What will Benny’s next language be?

Photo by Nan Palmero at TEDx San Antonio


This is turning out to be one hell of a year!

Despite almost three entire months of it spent in English-speaking America (the trip is mostly for speaking at conferences, such as the TEDx one in the photo above), since January I’ve learned some Tagalog, American Sign Language, Dutch, Turkish and Klingon!

At the start of the year, I announced that I was going to make this year an intensive one, and I believe I’ve delivered! Next year, I’ll be getting back to slower missions – hopefully starting with a genuine Fluent in 3 months (from scratch) mission, depending on travel logistics.

But before I head back to Cavan for xmas with the family, I do indeed have the energy to take on yet another language to wrap this year up at six!

Can you figure it out from the clues?

One thing I’ve been having immense fun with, is that instead of just telling you well in advance what my next language is, I hold you in suspense (if you’ve ever met me, you’ll see it’s part of my personality) and see if you can guess!

Before I revealed that I was learning ASL, I had dropped dozens of extremely vague, but still helpful, clues and after hundreds of guesses only two people actually got it fully right!

And I shall be playing the same fun game again :D

On November 11th I fly to my new destination and start the very last language mission of 2011. But where am I going, and what language is it? I will reveal it a few days before (on November 7th) in the Language Hacking League email list, that you can sign up to on the right of the site.

I’ll give the majority of the important clues soon on twitter, Facebook and Google plus.

But for now, so you have a place to start from, here are the basics:

  • It is not an artificially designed language, like Klingon/Na’vi or Esperanto or a computer coding language
  • Millions of people speak it
  • It’s not related (linguistically) to any language I’ve learned up to now
  • Since I’ll only be learning it for about a month, I won’t be aiming for fluency or high level conversational, but I do have a very fun end-goal!

Many more clues coming in the e-mail list on Monday!

If you think you have an idea, write your guesses in the comments below! Also, be sure to ask an interesting question about the language/mission/country and if it’s a good enough question (no boring technical linguistic questions please!), that doesn’t make the answer immediately obvious, I will answer it in Monday’s email among the clues!

And to make it even more interesting, I’ll take everyone who gets the answer right and add them to a random draw (using random.org to select) for one person to win their choice of 1) The full version of the Language Hacking Guide, 2) A language learning / travel consultation call with me or 3) a free copy my next interesting video-based project. But to be in that draw, you only get two guesses.

Also, if I’ve met you in person here in the states and told you where I’m going, please don’t say so in comments :)

Anyone else can guess all you like, but I won’t be replying directly or giving any more clues until the e-mail. Any other thoughts on language missions, let me know below!



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  • WC


    And in case it isn’t…  How are the locals rumored to treat foreigners who do, and don’t, speak their language?

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

      Not so interested in rumours. Even in Paris I’ve found a way to encourage people to be nicer to me, and everywhere else I’ve ever been they are so enthusiastic when I try, so I expect no different in November!

      • WC

        I guess I agree with the ‘rumors’ bit, but…   For instance, the Japanese tend to treat Japanese learners like they are absolutely amazing at the language, even when they’re bad, because they’re so surprised you’re even trying.  (Also, the government had post-nuke campaign that tried to convince them that English speakers couldn’t learn Japanese, to help improve morale.)

        So my question was intended to bring out an answer we can use to help figure out the language, not to spread rumors.  :)

  • http://philintheblank.net Phil Paoletta

    Here’s my stab at it: Xhosa. Meets the requirements so far and the very fun end goal would be learning how to sing the “Click Song:” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mwh9z58iAU 

  • Carlos Silva

    Russian? :)   russian is my project for 2012. Se não for russo então quem sabe é chines? Seria bem interessante não? Boa sorte. :)

  • http://twitter.com/dublao dublao

    I guess the language is icelandic. 

    • http://twitter.com/Escape_Monotony Kyle Corrie

      Did you even read the article? Where are the millions of Icelandic speakers hiding?

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

        Oh dear! Only 320,000 native speakers. I didn’t realise this (there are more Irish speakers actually) – well that definitely excludes Icelandic from the options then, doesn’t it! If I were to take it on for some other mission I’ll make sure not to list number of speakers as a clue ;)

  • Jgaines721


  • Bruce Thomas

    I guess Benny will learn either 1) Finnish, or 2) Quechua.

  • Madtascha

    How about Mandarin? Don’t think you have done that yet, millions of people speak it and it definitely is very different to most other languages…

  • http://twitter.com/SilverAntigen Ags

    Ok buddy, I’m gonna say Mandarin Chinese just because it’s not related and millions of people do speak it.

    Unless it’s Hindi, Sanskrit or Nepalese, at which point millions of people still speak it.

    Endpoint: are you planning on staring in a drama? That would be awesome!

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

      My life is already a drama, but if a TV company offers me wads of cash and pays for my travels then I won’t say no!

  • http://www.budgettraveladventures.com/ Jeremy Branham

     I am not sure that I want to guess.  The last time I did, you yelled at me for not paying enough attention to the clues.  However, I am interested in what’s next! :)

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

      There’s “not paying enough attention” and “completely ignoring” :P If someone were to guess Romanian, Ido, Elvish or C++ despite what I’ve wrote above, then I’ll yell at them too ;)

  • John Mahan


  • http://austinguidryexperiencingchina.blogspot.com/ Austin Guidry

    I’m gonna guess 中国话,普通话 ,中文,汉语 – Mandarin Chinese. It’s technically the most spoken language in the whole world and it’s totally different from anything you’ve learned.

    I can speak Chinese, and I got to tell you, it’s pretty tough, but I think you can do it!

  • Estella Bignon

    my guesses are hungarian or finnish, because they are not related to the languages you already speak…they are the only two european languages with a root of its own as far as I know…

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

        Benny, I’ve been saying I’m going to learn Hungarian for awhile now. That’s how I can get dual citzenship without waiting for years since my grandfather was born there. Then I can move and work anywhere in the EU that I want. Woot Woot. Unfortunately, it has to come after French, which I’m learning now. Good to see that you speak Hungarian. Have you tried your hand at Yiddish yet?

  • Judi

    I wanted to say Hindi first; then I chose Hindi, and the fun end-goal will be taking lessons of Bollywood dancing. I definitely can see you dancing like that. :P

  • Pakt

    Certainly not Russian or Icelandic or Finnish, since they are related to Czech, German and Hungarian. Plus Benny does not like cold winters.
    And “millions of people” does not imply Mandarin; even Slovenian is spoken by millions of people after all…

  • http://twitter.com/BadEnglish_ Darren Rigby

    Has to be the language of love, eh?

  • http://twitter.com/SivartM SivartM

    I’m going to go with… Hindi.

  • John Tomlinson

    I think it could be Cantonese. Here is a challenge I was in Tunisia over 20 years age and a waiter learnt it from a guest who was only there a week.

  • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

    Hm… You specify that it’s not related *linguistically* to any language you’ve learned up until now. So is it related in some other way?

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

      What do you mean? Like it’s related in that both languages are Libras and like to play chess on Tuesdays? :-P
      I didn’t mean any double meaning when I said that – just wanted to be clear ;)

      • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

        LOL… Well I don’t really know what I meant actually. But I thought the question could possibly lead to another clue. XD

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

      What do you mean? Like it’s related in that both languages are Libras and like to play chess on Tuesdays? :-P
      I didn’t mean any double meaning when I said that – just wanted to be clear ;)

  • Jesús Almarza


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

    That’s quite a stretch! I’d include Hindi among the list of languages “not related to” those I’ve learned already. To me sub families count as related linguistically at a useful level to a learner, i.e. Slavic, Romance, Germanic.

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

    As soon as it’s available, I’ll share it on the blog :) The TEDx organisers have to edit the footage between different camera angles. Not so sure when that will be out, but they’ll email me as soon as mine is available!

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

    As soon as it’s available, I’ll share it on the blog :) The TEDx organisers have to edit the footage between different camera angles. Not so sure when that will be out, but they’ll email me as soon as mine is available!

  • http://twitter.com/KlausKoster Klaus Koster

     My 2 guesses are Greek or Arabic.  I have a 3rd guess, but don’t want to miss out on the chance of winning :).  Can’t wait to see the next language mission!

  • Anonymous

    you’ll link the Ted talk at some point I trust? :)

    update: just caught the answer below. :)

  • http://www.RoadToEpic.com Adam Wik

    Hmmm, I really hope it’s Japanese or Korean (Mandarin would be good too – my Mandarin is terrible now and it’d be fun to follow along and wake it back up). My official guess though is going to be Korean, since we only get two guesses, and I’ll save my second for after that e-mail.

    Does your end-goal involve learning the basic level of a sport (a martial art for example) particular to that country?

  • Annette

    Amharic!  Okay, that’s a total stab in the dark and I’m sure it’s wrong… but I do hope you go to Ethiopia someday and learn Amharic.  I’d really love to know about your experience there if you do!

  • Anonymous

    Looks like its Korean ……. My goal for next yr is Russian and Spanish also would like to continue improving my Japanese, Chinese and Urdu.

  • http://twitter.com/SuperRocketZach Zach Sarette

    My guess is in the christmas spirit of things. Perhaps It’s Hebrew. 

    However, here’s the question: Does the language use a borrowed script for writing, or did the people create it themselves? (maybe that one will target the language too much)

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

      Hebrew for Christmas spirit?? Really bad logic :-P ….and for Easter I’ll learn Arabic…

  • Timo Saikkonen

    Guessing/hoping/suggesting Finnish! If so, onnea valitsemallasi tiellä. Suomi on helvetin vaikea kieli.

    edit: oh, and I don’t count Hungarian as related. It’s nowhere near the postal code of the ballpark of mutually intelligible.

    • http://profiles.google.com/roosevelt.annaeleanor Ketutar J

      I was thinking of Finnish too with a visit at Joulupukki, but I do count it related to Hungarian, and I suppose Benny does too…  It would have been nice… but perhaps we get the whole three months one day :-D
      Eikä se ole vaikeaa :-D Miljoonat suomalaiset puhuvat sitä ilman vaikeuksia :-D

  • Jeff Lindqvist

    I say Arabic (totally unrelated), Hindi (Indo-European but not anywhere close to any of the languages you’ve already learned), who knows…. Swedish (not super-close to German). Of course it could be Greek, Mandarin, Swahili…

  • Sarah Shea

    Hindi!  Hindi!  Hindi! 

  • Jonne Sälevä

    I am assuming you’re going to be learning a language without tones, since you said you will be aiming at high level conversational, and because tones are a significant factor when it comes to time investments. So that rules Chinese out. 

    You probably won’t impersonate a Greek god, so I’m crossing Greek out too. Arabic is too diverse, so that leaves me with Japanese, Korean and Hindi. Since you’ve said you like to sing to learn languages, I’m gonna say Hindi and wait to see you in a Bollywood film. ;)
    Greetings from Finland,

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

      1. I specifically said that I was NOT aiming at high level conversational this time. I’ll only be investing a month into the language.
      2. You must be new here. Chinese is NEVER ruled out of my list of possible languages to learn for the reason you gave. Tones don’t scare me at all – they didn’t for Thai: http://www.fluentin3months.com/video-5-tones-of-thai/
      3. Easy on the insults. I’ve been in the states for the last few months – eating like an American is de-Greek-godifying me.
      4. Arabic being diverse doesn’t discount it at all! That’s very silly.

      • Jonne Sälevä

        Turns out it might be a good idea for me to learn to read properly before commenting.. I stand corrected and take back everything I said about tones. :) I agree that they arent that hard, especially for Chinese, but I simply thought maybe you wanted a break from hardcore language hacking or something. :)

        The Greek god anecdote was simply something I thought you would not want to do, since you’ve left Europe now and probably are aiming at something fancier this time. :)

        What I meant by the diversity of Arabic was the apparent lack of mutual intelligibility between the different variants, and considering that you learn languages to meet people, I think Modern Standard Arabic is at least ruled out.

        All in all, I think I somehow managed to set an improper tone in my post. I have been a long time lurker and am a big fan of yours. I didn’t mean to offend you in any way, and I am truly sorry if that was the case.

        Keep up the good work! :)
        Jonne from Finland

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

          No worries, thanks for the comment ;)

          • http://profiles.google.com/roosevelt.annaeleanor Ketutar J

            Besides, there were a lot of Greek Gods… like Silenus. Being compared to a Greek God isn’t always a good thing :-D

  • http://vincesafe.fr Vince

    I assume it will be an Asian language. Hmm… I think it will be Korean or Japanese. Let’s try… Japanese, because it is a language unrelated with the others. I think it won’t be Mandarin because it’s related with Esperanto (both languages grammar are similar).

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

      I said related **linguistically**!

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

    That’s a good question… which I will answer (rephrased) in the email tomorrow :)

  • http://twitter.com/LenCole Len Cole

    My guess is Tibetian and you are going to climb to basecamp (or higher) on Mt. Everest.

  • Lee Townsley

    How about Arabic so you could visit The pyramids AND learn a new culture? Or mandarian chinese so you could see the great wall of China?

  • http://twitter.com/mariane_sm mariane

    greek or catalan ?

  • Charlotte Meier


  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_S6BY26FQMRNEIBGV7JDNWEURUM CassieB

    My first guess will be Arabic. :)

  • Adam Howe

    I’m going to guess Kiswahili, with your final goal being an ascent of Kilimanjaro. It would be a strange coincidence if I were right because I spent a few weeks in the summer in Tanzania. Swahili is a very fun language to learn!

  • Rusty

    My guess is Quechua…millions speak it and Benny could live in a bigger city, as is his preference (Cuzco)! Machu Picchu is a famous site that would be a great goal…and Quechua has official status in several countries. Definitely not related to any previous languages studied. But to get one more clue Benny: is the language the “first” language of the country, or just a “secondary” official language?

  • http://universalbunny.com Tiffany

    I really think it’s Chinese!

  • http://twitter.com/ge0rg0 Georgo

    Bahasa Indonesia?

  • Elin Fields

    I’m betting it’s one of the /East Asian languages – warm climates, unrelated to other languages thus far, most are official, and as far as a bucket list item, learning a martial art? :) Japanese, Thai or Chinese.

  • Anonymous

    My first guess is Arabic

  • Anonymous

    My guess is Quechua! It’s spoken in several countries, summer in the southern hemisphere and linguistically unrelated to any language you’ve learned so far. Machu Pichu is definitely on my lifetime list.

  • Owen

    My guesses would be Quechua or Swahili. Those are the only two languages I can think of that are unrelated to any of of the languages you already know as well as being spoken by millions of people. Well, even if I’m wrong, good luck and safe travels.