Kevin Morehouse is the man behind LanguageHero.co, a site dedicated to helping language learners start their journey, find allies, and stay the course. Kevin is a certified Italian teacher and soon to be certified in Spanish as well. In our interview, Kevin and I discuss: 1) The advantages and disadvantages of learning a foreign language in the classroom, 2) The problem with waiting until one is “ready” to start speaking, 3) The fact that immersion is a choice, 4) The power of social accountability (e.g. making commitments to other people), 5) The problem with letting emotions drive when/if one studies, 6) The importance of focusing on process over end goals, 7) The many linguistic and social benefits of working with tutors, 8) The fact that extroversion is not required to learn a language well, 9) What “Language Hero” is and why he created it, 10) Why learning a language is no longer a resource problem, but rather a confidence problem, 11) That the difference between polyglots and failed learners is drive, not ability, 12) A typical day of language learning for Kevin, 13) Kevin’s favorite language learning tools and resources, and 14) The dangers of uncontrolled Internet use.
Richard Simcott is an accomplished polyglot with impressive abilities in over 16 languages, a feat that led HarperCollins to call him “one of the most multilingual people from The United Kingdom”. Richard shares his language learning wisdom, tips, interviews, and super-sized doses of motivation on his popular YouTube channel and on his website, SpeakingFluently.com. In the interview, Richard and I discuss idiolects and dialects, the importance of making language ability a “need” instead of just a “want”, the fact that anyone can learn a language since everyone does, the key difference between casual language learners and accomplished polyglots, what languages Richard speaks and how he learned (and maintains) them, the advantages of learning languages in university, Richard’s language learning routine, the pros and cons of continuing to refine a language or pursuing a “new pretty flower”, the fact that language learning is “over learning”, the power of phonetic patterns in languages, and more.
Benny Lewis, also known as the Irish Polyglot, is one of my heroes. Not only has he demonstrated that it’s possible to reach conversational fluency in a matter of months, not years as most believe, but he lives his life as a full-time traveler, language learner, and technomad, and has managed to build the most popular language learning blog on the planet along the way. Benny’s philosophy on self-guided immersion is right in line with my own, as exemplified in the following quote from his new book: “…where you are isn’t what decides whether or not you’ll be successful. Attitude beats latitude (and longitude) every time. It’s more about creating an immersion environment, exposing yourself to native speakers, and doing everything you can in that language.”
Ellen Jovin is variously described as a “linguaphile”, a “language-crazed writer”, a “grammar freak”, a “former freelance writer”, and a professional trainer specializing in communication skills. On the first of July in 2009, Ellen began a impressive language and culture project called “Words & Worlds of New York” with the goal exploring the myriad languages spoken in The Big Apple.
With seven languages under his linguistic belt and an academic background in Applied Linguistics, Olly Richards of IWillTeachYouaLanguage.com has proven that he can both talk the talk and walk the walk. His infectious passion for all things language is a breath of fresh air in the increasingly cynical language learning blogosphere. In the interview, we discuss the under-appreciated importance of psychology in language learning, how he has had to alter his approach to language learning now that he is learning a language in country where it isn’t widely spoken (Cantonese in Qatar of all places!), his experience participating in Brian Kwong’s +1 Challenge (an approach he lovingly refers to as “crowdsourced motivation”), the role of teachers in language education, and the power of “negotiated syllabi”.
Keith Brooks is the man behind Pardon My Norwegian, a site dedicated to “everything cool from Norway from the eyes of a Kentuckian”. Prior to “marrying” the Norwegian language, Keith sampled a number of a potential languages in a project called 37 Languages. His “speed dating” or “taste testing” approach to choosing just the right “significant linguistic other” got picked up by PRI’s The World in 2009 (“Blogging the Love of Language“), and Keith was asked back again in 2010 to report on which language he finally chose to settle down with (“A Language Speed-Dater Gets Serious“). In our interview, Keith: 1) Shares his favorite tips and tools for learning Norwegian online, 2) Confirms that contrary to what many may expect, it is indeed possible to learn Norwegian even in Louisville, Kentucky, and 3) Compares Norwegian with other Scandinavian tongues: ”Danish sounds like Swedish, but is written like Norwegian. Swedish sounds like Norwegian, but is closer to Danish. And then Norwegian, in my opinion, is the best one of them all!”