Can you learn a language in three months?
I was listening to Midweek on Radio 4 last week and was fascinated by a guy called Benny Lewis, who says he couldn’t speak any foreign languages when he left school but now speaks ten, including Mandarin, Arabic, Portuguese and Hungarian!
I don’t think he means he can speak them well enough to do interpreting or translation, but enough to hold a conversation with the people in whichever country he is in that goes beyond ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘where are the toilets?’
Enough to give him an impression of the language and culture – by joining in – that is much richer than the superficial impression most visitors would receive if they can’t understand the language.
He does it by total immersion – going to live in whichever country whose language he wants to learn and refusing to speak English. One of his main techniques seems to be don’t make excuses such as ‘it’s too hard’ or ‘I’m too old’ or ‘they’ll think I’m an idiot’ – these rang a bell with me!
He’s just been made National Geographic’s Traveler of the Year on the back of all his learning trips.
You can hear the programme via the Radio 4 website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03y13zd
and you can visit the website of the man himself at http://www.fluentin3months.com/about/
So what do you think – is it possible to learn a language well enough in three months to do more than get by as a visitor? And is it just the British who are scared of looking stupid when they try and speak other languages?
Look forward to your comments below.
Tess Wright, Chief Executive