Wanna Know Exactly How To Master Any Language?
I got good news for you. The amazing polyglot Luca Lampariello showed up in Berlin and we had a good long chat about language learning. And the best part is …
We’ve got it on video!
Anthony: Hi, this is Anthony Metivier. I’m here with Luca Lampariello, and we are doing a very special interview. We are here in Berlin. I live in Berlin but Luca is visiting.
Anthony: We thought, “Well I’m the memory guy and he’s the language-learning guy.” We both operate in the same sort of industry so to speak, because his business is memorizing words and my business is helping you memorize them. It’s really not a business. It’s more like a passion.
Anthony: For people who don’t know you, you’ve got dozens upon dozens of videos on YouTube that train people in a particular brand of language learning, but for people who do know you, which I think probably many, many people who are watching this already do, one thing I’ve noticed is that we have never heard much about your personal life and I mean I don’t even know if you have a ‑
Luca: You meant to pry. You want to know the real secrets.
Anthony: The real stuff, like the dirt; for one thing, I’ve never asked you if you have a middle name.
Luca: Yeah, actually my name is Luca, everybody calls me Luca, but my other name is Vittorio because my grandfather, that’s my grandfather’s name. The Italian tradition is to call a son or a daughter after your grandmother. It’s an old tradition coming from the south. I don’t know if it’s the same thing in Canada. He is actually my father’s mother. His name was Vittorio. He was a physician, a doctor who used to be in World War II unfortunately, and he was in Africa. Unfortunately, I never got to meet him. My mother told me he had very interesting stories to tell about World War II. Because one of the things I like the most, apart from language, is history.
Anthony: Did any of those stories survive that you remember from your grandmother?
Luca: Yeah, I remember a lot of things that my mother told me. Not only my grandfather actually, my other grandfather as well and my grandmother, I got to know my two grandmothers and they were telling us about what happened in World War II. One is from Calabria which is deep south. The Americans and the Allies invaded Sicily and then went up to Calabria, and my other grandmother actually comes from the north of Italy. I’ve got the whole family from everywhere in Italy. So I have all these different traditions and also dialects. One thing that I never say is that my grandmother when I was a little kid just talked to me in Calabrese dialect. I learned that as well.
Anthony: Well that’s a lot of different parts of Italy but I know you are living in Rome at the moment. Is that where you were born?
Luca: Yes, that is exactly where I was born and I’ve been living there for 34 years almost because I’m turning 34 actually in two days.
Anthony: Thirty-four in two days.
Luca: Thirty-four, I’m an old man.
Anthony: Well happy birthday in advance.
Anthony: But you’ve also lived in Paris?
Luca: I lived in Paris for three years. I lived in Paris and Barcelona.
Anthony: Okay so the three places. What strikes you as being some of the major similarities and major differences?
Luca: That’s a very interesting question. Barcelona is very similar to Italy – the weather, the people, the traditions. I always say that Spaniards are a little bit like our cousins in a way because I believe that the language is like part of the culture and our languages are very, very similar and that reflects a certain kind of mentality.
Paris on the other hand, the French are similar to the Italians in so many ways but at the same time they’re different. Paris is like a northern European city and the weather is kind of different. It’s a little bit chilly there, like here in Berlin.
Actually Berlin is not as cold as I thought. It’s like 6.
Anthony: Plus 6.
Luca: Plus 6 you know. So I’m kind of liking it.
A month ago I was in Russia and expected to be minus 20 and it was plus 8 and now it’s plus 6 so I might bring good weather or maybe I’m just lucky. I tend to lean towards the second. I have to say that the French and the Spaniards and the Italians are very similar in so many ways. It’s not easy to pin down these things because you have to live to understand, but basically I also believe that the language plays a huge role, and obviously history. We’re all Latin peoples so to say so there is a common trait to our culture and the way we eat food and etc.
Anthony: You mentioned history as one of your interests. What interests you about history?
Luca: Well everything interests me. The thing that interests me the most is that if you know history, I feel that if you know history you know the world you’re living in right now, because we’ve been shaped. We’re the product of history. We are the product of all the things that happened in the last 4,000 years actually, the last million years.
So what interests me the most, if you want to be more specific is World War II, because I find it, I might be a little bit maybe naive to say that, it’s really like I see it as a clash between the good and evil even if sometimes you think of it the Allies bombing German cities and so many people dying. Is that good? Does that serve a specific purpose? Was it strictly necessary? Yeah, obviously it served the purpose of defeating Nazi Germany but at the same time was it strictly necessary.
We’re not going to delve into politics but I’m very interested in like how it was possible that all that thing happened and the fact that we’re living in, I wouldn’t go so far to say that we’re living in a peaceful world, that is not true, but at least in Europe, if you think about it, that’s the longest period we have had peace, 70 years. If you think about it, Europe has been ravaged by war for centuries and there’s been a period longer than, I don’t know, never been like 70 years. We’re lucky. Canada as well. It’s been at peace for a long time. So we have to consider ourselves lucky. We take it for granted but it’s not granted at all if you consider all the wars actually right now in Syria and in many, many other places in the world.
Anthony: Absolutely. I want to ask you about some of your other interests but just not to abandon this for a second, do you think that the capacity for language learning has been involved in the peace that has developed over time not just in terms of as if anybody has any better abilities now to learn languages but the spread of language training both hardcopy things and online.
Luca: I believe so. I believe, for example, if we had a war right now it wouldn’t be the same. People are biased in so many ways. For example, the Italians tend to (not all Italians obviously) tend to think that the French are a little bit snobbish or the Germans are a little bit close minded. It’s absolutely not true.
Are We In The Best Period Of History For Learning A Language?
The fact that we live in a peaceful society right now, I’m talking about Europe obviously, has so many – for example yesterday I was at a party. There were so many people from everywhere around the world. You could talk about anything and people want to mix. There is not this, “Okay, you’re a foreigner.” No, you are part of the European community and this has revolutionized, I would go as far to say that it has revolutionized the way young people, this young generation is learning languages.
I don’t know if you ever heard about the Erasmus project. Canadians and Americans might know about it, but it’s a European thing, where a student can decide to live abroad and learn a language. It’s not just because they go study there. Obviously they go study there, but the people who went there just completely change the way they see their own country and their own existence and their own traditions, etc.
So I do believe that peace has contributed enormously to the development to this multilingual society in which we live in. This is a fantastic thing. Obviously the Internet plays a huge role as well. But I do believe that the peaceful conditions in which we live do play a huge role in the way we live and we consider the reality around us.
Anthony: Okay so we’ve got history, and we’ve got language, and it seems that they’re tightly wrapped up in one another. Do you have an interest that you would say has nothing to do with language?
Luca: Yes. Before I talk to you about my other interests, I just wanted to say that for me, when people talk to you for example talk about you and talk to you and say oh, you’re the memory guy, they’ll refer to you as the memory guy.
Maybe yourself you’ll refer to yourself too as a memory guy, but the thing is that, and when they talk to me, the first thing they want to know is how many languages I speak, and the people who already know me treat me as friends as well. We talk about a lot of things but mainly they think that my main interest is languages. Now, actually languages is one of the things that I like but it’s not just the only thing I do.
When I think about history for example, I’m very interested in World War II and specially the Eastern Front and what happened between Nazi Germany and, for example, the Russians. That helped me delve into this and actually sparked this interest in understanding how the Russians saw the war, and I’ve been reading a lot of books in Russian and a lot of books in German to understand how the two parts lived the war.
So this is just one event in the course of history but there are many other events which actually push me to read more and more in the languages. We have just spoken of the countries that were involved in the political-historical processes that I was trying to understand and read about. So history is actually contributed as other interests to perfect and improve my language skills.
And to go back to your question, as other interests that have nothing to do with languages, sports doesn’t necessarily have to do with languages unless you want to read a blog about running for example in English or in other languages. Sports is one other thing that really interests me. If I think about it now, for example, I really like movies but this has to do with languages right.
Luca: So I’m trying to find something that has nothing to do with languages, and I would say sports. I like jogging. I’ve been trying to jog. I decided to jog in 2003, I decided that I wanted to try it. Have you ever run? Have you ever tried?
Anthony: I have actually. Unfortunately, I developed arthritis in my knees so I can’t run. But I did run quite avidly as a young person.
Luca: And also football. I used to play football a lot as well as with my twin sister. Yeah, she’s a professional now. Yeah, so this is for example one of the things that I’m interested in that has I would say not – everything potentially has to do with languages because language is the way we convey our thoughts, but yeah sports is one of the things I’m interested in and that’s it.
Anthony: Well the sports thing is very interesting I think because there is a phenomenon of jogger’s high and actually I’ve interviewed you before and you mentioned the relationship between joggers high and language learning as a kind of finding the zone or finding a spot where things really start to come together and happen and you mention that also in your master class.
Sleep, Meditation & Fitness Can Make Or Break Your Language Learning Experience
Anthony: What I wonder, a question that I’m thinking is, and I’m not sure exactly the best way to elaborate it, but one thing I work on is meditation and finding this clear spot without thought, without thinking and, well that’s not the best way to say it, but a place where thought is so focused and intent that it’s sort of beyond language or one word, and I’m just wondering as someone who has dealt with so many languages and found mastery in so many languages how do you get silence in your head? Is it just the running or do you have any other kinds of personal practices?
Luca: That’s a very interesting question. I’ve been thinking about mediation a lot recently. I’ve never done it, but I’ve been hearing more and more people actually trying to meditate because they have been overwhelmed by life. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by life, like myself. You were right when you said that sometimes I’ve a storm of languages or thoughts.
I think one of the most difficult things to do is actually to find a moment where you’re not listening to anything, not even to your inner voice, you’re just at peace with yourself. If find it a very difficult thing to do because we live in a world where we get stimulated continuously all the time. This is one of the things that I actually want to try because I’ve never tried it before.
I think that, going back to the running thing, you are right that when I run I think better for some reason. Maybe chemically because you’ve got a lot of chemical substances like serotonin and we release substances when you run and are more relaxed. When you go back home you take a shower and you are peace with yourself and with the world, but at the same time you still have this flux of thoughts and memories is stilled.
I don’t know if it ever happened to you that you try to sleep and you have so many things that you can’t, so many things in your head, whirlwind of things that you can’t concentrate.
So this is the next frontier, the next thing that I want to try to achieve is actually silence. It might be strange for a polyglot or a multilingual person with a lot of speaking so much because I do like speaking, but actually this is one of the things that are the New Year’s Eve resolutions.
Anthony: Well I’m working on a book right now actually called The Ultimate Sleep Remedy and I’ll hook you up with a copy after and it gets into mediation and different strategies that you may be interested in.
Luca: I have an article on my blog myself. It’s a guest post from a friend Joseph, he’s Swedish who actually gives very valuable advice as to how to sleep because some people just can’t sleep. Insomnia is one of the biggest problems. People don’t talk about it that much, but actually there’s a lot of people that can’t sleep and not being able to sleep is a terrible thing.
Anthony: You know that’s another thing that has come up when I’ve spoken to you before. You are talking about being with Richard Simcott, and he uses the story of him staying up so late at night and just being fascinated, and just not stopping. How do you, given all that you do and all that’s required of your brain power, how to do manage to do so much and also be well rested. You’re obviously a very fit and healthy guy.
Luca: Fit, I don’t know about fit.
Anthony: But I mean what’s with sleep, and your ability to retain and working memory and all these kinds of things that are required for learning a language.
Luca: I’ll give you one very simple answer. My answer would be that I manage to speak and maintain languages because I live them every day. I found the best environment for me. There are a lot of people focused on the best method, the best approach and then they focus on getting the materials, etc., but first I believe that the human factor is one of most important things.
Language has been created in order to communicate. We convey thoughts through language and if you find the best conditions, your brain and your capacities are going to thrive. So what I did is I told myself when I started speaking more than three or four languages, I told myself that the only way I could maintain so many languages at a certain level was to live them.
On the one side you can structure your day so that can for example listen to the radio when you’re washing the dishes or you can read books. But that’s time you choose to spend on the languages. But on the other side, if for example you live in a city like Berlin or Rome or Paris and you surround yourself with what I call the microenvironment with foreigners. You live with foreigners, you go out with foreigners, and you tend to speak languages all the time. Like currently for example I am living with my friend Davie. He is from London, you know him, and a Dutch girl, and that allows me to speak Dutch and English on a daily basis.
I also go out very often with a lot of friends who live in Rome, and I tend to speak other languages. I have a lot of friends everywhere. One the one hand in real life I have this microenvironment where I speak two or three languages at home plus when I go out I speak other languages with other people, with my friends, and I work with languages.
Why Language Learning Is More About Managing Your Time Than Words And Phrases
As a language coach what I do is basically I give classes in the language about language but also about a structure, how to organize your time, etc., and I do it in various languages, for example in all sorts of possible combinations. For example, Americans want to learn Spanish, Spaniards want to English, Italians want to learn English, Americans want to improve their Italian, and so on, from Russian into English, English into Russian. So I’ve got to practice a number of languages on a daily basis and one of the best ways to learn is to teach.
If you teach you learn a lot. I guess it happened to you as well. You’re trying to figure out ways to help as many people as possible and this means that you are going to do some research and you’re going to apply it to yourself. So you’re going to understand the process better. This is exactly what I’ve been doing in the last five years, trying to figure out ways to help as many people as possible, figure out their best way.
So it’s not only a psychological growth, because you have to understand people better. It’s not just understanding people better. A good language coach and even a good language teacher doesn’t necessarily have to speak the language perfectly but has to have the capacity of understanding the student’s needs and tastes, etc., being able to relate to him, and I think the psychological process, I’ve said it a number of times, is absolutely important to thrive in language learning, because without psychological aspect, you can try to nail everything but things probably will not work.
Anthony: So speaking of coaching, if I were to come to you and say, “Luca, I want a coach and I need that personal attention from an individual because nothing else is going to work.” What is the first thing that you’re going to say to me in response, assuming that we go through the mechanical stuff of transactions and filling out forms? What’s the first thing that you’ll say?
Luca: The first thing I will say is why do you want to learn this language? First I’m going to ask you about the reasons why you’re doing this and then your personal story, you’re personal history in so far as language learning is concerned, and I’m going to ask you about yourself. What do you do? What are your interests?
First of all it’s about trying to figure out who you are, what you want, why you want it and all the lessons are tailored around your tastes and needs, and I take into account what kind of person you are. For example, let me give you a very concrete example. If you are a very shy person, and you have difficulty expressing yourself some reason, the very first thing that I am going to do is focus on the things that you are good at, for example, at reading or listening and small tasks to get out of your comfort zone. You might even learn how to memorize a song in a foreign language.
I’m not going to talk to you immediately, okay, we’re going to have this conversation in the language right now. Because it might be detrimental actually. So the very first thing that I do is to try to understand, you know language experience does count. Because I’ve noticed that the people who have never learned a language before and maybe they’re in their 50s, struggle a little bit more than people who say have learned another language.
But it’s not just about language experience. It is multiple factors that play a role and you have to try to tackle every single aspect and to try to do it from the very beginning.
Why Children Suck At Language Learning
Anthony: You mentioned people who are in their 50s, and you’ve said before and you mention in your master class that actually we often make the mistake of saying that children have some special advantage in language learning and older people are thought struggle more than children, but you kind of have an interesting take on that, and if you could say something about that kind of paradox about age and language learning.
Luca: It’s a paradox because first of all I don’t believe, this might sound absurd to a lot of people who have been claiming that the acquisition of your first language is different from the acquisition of the second language, I believe that the mechanisms and the way we learn languages as adults or kids are almost the same. There are differences in the way our brain is wired that’s true. It’s true that in a way that kid’s brain develops fast and that it’s a little bit different psychologically. They want to blend in so what they do is they tend to play with their schoolmates, etc. They develop the language in a certain way.
If you think about it, I’ve met in my life, I’ve met adults that speak a given language, a foreign language extremely well, because for example they have lived in the country for three years and they have family. Let’s suppose a French guy living in the Czech Republic. He moved there maybe 30 years ago, and he’s been speaking the language ever since, and he’s got a family, and he speaks to his kids in Czech, to his wife in Czech. He might have an accent, but he might develop the nuisances that are characteristic of a native speaker.
I lived in France for three years. I’ve learned so many things. Not just about the language, the way they talk, the way they move their mouth. These are things that I actually do. When I speak English it’s a very different thing but I digress. What I wanted to say is that basically I think that any person who speaks his native tongue well can learn any language.
Think about it, as a native speaker you can hold hundreds and hundreds of thousands of words, hundreds of thousands of combination of words and expressions and it’s amazing. I strongly believe that our capacity of learning anything is not infinite but it is huge. If you think that we have more neurons than there are stars in the sky, there are millions, I don’t know it’s a mindboggling number. So I believe that you can accomplish anything in life if you put yourself in the right circumstances, conditions, etc., your brain is literally and your capacity is really going to thrive.
People think for example that it’s exceptional that a person speaks ten languages. I would say it’s exceptional because just a few people do it, but it doesn’t mean that people can’t do it. It’s just because it’s a combination of things. I do believe that talent can play a role. It can facilitate the process, but I also believe because I’ve seen it firsthand that, I’m talking about language learning but this goes for everything, you can do amazing things or supposedly amazing things that look amazing but actually they are within our brain’s capacity.
You Don’t Have To Be Talented To Learn Another Language
Anthony: Talk a little bit about talent. I mean we did some magic tricks the other night, and I just want to bring that up because you were saying teach me a trick. Some people show me tricks. They never want to teach me trick. That’s true. There are certain things that I can do with cards that you can do too and there is nothing particularly talented about them it’s just putting in the time and analyzing where the hands need to be and analyzing the audience and doing this and doing that and saying this at a particular moment and not another moment. But I think the number one challenge is actually sitting down and doing it.
But if there were more, what are some of the talents that you think that you have in particular that have gotten you this kind of success that another person could look at himself or herself and say I am lacking in that area and then they could actually build a talent.
Because we’re talking about age and all that stuff, we know that neuroplasticity is a reality and the brain can change and certain activities that we engage in can cause new neural networks to form and that sort of stuff. What do you think that you have in particular that others may not that they could then work towards getting in order to put some stuff in their toolbox?
Luca: You ask very interesting questions. Thinking about language, language is a huge field actually. I would say that the thing that I have developed which may differentiate me from other people might be phonetics. It might be the way I pronounce languages. But I don’t really know whether I have a talent for that or I have a knack for sounds.
I would say that I believe, I strongly believe that the reason why I pronounce certain languages well or supposedly well, that’s what people tell me, is that I train. I train not just sitting down and thinking okay now I’m going to train. I train in every possible situation. Think about it, I don’t know if you ever talk to yourself. That might sound a little bit crazy but everybody does. Once in a lifetime they’ve done it.
Anthony: I’m talking to myself right now. No I’m listening to you very attentively.
Use This Butt-Naked Fluency Secret First Thing Every Morning
Luca: What I do for example instead of sitting down and thinking okay I’m going to deliberately spend some time doing this activity, I just train while I take a shower or while I go walking. Once I was even in the metro, and I really felt like speaking. I couldn’t talk to anybody. I just couldn’t come up and say, “Hey, hi, how are you doing?” But start a conversation like in the metro would have been a little bit weird unless I had a specific purpose, right?
So I just got my phone out of my pocket and I just started talking as if I were having a conversation with my girlfriend. I was calling this imaginary girlfriend and talking with her in Dutch because I wanted to practice Dutch. So I was imagining and literally taking pauses as if I were listening to this person talking to me and I was replying. So I was imagining this conversation for the purpose of training. I was calling her. I remember that I was imagining in my mind imagining her sitting with her friends and talking about stuff. What are you doing? Where are you going? What are you going to do tonight? All sorts of things.
This helped me actually articulate the sounds. I don’t remember how many facial muscles we have but you have to train your facial muscles as well as your mouth, etc., because it’s like sports. When you start jogging, the very first time you go jogging you are like breathless and you tell yourself who made me do this. You’re cursing yourself for going to the park, but actually it becomes easier. It is the same thing for languages.
When we speak languages we tend to step out of our comfort zone so far as sounds are concerned because we have to utter sounds that are completely different. Sometimes they are very, very different and difficult to pronounce at the beginning but if you do it consistently it gets easier and easier in a matter of two, three or four months and the way to go about this is not just – you can do some work at home sitting down but what counts is that you find a purpose. You tell yourself I want to communicate certain idea to somebody even if it’s an imaginary girlfriend that you are talking to on the phone in the metro and you just talk.
People tend to consider, this has been my experience, tend to think and tend to focus too much on the small details instead of taking a look at the bigger picture. Imagine that you are taking a look at a picture and somebody tells you, you start looking at this picture and you focus on the small things instead of figuring out the message the picture wants to convey.
What I do is, in very specific terms, don’t focus on the pronunciation of the single words but try to utter a sentence. If you want to practice one word say it within a sentence. This is called a top-down approach. Because if you start with bottom-up approach, what happens is you start with pronouncing single words, then might pronounce a word correctly or very well, but when you have to chain sounds one after the other in a sentence, then it gets a little bit difficult. But if you start from the very beginning with short sentences then it gets better and better.
How To Enter The Mazes Of Phrases And Get Out Alive And Fluent
For example, let’s suppose an Italian wants to practice the word church because it is difficult for us to say church. So instead of telling him to try to say church, church, church, for ten times, just try to say I want to go to the church. You would practice it a number of times, and then maybe you can make your sentence longer and try to say I want to go to a church because I want to meet some people because I love God, etc., etc. So you start with a short sentence and then you make it longer so that if you think about it you’re practicing the pronunciation of ten words instead of just one at a time. It makes a huge difference in the long run.
Anthony: So what do you do with someone who says but I can’t memorize, I can’t even get myself to memorize or pronounce “I want to go.”
Luca: What I tell them is that don’t think about the fact that you can’t memorize, just do it. Meaning, what I would say, the meaning of the thing that I would say is that remember that you speak your first language. Why do you speak your first language, we talked about in another podcast that languages are just networks. What I would suggest and this is my approach, maybe yours is different in memorizing words, but what I do is I always tell them that if they build the network like a spiderweb then the flies, which are the words, are going to get stuck automatically in the long run.
One concrete example, this doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily super easy, when it comes to languages for example that are very different like Russian, Russian is a Slavic language so a lot of words have Slavic roots and they are difficult to remember. But when you start delving into the language you’re just recognizing the small clues that are inside words. Once you memorize that it becomes so much easier to memorize words. Because some words even contain other words.
So when you start at the beginning, you might struggle a little bit but if you expose yourself, and you still consider the language always as an effort when you read, when you listen, when you talk, etc., things become easier and easier.
For example if you have to remember the word РАСПРОСТРАНЕННЫЙ, it’s difficult to pronounce. You can focus on the sound. You can focus on РАСПРОСТРАНЕННЫЙ, which means common, but instead of just thinking wow this is like a long word. I’m not going to remember. You might remember it now because you are going to commit it to your short-term memory, but then you have to actually remember it maybe in a couple of days and then in a conversation it’s going to get a little bit complicated.
So my suggestion is even when you have words like that, break them down into shorter pieces. For example РАСПРОСТРАНЕННЫЙ, you can divide into РАС-ПРОС-ТРА-НЕННЫЙ and then if you break it down, this is a technique called back chain, you repeat this word a number of times and then your brain will actually figure out the elements.
One other example, German is very famous for putting words – you can see these words are huge because they are made of four or five words. But actually if you spot the words or a pair it becomes much easier. They put an “s” to put these words together sometimes. So, everything boils down to how you see things.
If you see this word and you tell yourself this is too difficult, you’re already lost, you’ve lost the battle. But if you tell yourself, hmm, let me look at this word actually. Take two seconds to look at the word and tell yourself actually this word is not so difficult because look at this. This is like spot the “s” in the case of German and you will see that the “s” separates two elements, and then you will see these two elements and maybe if you know one you just have to remember the other one.
Why You Need To Use All Of Your Senses (And Your Muscles)
And I always suggest this is probably how I figured out my memory works. My memory works visually meaning that I can – actually when I’m fairly advanced in a language I can memorize words also just by listening to them, but normally I strongly believe that if you want to commit any piece of information to your long-term memory, what you should do is you should try to use all the senses.
Well, not all of them but like sight, so you have to see the word. Then you have to listen to it and then you have to pronounce it so you’re using your mouth, your using your ears and then you’re using your eyes and the more you do that, instead of just listening, some people advocate that you just listen and it’s great, but then if you don’t have a base, being able to see the word might help.
So I just put all these elements together and then I don’t sing in the shower, I just talk. Some people sing in the shower, I just talk for example and even in the car. I don’t know if you ever noticed it, some courses just give advice and they say, you know, maybe when you’re driving the car just talk to yourself. The person next to you and think you’re totally crazy but maybe you’re just talking on the phone. A person talking to themselves the first thing you’re going to see is you’re going to try to spot a microphone or try to spot a telephone to help them see maybe they’re not crazy. They’re just talking to somebody. And it turns out to be true like 95% of the time. Depending on where you go.
Anthony: That’s hopeful anyway that they’re doing something like that and not talking to themselves. But let me think here, so I’m not going to try and do the tongue rolls but РАСПРОСТРАНЕННЫЙ ‑
Anthony: Yeah okay. So, break that down a little bit. When you are learning that, that means common right?
Anthony: And so, just the process that you, just quickly, you encounter that word. How did you encounter it and/or in what context and then what do you do next, and what do you next and what’s going on?
Luca: Very good. What I do is just, if you want to memorize that word, I think that you not only understand and this is the first process, you first decipher it. You break it down.
You then get a text, not a list of words. So you just have to grab a text and it should be interesting to you. I believe that one of the reasons why a lot people fail learning languages is school and not only at school because they tend to be exposed to text or materials which stops and they’re not interested in. If you’re interested in something, you know, thing about five things you like. Then you just go and look. The Internet allows you to search for any sort of material. Then you just get exposed to it, preferably with an audio.
Then what I do is, I try to listen. I try to read at the same time and what I do, for example, I stumble upon a word like РАСПРОСТРАНЕННЫЙ, first I break it down into parts. The very first phase is to decipher and understand the text because you can’t learn something you don’t understand. If you understand you’ve got a higher chance of retaining the information.
Then what I do, I might have delved into this because this is very specific, but what I do is to use a system, a space-time repetition system. A space-time repetition can work/cannot work. I know that for some people it doesn’t work, but it depends on how they do it. They have to personalize this process as well. If you hear that the best technique is to have a space-time repetition system in which you have to repeat a word every single day or every two days, it doesn’t work.
Possibly Each And Every One Of Us Learns In A Different Way
Every brain is different. Possibly, each and every one of us learns in a different way. So you have to find the best way that adapts to the way you’re learning and committing information into long-term memory.
Mine was to build a system where I found out the best intervals of time in which I’m not just repeating stuff but I’m using that word or attacking that piece of information from different angles. One day I read it, one day you listen to it and one day I use it.
The other piece of advice that I’ll give is use this thing. Languages have been created to be used. If you can use these things you’re telling your brain that this or that piece of information is important, and the brain is going to retain it. So this is kind of important.
So I’ve structured, I’ve built a system in which I tend to first of all put myself in the best conditions to understand something, and then to use it basically. Then to review it in a certain way and then finally to start using it. Obviously there are some words like РАСПРОСТРАНЕННЫЙ which is a common word in Russian but there are like very uncommon words that you might not use in your lifetime. The reason why we know it as native speakers is because for some reason we’ve been exposed to them, or when you read. But how many times are going to use words like “grate” in English. I don’t know. It depends right.
Why Word Choices Are Personal, Context-Specific And Based On Practical Use
Anthony: I use it all the time.
Luca: Well you use it all the time but the point is that everybody is different. So some people and this I think this has not been tackled anywhere, my way of dealing with words has to do with – I believe that we have this core of words that that everybody uses because they’re absolutely necessary. You can’t avoid using these words. Some words might not carry a lot of information like “and, the, on,” etc. These are common words. But there are other words that depend on the specific field of your work, of your life, etc.
Maybe somebody working in the lumberjack business, for example, might know some specific words that have to do with wood or their specific work. Screwdriver for example, somebody working the specific field. Some other people will never use that word. Screwdriver is another common word but if you think about rate, if you think about things that are very specific, once I saw in forum a person say if you don’t know these words it means – I remember it was hot flashes. I didn’t even know it at the time when I saw it, hot flashes, first I’m not a woman.
Anthony: Well you can get andropause if you’re a man.
Luca: I can get andropause, that’s true. But I didn’t know this word and I found it a little bit shocking that some people really believe that fluency has to do with – it does have to do with the amount of words you know up to a certain level because you have to know a lot of words in order to speak fluently, but for some people advocating that if you don’t know like ten words that are almost never used or it’s going to be very unlikely that you’re going to hear it, then you don’t know the language.
If you think about it, even in your native English and my native Italian, we don’t know a lot of words. We know actually a tiny fraction of the words that exist and our vocabulary is huge. There’s hundreds of thousands of words. English has, I don’t know how many words, a million words? It depends. Obviously some people want to know all the words as they explore bilingualism but in most of the times you don’t need to know all the words but you need to know who to use a tiny fraction of the words that you have to use in order to communicate.
So my idea is what a person should do is to learn how to put them together, syntax, how to structure a sentence and then you can learn all the words that you want. So to me it’s first build the structure, and then add the content, the meat.
Anthony: Well we’re talking about words and words and one of the things that I always get asked about is what do you do if a word has more meanings than one. So for instance grate which you were mentioning can also be to grate, to make something small, like grated cheese. So how do you contend with that?
Luca: Interesting question.
Anthony: Because many, many words have that quality of meaning more than one thing and the technical term for that, speaking of the million words in English is polysemy, the polysemy of words, the poly – the many-ness of the semantics.
Luca: Which is another aspect that is quite important. Well I would say the easiest way to tackle this is to get exposed to language as much as possible because with multiple contexts you’re going to see that these words are used in a different way in languages such as Chinese, for example, they don’t have many sounds and very often a sound, I’m not even talking about a word, a certain sound can mean not only different words but can be a verb, can be an adverb at the same time, to be a noun depending on where you find it. So you have to, if you want to tackle this, you better tackle it immediately and you have to tackle it with a certain mentality and tell yourself, when you look up a word, don’t just restrict yourself to thinking okay this word has just one meaning but go and actually look at dictionaries, like online dictionaries such a word reference has this but many dictionaries offer that. Try to see the possible meanings or the possible uses of that word.
Okay this word РАСПРОСТРАНЕННЫЙ means common, got it. No, try to see it in two or three sentences where this РАСПРОСТРАНЕННЫЙ could mean different things. I’m not talking about РАСПРОСТРАНЕННЫЙ but another word. In English you use some words it can be a pronoun or can be a verb or can be an adjective depending on where you find it. In Italian it is the same thing. There are some special cases like in Chinese in which this is particularly important.
Language Is Almost Like DNA
But the idea, it all boils down to the way the mentality with which you approach a problem. If you think that there is just a simple correspondence between one word and the other words in language and that one word has just one meaning then you’re missing out on the bigger picture. I wouldn’t go so far to say that it’s detrimental but it can slow you down because you have to see a language, once again I know that I insist on this, as a network. Like DNA almost. So a certain piece in a certain position has to be linked to other pieces around it in a certain spot. It’s different in another spot.
Anthony: So given this kind of need to see things in a network sort of sensibility, what do you think is the number one thing that people do that prevents them from entering that network, to becoming a part of it and keeps them outside rather than in the field so to speak.
Luca: There are a number of things that can keep you from figuring that out. First is to consider words as isolated elements of the language and the other thing is that I think it is actually important is they don’t use the language. They might think okay I just am studying this language and using books but they’re not using it.
So my piece of advice, especially in languages that are similar to your native tongue, is to start using the language and make it meaningful to you. One of the best ways is to get to know people. Nowadays even if you live in Alaska or Australia or some places like in a small island near New Zealand you can still find people on the Internet or people you can talk to, and you better find people you want to talk to. If you find a person or stumble upon a person you don’t want to talk to or people have the same interests or whatever, what counts is that you’re starting to use the language and the language becomes meaningful to you and all doors open because your brain is going to absorb the information in a much easier way.
If a language is confined within the realm of just books or things that are not even interesting to you, you’re going to struggle. You will see that the moment you start using the language, and using the language mind you doesn’t necessarily mean speaking the language, you could even just type or you can listen. There’s a number of ways you can translate. You can do a number of things to make it meaningful to you that don’t necessarily imply speaking. Speaking would be the best option because by speaking you reinforce certain mechanisms and your brain learns how to use the language like live with people and emotions are involved and it facilitates the process.
But you can do a number of things once again without necessarily speaking if you are a shy person or simply if you don’t feel like speaking to somebody.
Anthony: One thing I’ve always wanted to ask you, I’ve actually thought about it before, it came up after our second interview, and I just thought wow why didn’t I ask this. Having to do with language coaching and so forth, I wonder if I were an actor, like I was going to be in a new movie with Tom Cruise and I had a pretty big part and I needed to speak Russian, and I don’t want to learn Russian. I just want to be able to look like I can say 12 lines of text perfect, dead on and everything like as if it is just exactly my mother tongue. What would you do in that case and or would you even touch such a case as a language coach?
Like An Actor, You Need To Understand Why You Say Things In A Certain Way
Luca: Yeah, why not. Anything is feasible. What I would do first of all is to teach them how the language works, the basic intonation patterns. It’s a very interesting thing that if you think about it every language has basic intonation patterns that can be reproduced, it can be easily spotted if you do a certain training and this is a training I’ve been doing for a number of years in five to six languages, and instead of just telling them you have this text learn it by heart, I would tell them first of all try to understand why you say things in a certain way.
Let me give you an example. If you are an Italian native speaker and you want to learn, for example, a sentence in English, you have to understand why certain things are said in a certain way.
If you say, “I want to go to church because I like it.” Instead of telling this Italian guy, okay just listen to this and say, “I want to go to church because I like it.” Think about it. You say you have two sound units. So as you attach all the words together the first thing that you say is “I want to go to church” and then you raise the frequency, you know the vocal cords vibrate. They have like a certain fundamental frequency and you go up, and I will tell them, the reason why you go up here and you say “I want to go to church” ‑ you can say it in a number of ways obviously, but the reason why you raise your tone is because you’re about to say something else.
If you think about it we constantly raise and lower our tone to convey meaning and to let the other person understand what we’re about to say. Every time we raise our tone in certain spots within the sentence, we are actually telling the other person that either we have finished delivering one piece of information, or we’re about to say something else. All the sentences that have a secondary clause, something like “I want to go to church but,” “I want to go to church and,” “I want to go to church although,” and I have this pattern. You build and you actually train people.
The first thing is I would train people in basic patterns. I would say every time you say a sentence, you should probably start with short sentences, you have a point where you have to lower you tone because it’s a statement. Any statement, any possibly statement unless it’s a question, has to end somewhere. So you see the end just by seeing it written. But the end in terms of sound is simply when you lower your tone on a certain syllable within a word which is very often the last word but not necessarily and that means that you have finished. That means that I have finished, fi-nished and all the rest is low.
So every single sentence you have to see every single sentence as a message. So if somebody who wants to be a good actor, the very first thing is what is it that you’re trying to communicate. The thing that you’re trying to communicate is a message and if you have that message and there are small mini messages inside the message as well. So instead of telling, once again, you have to repeat this by heart, which could be difficult. If you understand something it is going to be much easier.
Break It Down
You first break it down into smaller chunks. You first explain. Then you explain to them why the chunks are pronounced in a certain way. You focus on the chunks and you put them all together. This is basically how training works and it works very well if you know how exactly. They commit it to long-term memory because they understood it. You can tell, even if an actor is very good, you can tell that if they speak the language or they don’t speak the language.
For example I suspect that you might know the guy. I don’t remember his name, memory fails me, but there’s a very famous movie by, I don’t remember his name either, but wait, I’m going to do this like I’m going to try remember Tarantino, Quentin Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds, and you can tell, I don’t know if you’ve seen it?
Luca: And there’s this guy that speaks a number of languages. He is a fantastic actor.
Anthony: Christoph Waltz
Luca: Yes, you’re the memory guy, you surely have a better memory than I do. For example, I have a problem with names. I don’t remember names. Not because I don’t remember them, it’s just because maybe I’m not interested. Well this is another thing.
Anthony: I can help you with that. 😉
Luca: You’re going help me with that. So fixed. Deal. So we have Christoph Waltz who speak a number of languages very well, like he recites very well but I could tell, I suspect, I don’t know, I’ve never looked it up, maybe we can do it later, that he speaks French because his French is natural. He does not look like, oh of course it’s not perfect, he sounds foreign, but his French is so natural in the way he talks that I suspect that he knows French well. English the same thing. Italian instead he just recited a couple of lines but you can tell it’s a little bit stiff. So even if he’s a very good actor you can tell obviously its normal. It’s not his native tongue. I don’t think it’s that easy to pronounce language perfectly, but I still believe that there are certain things that can facilitate the process.
If he had probably understood like how Italian intonation works, and he put some more possibly, you know a lot of people don’t think that it’s necessarily important that he speaks like a native. It adds a flavor to it if you speak as if you have a foreign accent.
But in that case I think that for some actors if they want to recite 12 sentences in a language I would spend some time training, four or five days in making them understand why things are the way they are, and then things are going to be much easier and provide a visual aide, visual guidelines.
People talk about they can see the notes when they play the music, musicians. You can do the same thing for language. You can literally find a system which is consistent. In phonetic books there are all sorts of systems that can be used, visual systems but every system is different depending on the author but what they have in common is that they are consistent. These are the things like for raising tone you use something like this. You’re going up with an arrow or you’re going down, etc. Other people do other things. What counts is that if you have a visual guideline, actually it’s going to be very, very helpful for your memory because you are understanding things, you’re breaking things down, and you’re going to repeat and produce something that you have not understood that has a meaningful message.
Anthony: We have been talking about acting now, and we talked about magic earlier, and there’s an old saying that says that a magician is really just an actor playing the part of a magician, and I wonder to what extent you think that that might apply to language learning.
Luca: It applies a lot because the moment I’m talking to you now for example in American English I feel a different person. So you have to be an actor in a way. Obviously it’s difficult to be an actor all the time, because an actor is just reciting. But I would say in the big show of life, if you are consistent, you’re telling your brain that when you speak the language you have a certain way of moving and talking to people, etc., and if your brain absorbs it, then it actually becomes easier to be phonetically consistent and to speak in a certain way.
Language Is In The Hands
Now if we talk about sounds, because language is mainly sounds that you would produce, but it’s also in the way use hands. For example the way I’m using my hands right now, I would not use them in the same way as if I were speaking Italian. I would go more like crazier, I don’t know. But the way I use my eyes, my nose, my tongue, my hands, my body is different and whenever I speak the language the amazing thing that happens is that, I suspect and I’m not a neuroscientist, but I believe that the reason why I speak in a certain way is the product and the result of the experiences I lived through that specific language.
In English sometimes I see things, I see specific sentences and specific situations that I’ve seen actors use, heard actors use in certain movies for example. So movies and the characters who are in the movies played a role as well as the people I met in real life and they all contribute to my personality, or I wouldn’t go so far as to say personality but a side of my personality, because I don’t believe that speaking a language changes my personality but actually it shows another side of the personality that I have when I speak another language. So a person potentially can express all the facets of her or his personality if he spoke a number of languages, and I do believe that’s exactly what happens when you speak a language, and the better you speak a language the more evident this becomes.
Like in English I hope I speak English easily. I have this, this thing, this is very evident. Like I feel a different person. I’m not a different person but I feel different because I’ve lived the language, and I have a parallel life. I have my Italian life but I also have my life I live through Engligh which makes a huge difference. It’s because of the experiences that I lived.
Anthony: Your English is excellent.
Anthony: But it’s interesting what you mention about gestures because I don’t think I’ve done this nearly as much as I have since living in Germany because as a Canadian we just don’t do that that much. I’m not sure what the alternative is in Canada. I wonder, as you’ve traveled around living in these different countries, do you ever feel that you have become less Italian?
Luca: Yeah, well that’s a yes and no. That’s a difficult question to tackle. I believe that I have, I’m still Italian, but I wouldn’t say that speaking other languages made me less Italian but it made me richer, it made me more. It didn’t make me less Italian. It made me more international. So I’m Italian but I’m more international.
What I would say is that it made me understand, it made me see Italy and Italians and myself in a bigger framework so I understand why we say certain things, why we think certain things, and other people think certain things. It made me understand my own country better. It made me more conscious of the person I am living in this world but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it made me less Italian though.
Can Living Abroad And Learning A Language Destroy Your Cultural Identity?
Anthony: It’s kind of a weird way to phrase the question. I was just thinking of a friend of mine who told me that when I first moved New York he said, “Oh, three months from now you won’t be Canadian anymore.” It will be impossible because the country the flowing. It’s in its own zone so to speak and once you’re out then you re-enter. It’s like you can’t step in the same river twice kind of philosophy. I just thought, come on man, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. I’m Canadian and I’m going to be Canadian for the rest of my life but eight years later, I go back to Canada and I have no conception of where, I don’t recognize the place anymore and I don’t recognize myself inside of it. It’s what they call reverse culture shock. I kind of did not mean to say that less Italian, that was a weird way of phrasing it, but that kind of thing of can you reenter and have it.
Luca: That’s a different ‑
Anthony: You know what I’m trying to get at?
Luca: Yeah, absolutely. Well the thing that happened after living three years in Paris is that I became a little bit more, I don’t want to use the word intolerant, but there are certain things that I cannot stand anymore that I took for granted. For example waiting for the bus for 45 minutes without anybody telling you, maybe under pouring the rain, without anybody telling you why that is happening is very irritating. In France if something like that happens, people are going to start the second revolution, the French revolution.
So there are certain things that I found difficult to accept after living in a country which is, let’s face it, more efficient, and on the one hand I appreciate some things more because every country has problems and every country has good and bad things. Italians I believe they are a wonderful people but there are some things that could be changed if we, and I include myself, put some energy and some will into. There’s just no will to change things because Italians say we got this far and who cares.
So in a way, once again, I’m not less Italian, I’m just more conscious of the things that could be better, things that other people might not be conscious of because they’ve been living in that environment for their whole life. So they don’t know that actually things can be different, it can be better and that’s it. I think it made me a richer person and because I see and I think I can see a problem or a reality from different perspectives. There’s not one bad thing I could say when somebody tells me, this is quite common actually, oh yeah, you are just good if you speak English. You have been living in Germany for eight years right, if I remember correctly.
Anthony: Well I’ve been out of Canada for that long.
Luca: Yeah, for a certain amount of time, would you think that your experience would be same if you didn’t speak a word of German?
Anthony: Uh, I don’t know because I do speak, I speak lots of German.
Luca: But at the beginning would you think that if you didn’t speak a word of German you wouldn’t be able to talk to certain people and people might speak English to you but they might not be as warm and trustworthy and all sorts of things if you didn’t speak their language. There’s like this English bubble. People can live here obviously, people can understand you, you can order things, you don’t need words, you just need your finger to just point at things. But speaking the language gives you the experience and the thing you experience are completely different.
Anthony: Yeah, that’s actually an interesting question, and you probably have this experience as well. Being a second language speaker or third language speaker, you’re always speaking in context. There’s always a frame, a framework around what you’re doing. So there’s something called Amtsdeutsch in German which is the kind of German that you use in public offices.
So when I go to the Ausländerbehörde which is the immigration office, there is a special kind of German there that is used and if you’re Canadian then that special kind of German that you might be struggling through is treated differently than if you are from a poor impoverished country that these people struggle to get in.
So there’s that kind of issue that goes on in language learning and then there’s the kind of German that you hear at a doner stand or where you get grilled chickens and there’s just all kinds of different Germans. There is not one German language and so I wonder what you think about that. That’s another piece of the puzzle of language learning. We treat it as if we are learning a language but each language is languages in and of itself.
Luca: Yeah, I agree. There are all sorts of languages within a language because in ever context you can learn to express yourself in a certain way or you have to use certain words and there is registers. You would not talk to your friend, you know you’re having a beer in a bar, and you would not talk to him or her in the way you would talk when you go to an office or when you have to go to university and you have to talk to your professor, you have to talk to your friends and family, etc. So there are all sorts of things you have to understand.
Why People Are The Most Important Part Of Learning A Language
It’s about cultural consciousness and this is particularly important when it comes to the languages like Japanese. In Japanese there are these registers and I believe in Korean it’s even worse. The situation is even worse. People actually get angry at you unless they understand you are like a foreigner because you’re just talking to your professor as you would say, “Hey buddy, how you doing? What’s up?” Image you walk up to your professor and you say, “Hey buddy, what’s up?” Your teacher is going to take a look at you and say he’s crazy. I’m not going to talk to this guy or you are going to fail and flunk the exam. Which is a more likely possibility. So it’s absolutely correct that you have to learn that the language you find in a book might not be the language you actually get to hear every day.
Actually that’s the reason why people are so important. When you watch a movie and you watch it with foreigner, I’m sorry, when you watch it with a native speaker, it’s so enriching because you might not understand a word or that person and that happened to me quite a lot of times and say you know, this is a common situation. This is this the thing that people say in that situation. This is a very common sentence because everybody knows this movie. So they are helping you understand not only, it’s called pragmatics, how you’re supposed to use the language.
They read a book by Oscar Wilde and then I go around and talk like the book, like Oscar Wilde, people obviously would say you’re talking like the book. You’re still communicating but talking like the book is not like talking in normal life. So, this also is kind of important because I think that one of the mistakes, the very common mistakes is that people tend to focus on things that are not strictly necessary.
If first you understand your goal, if you actually realize that your goal is one of communicating with people, it’s one thing. If you want to understand and read literature, like ancient literature in a given language that’s another goal completely. So if your goal is to talk to people, just start talking to people and you’re going to understand and you’re going to realize very quickly what kind of language is being used. Well the book is something else or you can do both.
A native speaker normally does both because most native speakers have a certain path. They live within a family, they go to school, they go to university, so they understand all these sorts of things by living the language, but a person who is an adult or like a second language learner and who learns a language in a certain way might actually end up learning just one piece of the language and not understanding that actually there are a lot of facets, there is a lot of aspects to a language they are not aware of and they should be aware of if their goal is to speak like a native speaker or speak a language fluently and blend in.
Anthony: Speaking of speaking like a native speaker, you’ve got a new course out which is a master class. Can you tell us a little bit about that and the benefits involved in being a student of that course.
Luca: I have been learning, I’ve been teaching, I’ve been training I would say, I would use the word training a lot of students in the last five years but still I’m just one person. So I can help people. I saw how beneficial this can be for people if you just show them the way.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of this thing that a great teacher is the one who shows you the way but doesn’t tell you what to see. What I mean is I try to show them the way and but I couldn’t help the one-to-one conversation or one-to-one class. So I have in the last five years I’ve had so many requests from people, and I can’t possibly work with everybody because it’s impossible.
So I told myself the best way to do this is to create a course that people can actually watch and they can take, extract information, valuable information, and I basically tackle what I consider the most important things for a language learner to make somebody independent and to figure out for example, the things that we’ve been talking about, to figure out how to decipher intonation, pronunciation with a very special approach. This is one thing.
Another thing is how to tackle a conversation because I believe that holding a conversation is a kind of art, and how you can develop your language skills very, very fast by knowing how to use Skype. Skype is just an instrument but if you know how to use it, it becomes very powerful.
Obviously also the memory thing, how to use your memory efficiently because one of, I think, the biggest struggle is to remember words. People want to remember a lot of words. They’re like the bricks of the language, they don’t know how. I believe that the reason why a lot of people can’t is not because they can’t because they speak their own native tongue. To speak thousands of words is possible. They just don’t know how to do it. If you know how to do it things are much, much, much easier. I told myself, I figured this out. I want to give this to people because I think that it can be very, very beneficial.
I’ve been seeing governments spend thousands and thousands of Euro and like you go to school for five years and you can’t string a word together. Why is that? There must be a reason. The reason is that their people are not trained to learn languages. They are taught the language. I don’t believe that you can teach a language. You can lead a horse to water. You can’t make him drink. So what I think every school should do or every institution is show, train people to learn and then you show them the direction. You’re not just telling me, going back to what I was saying before, if you tell them what to see, for example grammar patterns, they’re not going to nail them. They have to understand how to tackle grammar patterns and they’re going to do them themselves.
If you try to teach them, so I put this comprehensive course together tackling what I believe the most important things and especially focusing on training people and the last thing is for example time management. I believe that time management is absolutely important. People don’t know how to manage their time. People, me included sometimes, I told myself I don’t have time for this. It’s not that you don’t have time. Every day you have to find the time to do something you like. So it’s not about having time. It’s about finding the time and if you start, you will revolutionize your world and every time you tell yourself you don’t have time. Instead of telling yourself I don’t have the time you say I did not find the time then the next day you might find the time. You know what, I do have the time actually.
Learn A Language By Doing Something You Like Every Day
It’s just every day you do something you like. Every day you do find the time to listen to music, to take a walk or whatever. So you can do exactly the same thing for language and in only 30 minutes a day or 15, 15 minutes is nothing if you thing about it, 15 minutes a day you can accomplish a lot. I explain, for example, how to use your time effectively in all sorts of situations even when you’re waiting for the bus. It’s all these things together and a lot of people actually watch that master class. I’m very happy about it.
Anthony: Yeah, I’ve taken it myself actually and even as I guess I would say an intermediate language learner, I wouldn’t say I’m advanced in that sense, but certainly advanced in the memorization field that goes along with language learning, but I learned a great deal because and I’ve been on both sides of the coin, learning in a language class and learning in a self-taught context and the idea and the structural – basically it’s not really a system but there’s a systematic element to what you’re teaching where you can help yourself come up with your own system is very well described and expressed and just some of the diagrammatic elements that are laid out for you are really fantastic and I learned a lot and benefited a great deal.
Also, I don’t want embarrass you or anything, but you’re a great teacher. It’s interesting to listen to, it’s fast paced and there is useful things that you can take away if you keep notes and revisit the course more than once because you’re not going to get it all in the first time, and I think above all there is the most important thing which is the inspiration to take action that you get from going through this and seeing it from a master the actual procedure that he’s used himself. It’s not theory handed down by the government that goes into a classroom from a teacher who is getting paid almost nothing to handle a bunch of students who don’t want to be there in the first place. This is someone who loves language learning. Who has demonstrated beyond the call of duty by helping so many people on YouTube and so forth that this is real, and this is a methodology that works no matter who you are or where you are or what your situation is.
So I have benefited from it a great deal and am very grateful that I had the opportunity to do so.
Luca: Thanks, I’m glad you have appreciated it.
Anthony: Absolutely, and the website where people can get a free introduction to the course with a number of videos, maybe you can share that.
Luca: Yes, it’s called Master Any Language.
Anthony: All right Master and Language and we’re going to have that on the screen as well and I highly recommend you go and get these free videos and really one of the most amazing things I thought is your introduction on that page you’re speaking multiple languages and with subtitles so you can really see for yourself just how rapidly Luca can switch between these languages and read the message in subtitles if you don’t know those languages and it’s one of the best paths that you’re going to find in the world that will get you to learning those languages or even just one language.
Can You Learn More Than One Language At A Time?
I guess my last question would be for you, one that I get a lot, is it possible or is it recommendable or is it realistic to learn more than one language at the same time.
Luca: Absolutely yes. If you know how to do it, it all boils down to if you know how to do it and you know how to manage your time you can do it.
I’ve been learning two languages at the same time since 2008 and there are some guidelines even and I elaborate on my blog talking about how people can learn two or three languages at the same time. My suggestion is to learn two languages at the same time. Three might be a little bit too much unless you’re a very experienced language learner. But it is absolutely feasible. I see no reason why you could not do that.
But once again, it’s not just about a matter of learning two languages at the same time but you have to try to find a system where you can maintain the other languages that you are learning because one of the things that I heard very often is that, for example, if an American learns Spanish, goes to Spain and he spent three years in Spain, speaks Spanish quite well, then he moves to Italy and starts speaking just Italian then there is going to be a conflict and every time, for example, I’ve heard this a number of times, the person says, “Oh, now I speak good Italian but I’ve forgotten everything about my Spanish.” The reason why that happened is because you just stopped speaking Spanish. But if you go to Italy and while learning Italian you find a partner and you tend to practice Spanish, then you’re going to speak both languages well.
When it comes to learning two languages at the same time, remember to structure your time so that you can learn these two languages but you have to maintain the others. This is exactly what I’ve been doing in the last 20 years. I told myself I’m going to learn a new language every two years but while I was adding languages I made sure that I kept reinforcing and maintaining the languages I already knew. Sometimes even using some languages I had already learned to learn others.
It’s true up to a certain point that the more languages you learn the faster and easier it gets if for example the language that you’re learning is similar to one of the languages you already learned. If a language is completely different from any language you’ve ever learned, you’re going to struggle at the beginning a little bit because it’s completely different. But, obviously the more languages you learn the higher the chance that the language you want to learn is going to be similar to one of the languages that you have under your belt.
To answer your question, it’s absolutely feasible to learn two languages. There are no limits. The only limits you have are the limits that you have in your mind. But if you can break the barrier, anything is possible. The reason why a lot of people think it’s not possible is just few people have accomplished supposedly amazing things because they took action.
Anthony: Well speaking of taking action, what are you working on now? What’s your next step?
Luca: Insofar as language learning is concerned, my next step and we were just talking about that is Hungarian. The language is completely different from anything I’ve ever learned. I’m going to learn, I’m learning Japanese right now. It’s a really big commitment and my next language is going to be Hungarian and I want to put together other courses which are going to be more specific and I really have a passion for this. I really believe that to show the way is the best way. If you can show the way, you can consider a couple of texts and you show them, for example, how the intonation in Spanish works, that they can tackle any text. This is one of the things that I would really like to do.
One of the projects is to start tackling specific languages for specific learners because I do believe that everything depends, everything is relevant as Einstein used to say. If you’re a native English speaker, learning Spanish is going to be different that if you were an Italian speaker. So you have to also consider the relative systems. I see language as a system. So if you have a certain system you have to consider that in order to learn how another system works.
One of the first things that I do with my students is to show them how, if they speak the language I speak, how their language works phonetically to understand how the other language works, the new language they want to learn and this is very, very important because if they’re conscious of the way their language works, it’s going to make things so much easier.
Anthony: Well this has been very inspiring and very helpful, filled with lots and lots of valuable information, and I really want to thank you for meeting with here in Berlin.
Luca: Thank you. It was a pleasure.
Anthony: So we will talk again soon and for everybody out there, check out Stoic Secrets for Using Memory Techniques with Language Learning next.