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April Fools’ post – Benny’s Confession

| 84 comments | Category: off topic

[Before I put April Fools' in the title of this post, quite a lot of people were falling for it! Rest assured that nothing here is true :) ]

I am writing this post with a heavy heart, but the lies must end. I can’t do this any longer – the guilt is tearing me apart!

It’s time I revealed the truth to you all. This may sound incredible, but all will be explained:

I don’t actually speak any languages but English! All the Youtube videos I’ve ever made in other languages were done by reading a phonetic transcript of the words that I had a native prepare for me.

Benny the linguist

You see, I am actually a phonetician (i.e. a linguist that studies the phonetics of languages), but like many linguists all I do is study how languages and the processes behind them work – I don’t actually speak them!!

All of you have been part of elaborate research for my PhD thesis about demonstrating the potential of IPA, the International Phonetic Alphabet. I wanted to prove that you could fake knowing an entire language just by becoming an expert in reading and pronouncing those symbols accurately.

You will recognise these symbols beside words in most English dictionaries and most of what I have been reading for online audio production has actually looked like this:

‘tio ɪz’tæsu nu’ʃərtso

After a year of research and preparation, I applied my attempts publicly back in 2008 when I started making videos on Youtube to read out IPA that was based on text prepared in various languages. University funding allowed me to simply hire some translators and phonetic transcribers familiar with those languages.

Less than two years ago I started blogging to get more attention simply because I needed to convince at least 1,000 people that my claims were true for validity for increased funding from the university board. But things got a little out of hand! I’m currently getting over 60,000 hits a month for this psuedo-project! Now that I have tens of thousands of comments on the site from people who I had tricked, my professor assures me that I will be able to go as far as to get an honourable mention in the Journal of Phonetics!! For this, I thank you!

I picked a ridiculous name of Fluent in 3 months and made some things up about being social and confident and believing in yourself or whatever (nonsense! School systems have shown for hundreds of years that you need at least 5 years of structured classroom learning just to get the basics in any language, I can’t believe any of you fell for this “Learn while you speak” communicative rubbish!)

Faking the videos

Reading phonetic script off-screen for various languages in my videos was obviously easy. I used the excuse that I was aiming for “documentary” style videos and that it was “too much work” to record the video seven times over and more “efficient” to add audio separately. Most people fell for this, but to take it to the next level, I needed to record myself speaking on camera!

Since I couldn’t possibly remember all the IPA script for several minutes when talking on camera, I came up with clever ways to allow me to read them without it seeming like I was! Too many Youtube polyglots are just staring into their computer screen while they rattle off languages, and that’s not convincing enough!

I didn’t want to be outed publicly at such a crucial stage of the research.

So if you look at my Language Hacking Guide video, you will see that when I transition into Spanish (for example), I throw the Orange very carefully, while making it look like I’m casually just playing with it!

I rotate it in a way that took me hours to master, while still covering parts of it since those were the parts where I had written my script! I glance at it very quickly to make it seem like my eyes are going all over the place. I did the same thing with all the other objects – you can see me glance quickly under the base of the Eiffel tower, Colosseum replica etc.

Most of my practice for that video involved holding those items in the right way. To this day I’m very proud of how skilfully I threw around that orange!!

The “Irish” persona

One of the hardest parts of all of these lies were how extensively they went. I’m very sorry but I have to admit to you all that I’m not even Irish!!

Using advanced studies in audio laboratories I pinpointed typical Irish phonemes to mimic whenever I’d speak in English. This was both part of the misleading aspect of the experiment to show what I could “speak”, and a simple ploy to get more gullible subscribers. Everyone loves the Irish! They’d never lie!

I went as far as to even force myself to write using a European flavour of English (see that extra u??)

I’m actually from Durham, North Carolina! My doctorate in phonetics will be completed here at Brink A. Deira University.

As the project gained credibility, the school board increased my budget and allowed me to make brief trips to other countries. I wouldn’t spend several months there as I claimed – it would usually just be a weekend. I’d record enough video and change my clothes several times between clips, all in the one day, to make it seem like I was there longer.

I didn’t need to actually interact with locals at all since we have enough recordings of their languages in our lab back in the states.

For the current “mission” I didn’t actually learn any sign language – I just practised for those two videos by mimicking a signer for just those words and didn’t learn anything else. This month of blogging was just to buy some time until my thesis was given the final OK.

The end of an era

Since my thesis proposal has been enthusiastically accepted, and will make the most groundbreaking contributions to phonetics studies of our generation, I no longer need to write on this blog. Once again I’m really sorry if you actually believed any of this “social learning” stuff.

Just so you can see how I was reading the text on the back of that orange, I’ve shown how I was reading that orange and explained it using my more natural American accent in this video. [Also here if Youtube can't display it] I hope it will make things clearer!

I look forward to reading your comments about the importance of this research and how convincing it all was!

***********************

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  • http://liferapture.com Benjamin Spall

    I laughed out loud at the Irish part. You had me convinced man! ;)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Excellent! :D

  • http://pursuinglifedaily.wordpress.com/ Talitha

    I really hope this is your April Fools effort? Otherwise I am quite disheartened :(

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Of course! ;) Sorry to be mean, but I’m quite glad that people are actually falling for this :P Did you really think I wasn’t even Irish??

  • http://pursuinglifedaily.wordpress.com/ Talitha

    Just saw the video! I am glad this is a joke :)

  • http://twitter.com/CaronMargarete Caron Margarete

    I’m with Talitha. April Fools or… For want of something to say to explain my profound disappointment in the person you are, can I just ask, is Benny even your name or have you lied about that too?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      My real name is Haywood Jabuzov!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Yep – several people on twitter told me they knew straight away that it as AF, but they aren’t so clever when I successfully rickroll them ;) ;)

  • http://twitter.com/CaronMargarete Caron Margarete

    Damn. Can’t watch the video in Australia so I couldn’t prevent looking like an April Fools Ass. Congrats. Got me!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Drats – I’ll see if I can replace it. Being in the states now means for once I don’t get Youtube’s random stupid blockages.
      Glad I got you temporarily though :)

      • http://twitter.com/CaronMargarete Caron Margarete

        Yes, be glad. You’re a shit. And when I meet you I reserve the right to punch you in the arm. I have a long memory. ;P

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

          Sorry for the scare! I’ll be sure to brace my arm for impact ;)

  • http://twitter.com/dusser Rasmus Andersson

    Well, you’ll have an easy time with Dutch as it sounds just like English but none of the words makes any sense (well…that’s not true, it’s actually rather similar to Swedish so I do understand parts of it). :)

  • http://twitter.com/wyromaster Brian/병욱

    I’m glad that you finally admitted that the blog is complete rubbish. Your advice hasn’t worked for me one bit! However, the evil side of me is happy with the fact that you were able to rip off so many people by selling them your e-book of lies.

    I bet right now you’re making a video of yourself taunting us on your iPhone! I feel so betrayed! Now I guess there’s nothing else to do but to go hit the books.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      [Evil laugh while I walk to the bank with a big bag with a $ sign on it]

  • Anonymous

    Too much fun! Maybe you should have used a video from Milli Vanilli.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Ĉu tio funkcias? http://www.metacafe.com/watch/sy-1473689248/rick_astley_never_gonna_give_you_up_official_music_video/ Mi volas rick-roll-i la homojn sed Jutubo blokas :-S

  • http://twitter.com/HappyEmployee Etienne Besson

    Looks like something went wrong with the link. The video is not of you but of some weird guy singing a terrible song. And I’m pretty sure he’s not even Irish ;-)

  • http://globalsitesecrets.com Russell Lundstrom

    hooo you’re good.
    humbled.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      :-D

  • http://www.facebook.com/pmcclellan1289 Patrick Jae McClellan

    *sorry, double post*

  • http://www.facebook.com/pmcclellan1289 Patrick Jae McClellan

    Happy April Fool’s Day!!!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    I posted a link to this on my Facebook and got a reply in Spanish (from someone I had hung out with for several weeks and only ever talked Spanish to) saying how disgusted she was. I apologised in Spanish about the lies over the years. Not sure if she’s getting the irony :P

  • http://www.facebook.com/robcrichards Rob Richards

    Ha. The Obama rick roll is better http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1X2B9zLrsXE
    What would have also been funny is outtakes of you flubbing the lines in your video, cursing and then swearing in a heavy southern US accent. Perhaps next year?

  • http://www.facebook.com/robcrichards Rob Richards

    Or something along the lines of the Blair Witch Project – linguist goes missing and the only thing that is found is some grainy footage with Esperanto narration.

  • http://yolda.org/blog UmitOrhan

    Great piece! :D

  • http://twitter.com/nobaraotome Nobara

    Hahaha, Benny, you are the best. Definitely started my day off with a smile!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      That’s definitely what I was aiming for :) A few people are saying they are angry with me: the world needs a little silliness to start our days :D Look at the photo of this post – how could you not laugh at that :P

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1344572200 Lisa Mos

    Haha, the first thing I did today when I checked my RSS reader was finding the April Fools posts, and before I even read your post, I saw that picture and the title… and I knew what kind of post this would be. :D

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Once you see one April Fools’ joke you are in defensive mode for the rest. It’s why I wanted to get mine out early in the day :P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Hopefully a few others get it :D

    • http://twitter.com/cervus cervus

      I get that it abbreviates to BAD University and doesn’t exist, but is there another layer to that joke? Lovely post Benny!

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

        The BAD acronym is just coincidental. The intentional wordplay is rewriting the Portuguese word “Brincadeira” ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks :D

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    I wanted to push my luck – I’m sure the Irish thing is what made the penny drop for most people :) Glad I tricked you otherwise! You should ALWAYS be sceptical when on the Internet today of all days!!

  • http://twitter.com/VladDolezal Vlad Dolezal

    I should have known something was up when I met you at an esperanto meetup and you kept glancing at that piece of paper in your hand while talking to me.

    Also, on second thought, the conversational thread of “Hi, Benny!” “My hovercraft is full of eels.” “How are you?” “I will not buy this record, it is scratched.” doesn’t make as much sense as it seemed in real time…

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      My nipples explode with delight!

  • http://twitter.com/barcodex barcodex

    I adore bloggers who make that much effort for making AF jokes. This year I read some ridiculous staff that was very convincing. This one included :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Thanks! :D I was serious about this one!! I even ran my post through an actual phoneticist (no shit!) and she gave me a couple of tips to make it sound a bit more convincing :)

  • Goŝka

    incredible! you’ve convinced me you speak fluent esperanto when speaking in person! you surely deserve this PhD :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Dankon :)

  • Anonymous

    HAHA Benny. Funny funny stuff. :) Thank you for your time the other day–What was the last half of your ASL name again?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      I put a link to a video of me signing it in the ASL post earlier in the week.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks :D Sorry for the scare, but it’s important that readers know how much us Irish can be tricksters ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Whenever he went off on his rants about me he very consistently showed that he never fully read a single post on my blog, so he likely would have jumped to conclusions very quickly.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    I don’t see any ads – install Adblock plus if you use Firefox or use similar browser hacks in other ones. I don’t know how most people can put up with the Internet without ad blockers!!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Funny how many people really fell for this :D

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Aw, someone got to you before I did :) If this was the first thing you read on April 1st you would have perhaps been a wee bit more naive :P

    Glad you enjoyed it though :D

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks :D The entire article leads up to that one link – even people who had long figured out that I was kidding still thought they’d get an actual video of me speaking American :P So that still counts as a win for me as a trickster!

    • Annette

      lol, I really wanted to hear your American accent! ;) I was kinda disappointed!

  • JamesAE

    This is probably the first post I properly agree with! Definitely, 5 years at least to get the basics in any language. And who needs people when you have recordings?!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      I really hope you’re joking!! You’ll see a few commenters say that’s by far the silliest thing I wrote in this post :)

      • JamesAE

        Don’t worry, I am joking! When I re-read my comment though, I nearly replied to say to myself : “James, you’re a fool”. (for thinking the 5 years thing and the recordings). It was quite believable!

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

          It’s Esperanto, from “tio estas unu ŝerco”, this is a joke. (Would have been better if I left out “unu”, but several people say they got it :) )
          Did you see the other clue? :)

          • http://howtolearnrussian.wordpress.com/ JamesAE

            Was it the rick roll? Luckily, when I was about to click on it, my battery ran out. So I suppose that makes me just half a fool!

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

            Yep, you just barely escaped it :)

      • JamesAE

        Don’t worry, I am joking! When I re-read my comment though, I nearly replied to say to myself : “James, you’re a fool”. (for thinking the 5 years thing and the recordings). It was quite believable!

  • JamesAE

    They don’t seem too happy with this here:

    http://www.lingq.com/learn/it/forum/1/10269/?page=1#post-68182

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Yes, I’m not surprised that some people on that site have no sense of humour :)

    • Steve

      Good god, that place is depressing…

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

        Tell me about it. It’s amazing how they all admit to never reading the blog beyond a post or two and yet somehow they know everything about me and my “sinister” reasons for having a blog in the first place. I’m amazed at the amount of lies and exaggerations in that forum about me, but I’ve learned that trying to participate just makes it worse. It’s pretty pathetic how they can’t find something productive to discuss.

        • Stephan Dohnan

          You’re a liar and a fraud

  • http://www.facebook.com/jakependragon Diego T. Guimarães

    “Tiu estas unu ŝerco” hahahahahahaha
    Ruzulo! :P
    Bonege, bonege! Mi preskaŭ maldrinkis por tiom da ridoj..! :D
    Ĝis!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jakependragon Diego T. Guimarães

    “Tiu estas unu ŝerco” hahahahahahaha
    Ruzulo! :P
    Bonege, bonege! Mi preskaŭ maldrinkis por tiom da ridoj..! :D
    Ĝis!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      mdr :D

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    I did put some work into this! Glad people appreciate that :P haha

  • JamesAE

    Sorry for writing in English but I only know a little bit of Italian. For a complete review of LingQ, see benny’s review.

  • Annette

    Haha :) I’m really glad this was a joke or I would have been really upset! Thanks for the laugh. :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      A few people were upset :P

  • http://www.technomadia.com Chris @ Technomadia

    Brilliant!

    I ama amazed at how many people fell for this, and who fell for our “we are buying a condo” post over at Technomadia. Blog readers sure can be gullible sometimes… ;-)

    BTW – It was a pleasure, honor, and delight to meet you at SXSW. *grin*

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      ’twas my pleasure!! I’m sure our paths will cross again soon in the small travel blogosphere :)

  • http://twitter.com/AbbyFerrari Abby Ferrari

    HAHAHAA I didn’t fall for this but just because I read your posts only after I received the weekly e-mail.
    Now I know I found it extremely funny especially the “Brink A. Deira University” which I realize immediately that is ‘prank’ in Portuguese. (I don’t know how since I don’t speak Portuguese!)
    Regarding English, I find it hard to keep a constant spelling and pronunciation since I learned English in two different ways at the same time: the Institute (‘proper’ British) and on the other hand, sitcoms, movies, YouTube videos, blogs, etc. where American English prevails. What do you advise?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      My advice isn’t so relevant to writing languages (I focus on speaking). However, I did well in my German writing exam simply by getting my texts corrected by natives as regularly as possible, give it a try! :)

      Note that it’s important to pick a dialect. British or American or Irish or Australian etc., whatever you prefer, but don’t try to write both.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    I’m confused, are you being serious? You posted this comment *after* I put “April fool’s” in the actual title of the post and a disclaimer at the start that it was all fake (the contents of this post, not my language learning abilities) :-P
    Just to be absolutely clear, this post was just a joke. Please don’t take it seriously ;)

    • http://twitter.com/JakePendragon Diego T. Guimarães

      Ha! After this, Just drinking a double dose of OJ to be well…

      LOL, some people can’t kid… :P

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie Wagner

    Is this supposed to be a dig at linguists and those of us doing PhDs, mister?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      No, it’s supposed to be an April fools joke, miss.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Glad to have gotten your comment! Hopefully you’ll be back again for non-April fools’ posts :P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Brincadeira in Portuguese means joke ;)

  • Nicolás López Zerpa

    “Brink A. Deira University”. Epic

  • Elle

    When I first started reading this (on another website) I wanted to cry and flush my polyglot dreams down the toilet. Then I scrolled to the comments. You Irish sure are clever little tricksters!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      ;)