with, with native speakers, whether that’s in person or via, you know, an online app like like Tandem or Hello Talk, um, That’s kind of it, really using the language, uh, you know, that’s kinda the best way.
Again, you’re an outlier in that you enjoy grammar. You mentioned in the bio on the website that, um, learning, learning Spanish has changed your life. I mean, of course in that you have this now coaching business and YouTube channel, successful, 50,000 subscribers. Congratulations.
Um, so in what ways has learning Spanish changed your life?
Nate: Yeah, absolutely.
So, yeah, like you said, definitely the business side of it. I would have never expected that. So it’s pretty incredible. And really, yeah, that I can, you know, survive and make some money doing what I love. That’s amazing. Um, Yeah, to be honest with you I cannot imagine my life, what my life would be right now, if I had never learned Spanish, um, because seriously it is such an integral part of my life that like every day something going on in my life is relating to Spanish, especially in these past few years, um, with creating these videos and everything.
Um, but I mean, just the opportunities that it gives you, um, you know, to be able to like travel to Mexico or Spain or wherever, and just chat with the locals, have these deep connections with people. Um, one of the most meaningful things for me and this never gets old for me is meeting a stranger, Spanish as their first language, and, you know, they can speak some English, you chat with them a little bit in English, then you say, oh, you speak Spanish. You speak to them in Spanish. And they just do a 180. They’re a whole new person. That is one of the coolest things to me. Like I always say this in any interview that people do with me.
It’s like, I love the quote by Nelson Mandela, if you speak to a man in a second language, you’re speaking to his mind but if you speak to a man and his first language, you’re speaking to his heart. And it’s cheesy, but it’s so true. It’s like connecting with people on a deep level is like one of the most meaningful, satisfying things i, I feel like I’ve, I’ve find in my life. Um, so yeah, just the relationships I’ve been able to build and the places I’ve been able to travel to. Um, the workout now that I get for my brain in Spanish.
Elle: Yeah, no doubt. Yeah.
You’re, you’re obviously an advanced, um, speaker of Spanish so maybe you just, you just have advanced content in mind when asked this question, but I wonder if you have any book, podcast, movie suggestions for anyone listening, who is interested in studying Spanish or just is looking for a great movie?
Nate: Sure, absolutely. Yeah.
Actually, um, uh, Olly Richards, uh, I’m sure you’re familiar with him. He has some great books in Spanish. Just go “Olly Richards, you know, books in Spanish” whatever. He’s got those good short stories. Um, I just watched this movie called Tell Me When, um, it’s on Netflix. Um, it’s, it’s a beautiful movie it’s set in in Mexico City.
That’s really cool. I love Coco. Coco is my favorite movie in Spanish so…. Go see Coco in Spanish. Please go watch it cause it’s awesome. Um, but yeah, those are my recommendations.
So would you… your life is obviously revolves around knowing Spanish and, um, coaching it. Are you thinking about another language anytime soon? Or are you just all about the Spanish?
Nate: Sure. Well, for me, when it comes to language learning me personally, I don’t want to know a little of a lot of languages. I want to know a few languages at a pretty high level. So obviously I’m already there with Spanish currently, I’m working on Mandarin Chinese. Um, and I’ve been doing okay, much slower process now that I’m kind of in the adult world so to say, you know, I can’t, it’s harder to go to, you know, Spanish or Chinese class, you know, 45 minutes every single day. Um, you know, with everything that’s going on in my life. But, um, Yeah, that is, that is the current language I’m working on right now.
Elle: And will you be using any of the methods, I know it’s, it’s difficult to say because you actually basically became conversational in Spanish, in high school, which was how long ago?
Nate: So I started when I was 14, which is seven years old. Yeah.
Elle: Seven years ago. Okay.
So will you be using any of those same things kind of methods to study Mandarin or is it a whole different thing now?
Nate: Sure. Great question. Um, yeah, you know, me personally, I actually love the classroom setting, um, when it comes to learning a language, uh, being in person with the, with the teacher, because something that I found that helped me a lot when I was learning Spanish was asking a lot of questions.
So, you know, if you’re not sure about something you’re still confused just being able to ask questions constantly is so valuable. Um, but yeah, still I think grammar is so important. I think understanding that is really important. It’s, it’s kind of a mixture. It’s kind of like this base where it’s like build your base off of grammar, then move on to learn new vocabulary and then reinforce the grammar, the vocabulary via speaking with people, listening to audio, you know, watching movies, immersing yourself in the language.
Cool. And will you start making videos about your Mandarin learning journey?
Nate: I don’t know. You know, I’m not at any level close enough to where I think I could. Um, it might be interesting, like you said, do a little journey thing, but I think honestly, um, my channel has kind of become um, primarily Spanish focused and a lot of my viewers come from Latin America and Spain.
Um, so I think my channel will stay primarily Spanish focused. And actually I have, I have an idea where I might create a new channel where I teach people, um, where I’m actually teaching Spanish. Cause right now, You know, entertaining videos, conversations, things like that. I might make another channel and do both, um, you know, Hey, you know, let’s say we’re going to learn 25 great travel phrases from Mexico, or, you know, whatever.
Elle: Right. Okay.
Excellent. In terms of, uh, the channel Nate’s Adventures then you have had some great guests on, um, Steve Kaufmann LingQ co-founder of course. Um, are there any other guests in the works or are there any, is there anyone you would like on?
Nate: Good question. I think it’d be interesting to talk to EIenna. Um, he seems like, yeah, he seems like a really nice guy.
I met him once at this like online language conference. It was awesome. Um, and we got to chat a little bit, but, um, I’ve never really gotten to have like a full in depth conversation with him, but yeah, Ford Quarterman. He’s a pretty good, cool guy. Like watching his videos. Um, he he’s like a gringo guy. He travels around in Mexico.
Makes fun videos. Um, be cool to talk to him. Yeah.
I mean, there’s so many interesting people. I love speaking with people kind of in this space. Cause you know, everyone’s got their unique stories and, and uh, I think it’s cool because in the language learning community, there’s, there’s just like a very strong connection and everyone’s very worldly and it has many cool stories to share.
Elle: Yeah. And it’s such a growing community too, and I’ve spoken about this before, in other episodes, but it blows me away. Every week, every month, it seems to be a new channel popping up. I love it. It used to be that they were very few, um, kind of YouTubers or, you know, known people for the language learning niche community.
So, yeah. That’s very cool.
Nate: Yeah, absolutely.
Elle: And how about for the rest of the year and moving forward for your channel do you have any plans for kind of projects, different videos?
Nate: Definitely. Yeah.
So with regards to my YouTube channel, um, my goal is, so I have one year of college left or uni. I don’t know if that’s what you say in Canada.
Elle: Yeah. I guess… no college I’m from the UK so we say uni. In Canada yeah they say, I guess they say college.
Nate: college or whatever. I’ve got one year left. So my goal is finish school. And then once I’m done, um, if I’m making enough money to be able to just go travel around, I’d love to go to Mexico for a bit, um, and just make fun videos there.
Um, other parts of Latin America. I’ve been to Spain, but who knows? I might go back. Um, I really, I think the, what would be awesome for Nate’s Adventures is to turn it into, um, less of like surprising teachers with perfect Spanish, things like that. Because to be honest, those videos do great.,They get lots of views and they entertain the fun to make.
But a lot of times I feel like a one trick pony and I just get bored of them. So to have like a combination of those kinds of videos with like these fun travel videos, like, Hey, we’re in Mexico City and we’re trying out these really cheap tacos versus real expensive ones, things like that would be super fun.
Elle: Sounds fun. It sounds super fun. And what are you studying in college? Actually, I didn’t ask you.
Nate: I am studying marketing. Yeah.
Well, I mean, so far you’re doing really well with the channel, maybe using those expertise that you’re learning along the way,
um, Nate. Fantastic interview. Thank you for your tips and advice. I want to ask you one last question actually, what would you say to anyone who is thinking about starting a journey, a Spanish language learning journey, and maybe needs confidence or advice?
Nate: Sure, absolutely. Well, just get started. I always say, like I said, you know, I don’t mean to come back to the grammar, but just get yourself like a simple grammar textbook.
You can just go on Amazon, you know, you know, Spanish grammar textbook for beginners, whatever, just so you can get started. And my other piece of advice, it’s cheesy, it’s general, whatever is just enjoy yourself because at the end of the day, Yes, learning Spanish is a journey. It’s a process. Sometimes it’s gonna be harder than others, but at the end of the day, you’re learning the language to do something fun.
Right? You want to enjoy it. You don’t want to hate the process because learning Spanish is not this thing where you can learn it in a month and, you know, speak this beautiful Spanish. Like it takes time. That’s the reality, it’s with anything, you know, it takes time and it takes hard work. Um, but you need to have fun during the journey, because I always tell people, people are like, wow, your Spanish is so good. I’m like, thank you. But I’m still learning. I’m still getting better. It’s kind of, it’s important to have that mindset, you know, immerse yourself, love the language, have fun, um, and be consistent.
Elle: I like that one. I need to take that advice in my language I think for sure.
Well, great advice, Nate. Thank you so much. Best of luck in your final year of college and best of luck moving forward with Spanishwithnate.com and Nate’s Adventures. I’ll pop the links to both of those in the description. And yeah, thank you so much for joining us, Nate. It’s been a great chat.
Steve Kaufmann speaks 20 languages and recently challenged himself to 90 days of consistent study in Persian and Arabic on LingQ. In this video he talks about his progress 30 days in, the difficulties he has faced and the content he has been enjoying.
Elle: Hi everyone and welcome to the link podcast with me, Elle. If you would like to study the transcript to this podcast episode and all past podcast episodes as an English lesson, you can do so on LingQ. I will always pop the link to the lesson in the description.
LingQ is an excellent way to study English. You translate words and phrases you don’t know, adding them to your own personal database and learn from content you love. And remember to like, share, follow, subscribe, whatever showing love means on the platform that you are listening on.
This week I am joined by the man, the legend LingQ co-founder and YouTube polyglot Steve Kaufman. Steve, how are you?
Steve: I’m fine Elle, how are you?
Elle: I’m good. Thank you. I’m good now that we are in 25 degree heat, as opposed to 41 degree heat that we just previously had.
Steve: Yes, we’ve had… that was extraordinary. Extraordinary how hot it was. Yeah.
Um, yeah. And, and, uh, just as an aside, of course, some people may know that the town of Lytton in the interior set a record of 49, almost 50 degrees of heat centigrade, whatever that is in Fahrenheit, 120 plus, uh, and then the whole town had to evacuate and the town basically was burned to the ground because they had this enormous forest fire. And then they showed pictures of, there’s so much heat over the interior of the province that is creating these massive and multiple lightning strikes, which of course creates more forest fires, which creates more heat. It’s just a horrendous situation.
Elle: Scary for the season ahead.
Steve: You know, I was, I, uh, I had to, I had a few chores to do, so I went to, had to go to get some insurance at the insurance office. One of the two ladies there spoke Farsi. So I was able to practice my Farsi. Then I went to the liquor store to buy some wine and the checkout lady there spoke Farsi. So I was able to speak Farsi with her. Then I went to the supermarket and then the checkout lady there spoke Farsi.
So I spoke Farsi again, just in, it’s amazing. It’s amazing. And, and I’m reminded of that, uh, there was a gentleman standing behind me in line and we started chatting and we were chatting about, you know, we don’t need to wear the masks anymore, and some people feel more comfortable wearing masks and that’s fine too.
And, and, uh, he was from Lillooet, which is very near Lytton. And I said, how are things up there? You know, cause they’re right in the, I call it the eye of the storm. And he said, he said he has a small business, 20 employees. He was basically, they were all waiting to see if they would also be evacuated and they could see the fire.
But the fires didn’t come their way. And apparently there was a heavy rain storm and that seems to have dampened things a little bit. Uh, but it was interesting. He’s originally from, uh, North Vancouver and we had a long chat. He’d moved up there and he runs a bakery. And so I said, you know, my wife likes making sourdough bread.
And so we talked about baking and stuff like that. So I was very… but here’s a guy he’s from he’s right on the front lines of the whole heat wave fire, forest fires situation.
Elle: It’s really scary. I live, so I’m in North Van I can see the mountains from my street and they’re scorched, they’re brown. A lot of the trees have been scorched. And so, yeah.
Steve: Oh, I hadn’t seen that. So nearby us then.
Elle: Yeah, Grouse Mountain, up that way. Um, my husband’s lived here his whole life, on this street, and he said he’s never seen that before. So it’s kind of scary for the wildfire season.
Steve: I mean, if we get a forest fire here in Vancouver, there is no shortage of vegetation. I mean, there’s so many trees everywhere.
Elle: Yeah, it’s a scary thought for sure.
Steve: I mean, there always used to be forest fires. The, the difference is there’s a lot more people living in the forest, but the forest always used to burn regularly. It’s scary.
Elle: It is. Um, so I wanted to ask you about your challenge, um…
Elle: Uh, anyone who isn’t aware, steve started a 90-Day Challenge 30 days ago now, right? So you’re a third of the way through. Anyone who doesn’t…
Steve: only 30 days? I was hoping I was further along than that.
Elle: Is it dragging, or is it tough to meet your targets?
Steve: Uh, you know, not all of our decisions are good ones.
Elle: It’s intense, right? A 90-Day Challenge is intense. For anyone who doesn’t know, a 90-Day Challenge is 90 days of consistent study every day on LingQ, uh, hitting your targets. So reading, listening, Creating LingQs, which are words and phrases that you don’t know that you’ve translate and saved to your database. You’ve also, you’re also in a Streak with Steve Challenge, which is meeting your daily LingQs target, and which keeps you in a streak for, for 90 days.
That’s an intense one, also. So you’re being sufficiently challenged right now on LingQ. How’s it going?
Steve: Um, well, I saw that Streak with Steve didn’t fully understand what it entailed, but I thought that what I would try to do is force myself to study both Farsi and Arabic. So I’ll do two languages and set myself lower goals, like only create 13 LingQs. In other words, look up and save 13 new words initially in each language. And I think I kept that up for a while, but that’s too difficult to do. Uh, I, I find myself wanting to spend at least one week on one language and then one week on the other language, um, I find it’s a bit confusing to do two languages like that.
Uh, I’m committed to doing it. Uh, otherwise I think I would just go back to saying work on one for three months, really get into it, then work on the other because I find that I don’t slip that much. I can go back and do my mini stories again and it’ll come back to me, right? So I find that it’s a little bit confusing now to be in one in the other back to the first one, again, not, not an ideal situation, but this depends.
Some people do that. Some people study three languages at the same time and they’re happy doing it. I think I’m, um, I prefer to stay focused on one at a time. That’s kind of my conclusion, but I’m committed to doing this. So I’m gonna.
Elle: Had you ever previously studied two languages like this? You hadn’t done two languages in a challenge before, I know that, but…
Steve: No, I went, I once went at three and I was more ambitious and maybe I was just more, um, had more energy then or something. I was trying to do a hundred LingQs a day in three languages: Arabic Farsi, and Turkish. But when you’re starting up in a language, it’s so easy to create LingQs because every lesson has a whole bunch of unknown words in it.
But now in those languages, I’ve, I’ve been at it so long that I have a lot of yellow sort of saved LingQs. Words that I have looked up, but I don’t yet know. So, you know, if you just want to crank up the number of new LingQs, you just go into new material. And if the page is full of blue, unknown words, you have very quickly reached your goal.
But now even if I bring in new material in Farsi or Arabic, there aren’t that many blue words, but it doesn’t mean that I know the yellow words. I don’t know them very often. I haven’t seen them often enough to, to know. Uh, I do have the sense that certainly I understand a lot better than I did before.
And, um, so in order to create those 13 LingQs a day, I have to go out and get new material every day, which again, it’s easier in Farsi because Sahra who’s our collaborator in Iran is constantly creating good content for me, uh, Iranian filmmakers or Iranian food or Iranian history. So that part of it is easy.
The Arabic is a little more difficult. But I’ve even started branching off into Egyptian Arabic and, and, uh, you know, because, because the Arabic world is so different. So if I had a Ted Talk in Levantine Arabic, then I want to try to understand that and look up the words there. Uh, my tutor is from Cairo and we’ve been going through some Egyptian, Arabic texts.
And so I’m just playing around. Like, I’m not, I’m not going to write a test in any of this stuff. So I’m just doing, I’m sort of exploring and enjoying. And, um, the challenge is not, you know, it’s not what motivates me. What motivates me is my interest in what I’m listening to and reading. But I know that for many people, these challenges, uh, become a major motivator.
People don’t have much time and they need that extra, basically a nudge to make sure they do something every day. And it’s so important to do something every day. So I think it’s a good idea to, to have these challenges, but I’m kind of not living up to my commitments.
Well thank you for being so honest. That’s great. Um, are you speaking, you are speaking in the languages too, as part of the challenge or just as part of your weekly study for Persian and Arabic?
I’ve uh, so I’ll have say maybe three sessions in Farsi with Sahra and then three sessions with Mohammed in Egyptian. I really enjoy my time with both of them because they’re very nice.
They just keep me going. I don’t have to worry about what we’re going to talk about. I think we have a good rapport. So it’s just like sitting down with a friend and, uh, speaking. So, and then I get a report back with my mistakes and the recording. And so the whole thing works very well, but three a week is enough because I have to fit this in with all of the other things that I, commitments that I might have, you know?
Elle: Right. And so the what, so then Sahra, and is it Mohammed? Your, um…
Steve: Mohammed, yeah. Mohammed in Cairo and I Sahra she’s in Northern Iran.
And so they prepare, do they give you reading or talk to you about things they know that you’ve read?
Steve: No, no, no, no. If I want to, then I can, but normally we just show up. They’re not prepared. I’m not prepared. Um, because we’re venturing into Egyptian Arabic, so with Mohammed, we did some reading of the mini stories in Egyptian Arabic. Uh, I found also in our library at LingQ a series of, uh, interviews with people in Egypt, in Arabic.
And because these are not scripted, they’re sort of more natural, you know, you know, people using the equivalent of, “you know”, “like”, “I mean”, you know? So you got a lot of this sort of filler words stuff. So it’s very conversational, sort of Egyptian Arabic. And I’m reading through this with Mohammed and typically we’ll have maybe even half of the time will be spent reading, and then half of the time speaking, I think my Farsi is better than my Arabic. Now it used to be the other way around and that’s because, uh, Farsi is just so much easier.
Steve: So much easier. Yeah.
And it doesn’t have this complication of different forms of… I mean, there may be different forms of Farsi, but basically there’s two forms of Farsi.
There’s a more formal form, which is, which has sort of the written form. And then the form that people use to speak, not very different, essentially the same words, some different endings, some slightly different vowels is not a big deal. So, whereas with, with Arabic, you know, Egypt, uh, Gulf Arabic, uh, Lebanese, Arabic, Moroccan, Arabic, they’re all there.
Elle: What do you, what… so you mentioned that you were out today and you spoke to three people in Farsi. How, how are you received when you start chatting to them?
Steve: Uh, you know, the, the different sort of national groups react differently. Like if you were to generalize, the Farsi speakers are so pleased when they hear you speak Farsi and they’re so encouraging and accommodating. And it’s funny, I was out swimming in the ocean the other night, and there was a couple swimming and they started had some kind of, I don’t know, small boat or inflatable boat, and they were both in the water and splashing around. And there were a couple in their fifties or early sixties. And, uh, I heard them speaking Farsi.
So I spoke to them in Farsi. Now you can imagine their surprise, they’re swimming here in West Van and all of a sudden, some guy, some old geezer speaks to them and, uh, and, uh, so they reply. You’re speaking. Are you, are you speaking Farsi? Yeah, guess what, I’m speaking Farsi. So we had a bit of a chat, uh, but generally, I mean the, the one, the one lady at the supermarket I’ve spoken to her before.
She’s always very nice. She speaks to me in Farsi. Sometimes the inclination is for them to come back in uh, you know, to prove like, well, you know, I’ve been in Canada for 10 years, so I speak English very well, you know, so they need to demonstrate that, you know, but this lady at the supermarket, she’s always very nice.
Oh, I haven’t seen you in awhile. How are you? And we went back and forth in Farsi. Yeah.
Be careful because there’s a lineup at the checkout, you know, I can’t just sit, stand there and talk to her while people are waiting to pay for their groceries. But, um, yeah if I see someone see their name hear in their accent, I know you’re not supposed to do this, but if I figured that they’re Farsi speakers, I say, do you speak Farsi?
And then normally react very well.
Elle: I don’t know that you’re not supposed to do that. I don’t think that’s…
Steve: Well there’s this whole idea, like, especially like, so the, the people who seem to be the most sensitive sometimes are people who are Asian. So if a person looks Asian, In fact, you can’t assume that they speak an Asian language.
Elle: Right. I see.
Steve: In other words, if you have someone who has a Polish name like in Canada, now we have people from all over, right? So you can find Italian names, Polish names, German names, Dutch names, whatever. You can assume that they speak that language. Like my name is Kaufmann. People come up “Ah Steve Kaufman ya…”.
That’s not on. So, and the Asians are particularly, or some of them are a little sensitive, but you know, like I’m Canadian, you know, just because I look Asian, you kind of assume that I can speak English. Right. So you have to be very careful. So you got to pick, you know, you got to sense if this person, you know, you can’t sort of imply that they can’t speak English.
So I, I normally will say, uh, You know, you’re not even like according to the real die-hards, you’re not even supposed to have any curiosity about where this person is originally from. Even though they look non-Caucasian like that’s a no, no. Okay.
Uh, people have no difficulty asking me if I’m German, just by looking at my name and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
I’m not German, but they can ask me because they’re curious. Oh, you got… It’s like, so, so I just have to be a little bit aware of that. So I typically say, do you speak an Asian language? It’s still a little bit dicey because just because of location, why should I have to speak an Asian language? And I agree with that.
I agree with that.
Like a person has been here for three, four generations, no more likely to speak an Asian language than somebody who has someone who has, um, you know, Polish name is expected to speak Polish or who has a Dutch name is expected to speak Dutch. So I agree with them, but I nevertheless enjoy speaking these languages.
And most of them react quite pleasantly. I haven’t had any negative interactions, but it sometimes becomes an issue. You know, the sort of politically correct people say you shouldn’t. So yeah.
Elle: So, uh, setting out 30 days ago on these challenges, 90-Day Challenge in Arabic and in Persian, did you have any goals, anything you would you wanted to have achieved by the end, in terms of not necessarily, you know, known words or hours of listening, but, uh, content that you would then be able to approach maybe movies or something?
Steve: Well, yeah, I find that my goals have changed. When I started out, I said, I want to be able to understand like a large part of my diet content has been these political partners, which typically I, uh, you know, I extract the MP3 file, convert that to text on an automatic transcription website, bring it into link, uh, and, uh, study it.
So I said, I want to get to where I can really understand these podcasts. But I found that my motivation to do that has declined because they’re kind of boring after a while. It’s always the same, the different groups and Yemen fighting each other there and Libya or whatever. I just get tired of it all.
So, uh, with Arabic, I’ve decided no, I’d rather get to where I can understand Egyptian movies. So then I said, well, then I better learn more Egyptian Arabic because I don’t understand them very well. And there are Egyptian movies and series on Netflix. So I decided with Arabic, I want to start moving more into the spoken Arabic. Uh, with the, um, with the Farsi…
um, I had been basically following the diet that Sahra fed me. So it was the history of Iran. It was food of Iran. It was minority peoples in Iran, all this stuff, which I found very interesting. So that was great. And all of a sudden she sends me these descriptions of famous Iranian, um, film directors, uh, more than a few of them have won international acclaim even in the last 10 years or so.
Uh, Oscar’s uh, awards at the Cannes uh, film festival, Berlin film festival and so forth. So she sends these through and the way she does, she talks about a certain film director, and then she has these circling questions about that same film director. And then she sends me a link to that movie or a movie by that director, uh, on YouTube.
Uh, so I’m able to watch it. So all of that, it has been very interesting. I tried to extract the MP3 file and transcribe it, but, you know, uh, audio from, um, from a movie is a bit disappointing as language learning content, because there’s so many, you know, your car noise, the doors slamming, birds chirping. It’s not dense language.
So I don’t do that. I just, whatever she sends me, I read it and I try to learn it, learn about the movie, the film, a director, and then I watch the movie a while and I’ve enjoyed that. So in a way, I’ve moved more in the direction of enjoying movies, uh, in both, uh, Arabic heavy to Egyptian, Arabic, and, uh, in Farsi.
And trying to talk to three times a week with both Mohammed and, uh, Sahra.
Elle: Excellent. And you watched a movie, is it Asmaa? You recently mentioned n one of yourivideos.
Steve: Asmaa, that was the Egyptian movie. It was very interesting movie, actually, Egyptian movie. Uh, it it’s, it’s sort of a, it’s about the stigma of AIDS in Egypt, uh, about, uh, uh, and I would say even the Iranian movies, this whole honor that the men seem to feel, uh, you know, basically, and, and an important component of their honor is being able to tell women what to do. So these are themes that come up in those movies.
I’ll have to, I’m always looking for movie recommendations. So if you say that’s good I’ll check that out.
Steve: Uh, yeah, it’s, I’m trying to hear the Arabic. I mean, it is to get a bit of a, of a, of an insight into, uh, Egyptian society. I, I recommend it. Yeah, Asmaa, definitely.
Steve: And, uh, the same with Iranian movies, um, The Separation, it was quite an interesting, quite an interesting movie. Very interesting. And it won some awards, it’s an Iranian movie.
Elle: Is that, I think I’ve seen that one. Is it about the mother who. She had children, they don’t know who she is. She’s… she was…
Elle: Okay, I’m thinking of something else.
Steve: It’s about, um, a couple in Iran and they have a daughter and, uh, they were preparing to leave Iran, to immigrate. And the wife was very keen on doing that, but then the husband decided he wouldn’t go because his father now has Alzheimer’s and can’t look after himself.
And so then she wants to divorce and then it gets very complicated. So I can’t, I won’t get into the whole plot, but it’s quite good. And it’s apparently quite a psychological study on, um, Iranians. And the one thing that comes through when you watch Iranian movies, and there’s another one called Ellie as well, is that while there’s this sub-sense of the sort of, um, you know, male, call it male dominant, uh, you know, uh, you know, honor.
And yet, at least on the surface, the Iranians, they live very much like we do, you know, they’re very modern, European, North American. We have this image that they’re all wandering around the women shrouded in black and very backward and stuff. And no, it’s not. I mean, there’s, there’s social differences in Iran, uh, like everywhere, but maybe more marked over there.
And, uh, but the, there is a middle-class that lives, you know, like Europeans. So, and that comes through in these movies.
Elle: The Separation. Okay.
I’ll check that out too. I was thinking of a completely different movie. Okay.
Um, so Steve, you have, you have a mere 60 days left in your 90-Day Challenge. I wish you the best of luck and, um, yeah, I think it’s, it’s amazing to me, you’re speaking three times a week.
So I’m… so you alternate then I assume you spend one week on Arabic one week on Persian?
Steve: One week on each. Yeah.
But you have to be flexible. Um, Mohammed told me that and he was gonna be without his internet for a week or so. So then I went two weeks on, on Farsi and now he’s back, uh, up and running again.
So I was spending more time with him. I don’t follow my, to be honest, I don’t follow my streak that closely. It’s just that I feel a commitment. I feel that I have an obligation to, to work on those languages, which is no big deal. Cause I enjoy doing it. Uh, but I, I made this commitment to do both. At the end of my 90 days, I’m going to do just Farsi because Farsi is the biggest opportunity here in Vancouver to use the language.
Although, you know, uh, internationally of course there are far more, uh, Arabic speakers than Farsi speakers.
Elle: That’s good to… it must. It’s nice though I’m sure, to be able to speak to people, as you say, at the supermarket and wherever you are.
Elle: Well, anyone who’s interested in joining a challenge, I will pop the link in the description to the 90-Day Challenge the Streak with Steve as well.
Thank you so much for joining me, Steve. It’s been great, as always.
Steve: I should say too, Elle, I’ve watched your interviews with your various guests. I think they are excellent. Absolutely excellent. Very interesting. And of course, not only are they interesting, but I think they’re an opportunity for people to work on their English because they’re all lessons at LingQ.
Elle: They are.
Steve: And you normally have guests on there who speak very clearly. You speak clearly. So I think they’re excellent. Uh, interesting and excellent learning methods. Uh, have a sort of an intermediate, uh, less, they’re not overly difficult. So I think it meets a need a real need.
Elle: Well thank you so much. And as you mentioned, I will always pop the link to the transcript of this video as a lesson in the description.
And there’s a full course of all past interviews and episodes there for anyone who’s learning English. So, uh, thank you so much, Steve. I, like I said, best of luck with your challenges.