During the week-end I spent in Thessaloniki at the Polyglot Conference 2016 (read my highlights here), I had the opportunity to discuss and interview four famous and successful polyglots. I am happy to share the video I recorded in Greece to give you a taste of what I lived there but, more importantly, to discover how language experts learn languages!



How do you get started when you want to learn a new language ?

This is a question I asked to:

  • Richard Simcott. Co-organizer of the conference, Richard is undoubtedly one of the most successful language learners on earth with his 19 languages (find him at speakingfluently.com),
  • Alex Rawlings. Co-organizer of the conference, Alex was elected the most multilingual student in the UK (2012) and fluently speaks more than 11 languages (find him at rawlangs.com),
  • Jimmy Mello. Creator of his own method for teachers (the Mello Method), the “Brazilian Polyglot” is not only an amazing language expert (11 languages) but also a contagious language lover (find him at brazilianpolyglot.com),
  • Conor Clyne. Creator of the blog Language Tsar, Conor is a successful polyglot who masters many languages such as Russian, Portuguese, French, Italian (find him at languagetsar.com).


Watch The Video to Discover Their Answers

Richard Simcott (BONUS)

Due to technical problem I had during the interview, you won’t find Richard’s interview in the video. The sound was too bad, but, luckily for you, I was there to give you his answer:

So, the very first thing I do is identifying courses which appeal to me and materials that I’ll use for my study. I look through them. I have to be happy with them so that it arms my motivation to continue to learn and so that the study itself make sense to me.

And then I will go through them for varying periods… sometimes, every single day I do my study, and then, for periods of, maybe, 5 times a week, write things down and try to sync them in my head over the week-end and try to practice whenever I get the opportunity.


Video transcription

If you prefer to read their answer instead of watching the video, you’ll find below the transcription of the video with their answer:

Hi! This is Luca from MosaLingua. I would like to say “καλημέρα” because, today, I’ve just arrived here in Thessaloniki (Greece) to attend the Polyglot Conference. I’m very close to the venue where the even will take place.

I’ll meet some extremely successful polyglots, and I’ll have the occasion to ask the following question:

“How do you get started when you want to start learning a new language?” Or, “what are your first personal steps?”

Alex Rawlings

The very first thing I want to do is to listen to the language and listen to it as much as possible. So, I go on YouTube and iTunes, and I choose podcasts so that I can download audio extracts I can listen to. And I listen to these for quite a long time to see what I can learn and to see what I can pick up. I just get used to sounds of the language.

After that, probably, I go for a course which takes me to an intermediate level, such as Teach Yourself, Assimil and anything like that, and work with that for about 3 months, following all of these instructions. You really have to trust the methodology of these books and courses because they know that they work. After you’ve passed this 3 month period, of, you know, approaching a level where you are starting to feel slightly more comfortable and slightly more enthusiastic and optimistic about how it’s going to go with the language, you’ve got a bit more freedom to do some more experimental stuff. But for me, it’s always very crucial that for a 3 month period, when you are getting used to the language, used to reading it, learning basic word and be sure that this is the language for you to stick with

Jimmy Mello

The first thing when I decide to learn a new language I think to myself: “Do I really want to learn this language?”. Otherwise, I will give up during the process. This has happened many, many times. So I ask to myself:

“Will this language be useful in my life?” “Do I really need it?” “Do I have any “connection with people or anything else?”. So, the firsts step is that. So, when I have determined that this language will really be useful in my life.

After that, I have to select the material that I’m going to use. Usually, I use audio material like Pimsleur or Michel Thomas. And my favorite: pocketbook, which I take everywhere; it’s is this book. It is very useful because

I can start from nothing, and it can help with the basic. Just like this one for Greek. So I can say”γεια σου”, “Παρακαλώ”,”Ευχαριστώ”… So I start with basics, and, then, I go for thin books which teach me the basics. And then I go further: I take other materials like Assimil or Colloquial.

And in the meanwhile I love using apps! There are a lot of apps for flashcards, so I use a lot of apps like MosaLingua, and also paper flashcards. I love paper flashcards… I have never stopped using them. So basically it’s that.

Conor Clyne

This is Conor. I have a blog/vlog called Language Tsar, and, recently, I’ve been documenting on the blog and then on the vlog learning Ukrainian because I started learning Ukrainian a few weeks ago. So, the first thing I did is I went to the Wikipedia page, and I looked up ‘Ukrainian language’. So, what I was looking for were connections with languages that already speak. So I happen to speak a cognate language, which means a language which comes from the same language family. And that’s Russian. So, I knew that, for me, the language is quite different but the grammatical structure is pretty similar.

So, I knew already I don’t need to focus too much on the grammar, but I’m definitely going to have to focus on learning very basic vocabulary in the beginning. So, it’s what I did, and I’ll write about this on my blog. I developed a strategy and I looked, at first, at the pronunciation. The differences in the sounds. Sounds which might be different for a native speaker because I use my first language. I also then looked at building up my vocabulary through interactions with native speakers and also reading materials. And I looked at several software programs which I like to use when I’m learning languages, or if there are new ones I want to test out. So that’s how I approach it. And I also look at opportunities I’m going to get to practice the language. So, I actually went and stayed in Ukraine for a few weeks, and I attended a language school there. So, that’s how I kick-started everything, with Ukrainian in particular.

Final words

So I’m back after this amazing week-end, and that’s all for this video. To get more hacks, tips and language expert interviews, subscribe to our channel right away! You can also get our free book revealing the seven secret tools used by polyglots to learn a language. You can get it clicking here. Thank you very much for your attention, and see you in the next video!