Benny the Irish Polyglot isn’t your typical crazy Irishman. He spends his time completing language missions – he moves to a country for three months, with the aim of speaking it fluently at the end of that time. Hence the name of his website, Fluent in Three Months. So far on his quest, he’s fluent in eight languages, and has the basics in three others.
Benny’s language-learning story
When he graduated from university with a degree in electronic engineering, he was fluent in only one language – English. He’d studied German at school, but didn’t get anywhere with it, and after six months living in Spain was in a similar situation. But one day, he made a dramatic decision – he *really* decided to learn Spanish. He cut English out of his life as much as possible (he still had to work and talk to his parents) and spent the rest of the time speaking Spanish. It was the start of an epic journey.
Language hackingBenny learned that the big secret to learning a language is to speak the language from day one. Don’t wait until you’re “ready” – you’ll never feel ready. But you can communicate immediately, using what you have. In Spain, he used his body and extrapolated new words from ones he knew and ones other people used.
He learned that it’s important to be confident and social. Just start talking to people with confidence and it will seem like you speak better than you actually can. To start, learn some phrases (Benny likes Lonely Planet phrasebooks) and leave the grammar to later – the point isn’t to speak perfectly, it’s to communicate. Break each task into small pieces and use creativity to help you learn – singing, for example, will help you remember phrases faster.
It can be difficult to get around the problem of people wanting to practice their English by talking with you, but it’s possible. Benny always helps them by explaining how they can improve their Enlgish (websites, couchsurfing etc.) but he explains it in their language – giving him more chance to speak his target language.
Maintain the languages you learn
Many people learn a language to an acceptable level, but lose ground by not maintaining it. It’s important to keep speaking the languages you’ve learned, and you can do this through being a Couchsurfing host. Benny hosts people who speak the languages he speaks, giving him a chance to practice with them – this helps him maintain eight languages.
Benny’s website, Fluentin3months.com contains tips and techniques for learning languages, as well as the Language Hacking Guide, which is a great guide for people who want to learn a new language but don’t know where to start. When you buy it, you get it in eight languages, and can read it in the language you’re learning – so it’s already helping you along the path to fluency. Plus you can check anything you don’t know in the English version.