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Time for a travel update!

After launching the book in Texas, my girlfriend and I flew to the UK to start the first leg of our book tour. I’ve been in London before, but this was the first time I was to ever venture outside of London.

We’ve been touring the country, meeting people, encouraging aspiring language learners, running into old friends, speaking various languages with other learners and discovering the country next to the one I grew up in, that I had never truly visited even after 11 years of travelling the world.

In this post, I can share some of the fun on the UK/Ireland branch of this year long road trip!

A polyglot in an English speaking country

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Immediately after arrival, my UK publisher Collins had set me up with a host of mainstream media interviews. I had three in the BBC building (pictured), was taxied to Bloomberg, while other news articles were popping up elsewhere about my book.

That was great fun, but the main goal of this trip was to meet other language learners face to face. As such, the first book signing took place at the Piccadilly Waterstones. Read the Rest!

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Soon, I’ll have some exciting stuff happening here at Fi3m (a full time language encourager is going to be helping make the blog way more interactive and active!), but since my book tour has me offline so much, I was very happy to see this great guest post submission from Cher.

Cher Hale is an instigator of adventure and romance on her blog The Iceberg Project, where she teaches people how to charm Italians with their own language and finally become fluent in Italian. Here she talks about brick walls that may be holding you back from your own language learning projects. Over to you Cher!

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It’s the feeling of stagnation, like sitting around and waiting for something to happen because you know you’ve been putting in the work.

It’s what happens when you feel a huge rush of demotivation because you’re really tired of studying this language every single day and not seeing much of a return for it. Benny Lewis has definitely hit them before and so have thousands of other language learners.

BRICK WALLS. At the end of the day, some get through them and some don’t. Read the Rest!

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Embarrassing mistakes are really not that big a deal when you make them with your friends. Making mistakes is an art that individual language learners need to embrace if they are truly to learn a language well.

If you conjugate a verb wrong when ordering your first coffee abroad, the world does not come to an end.

But something that continues to boggle my mind, is how businesses with a budget of millions or billions of dollars get sloppy with second languages, when they are not being heard/read by a single person but by an entire country that they advertise to.

Here are some real-world examples that astonish me to this day:

Embarrassing and costly translation mistakes made by major businesses

Pepsi’s Chinese Blunder
In the 1960’s, Pepsi took its “Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation” slogan to China, which was not well very well received. The reason? In Chinese, this translates to “Pepsi brings your relatives back from the dead.”

Clairol and Canadian Mist’s German Blunder
Canadian Mist, a brand of whiskey, failed in German markets because “Mist” in German means “manure.”

The same happened to Clairol when it attempted to sell a curling iron called the “Mist stick” to German markets. Who wants to put a shit stick into their hair?

Coors Spanish Blunder Read the Rest!

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Karen who runs Immersia offers these words of encouragement – I love seeing the same realizations from such a wide range of people, and am happy to share hers with you today, especially since she has such an interesting and different background. Over to you Karen:

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I was born in the Ukraine and my mother tongue is Russian. In school I learned German for 5 years. When I was 15 I immigrated to Israel, and learned Hebrew in an “Ulpan” (a speed-course for learning Hebrew).  In my twenties I travelled the world and learned English. I also learned some French, mostly because I love the way it sounds.

A few years ago I was a contestant in the Miss World pageant. The morning before “the big night”, all the girls were preparing and we started talking. Everybody talked about what they did the night before, and when they asked me how my night was and if I was nervous, I told them that I was actually feeling quite relaxed, and in my then broken English explained it was all thanks to “being faxed by my boyfriend” the night before (which, with my pronunciation could have been mistaken for something else entirely…). Needless to say they were all quite shocked, and we laughed about it the entire weekend.

If there is one thing I have learned about languages, it’s this: You have to experience a language to really get it. We remember stories way better than we remember flashcards.

As I said, I “learned” German (the flashcard way) for 5 years, from 4th to 8th grade, and I was a pretty good student too! I always got straight 5’s (the maximum grade in the Ukrainian grading system. We stole it from the Russians). But when I try to think back and remember the German I learned, all that comes to mind is – Ich heiße Karen; Straße; and “Houston, wir haben ein Problem!”, from a German version of Apollo 13 I saw once.

Revelation number 1: We remember things we like and that makes us laugh

I guess the main reason for this is that we only really remember neutral facts when we have to,whereas fun learning moments we enjoy coming back to every now and then.

When I got to Israel, I stayed in a boarding school for a while, with other Russian speakers. We studied Hebrew in an Ulpan, but spoke Russian with one another. As I said, I was a pretty hard working student. I spent hours on end reading to myself out loud from a book, preparing for the oral exams we had every week. We learned a lot of Hebrew grammatical rules (and believe me, there’s quite a few of those!), but even after spending months there, I could hardly speak a word.

It was only one Passover, when an Israeli family took me in for the holidays (thanks, Roza!), that I started talking for the first time. None of the family members knew any English, and the little Russian one of them remembered was more entertaining than informative. I had to speak Hebrew, so I did. Slowly at first, but gaining confidence quickly, I left their house a week later a whole other person. No more “davai” for me (a wonderful Russian word, used as alright, let’s go, or give it here). From now on, it’s only “yalla, yalla!”

Revelation number 2: We remember out of necessity

You can go live abroad for years, but if you live, work and hang out with people who speak the same language as you, you’ll never have to speak the local tongue. Unfortunately, language learning is a road best travelled alone.

As I said before, we remember emotional events much better. But it doesn’t only happen with fun light-hearted moments. We also remember fear and frustration. I once spent an hour in a supermarket in Michigan trying to find “Adashim”, a form of legume that I couldn’t recall the English translation of.

I think my exact words were “I’m looking for a small, bean-like food”. I wanted to make them for dinner, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what they were called in English (this was BSE – before the smartphone era). It was only after 15 minutes of playing a guessing game with one of the saleswomen (Black beans? Peas? Chickpeas? Alfalfa?!) that I found what I was looking for – lentils. I’ll never forget that word for as long as I live.

Revelation number 3: Every moment you feel frustrated – a memory is formed

Use this to your advantage. And after a while, it will probably also become a funny story, and we’re back at revelation number 1.

A few years later, I had a modeling gig in Paris. My host showed me around and we got to talking, in English, of course. The show was in a new and beautiful ecological building – it wasn’t painted, just raw concrete with a lot of Vegetation on the walls. I told my host that I liked it, and he replied that he did too, although he would have painted the… the… oh, sorry, he forgot the word in English, but in French it’s “béton”. I started laughing, and he didn’t understand why. Guess what the Hebrew word for concrete is…

Revelation number 4: You probably know more than you think

There are thousands of English words of French origin, and they still sound similar enough. And even if you’re learning Japanese, Hindi, or Swahili, I’m sure you picked up more than you think you did.

They say that the 100 most common words in any language make up 50% of any text, written or spoken. Doesn’t that sound more reasonable than “learning a new language”?

I spent more than my share of time in language classes. I studied German in school, Hebrew in an Ulpan, English in evening classes and French at the embassy. At the end of the day, I came out of those knowing barely anything more than I knew going into them. I enjoy languages, and I’m sure you do too, or you wouldn’t be reading this. My advice is this – don’t rely solely on teachers and classes. When you want to really learn a language, make sure it’s an adventure. Give yourself moments when you have to speak the language, and speak the language you will.

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Today Karen is using her language learning experiences as an entrepreneur. She co-founded Immersia, an online adventure game for learning languages. Play a new language at Immersia’s website or go to its Facebook page for more posts, updates or just to say hello.

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Can you believe I haven’t had a blog post about Russian yet?

Very timely with how much it’s in the news lately, David, who has his own travel blog where he documents his and and his Russian girlfriend’s travel adventures, wrote me to write some encouraging words about this language.

On a fun side-note, someone has dubbed over my TEDx talk in Russian. It’s the quickest I’ve ever had a video just with me in it uploaded in another language :D

Over to you David!

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If there’s one country that’s been on the news more than any other lately, it’s Russia.

Russia evokes powerful emotions from all of us. It’s nearly impossible to feel indifferent towards it; you either love it or hate it.

Having just hosted the Sochi Olympics, and now in the midst of confrontation with Ukraine that leave some to question whether this is Cold War Two, it is clear that Russia isn’t going away anytime soon, like it, or not.

And yet, despite its international prowess, there is a severe lack of interest in wanting to understand Russia; its culture, its people, and its language.

And that’s a shame.

I studied Russian for 4 years in college. I studied abroad there for a semester, worked a summer in Moscow, and have traveled there on several occasions as a tourist. My girlfriend of 5 years is Russian.

Russian has changed my life, and I believe it can change yours too – if you are open to it.

Why Russian Should Be Your Next Language Of Choice

English Is Not A Fallback

Ever wonder why Russians seem to always visit the same countries and do so as part of large, Russian speaking tour groups?

It’s often because they are not comfortable speaking and travelling in English.

If you go to the list of countries by English speaking population and sort it, you will find Russia near the very bottom with only 5.5% of the population claiming English as a first or second language.

Westerners tend to gravitate towards other Western languages like French and Spanish due to their familiarity, but the fact is a much larger proportion of people in those countries can at least communicate in English if need be.

With Russia, however, you have over 140 million people that downright will not understand you if you don’t speak even a little Russian.

That’s a lot of people we can meet with one language. Read the Rest!

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2014-03-09 12.13.22

What a week! I’m still on a book launch buzz, before I can get back to “normal”, if there is such a thing for someone constantly travelling. And now that the book stuff is finally winding down, I can start focusing on what’s next on my agenda: Visiting you all and encouraging language learners in person in the UK, Ireland, US, Canada and beyond, at the book signings and language exchange meet-ups I’m organizing :)

But first some updates!

Fluent in 3 Months blasted its way to Amazon’s Best Seller lists in both the UK and Canada (making it an “international best seller”!); hundreds of people have already followed the links in the book to my new site fi3mplus that expands on the book through in-depth video and other multimedia; I launched the book in the US with standing-room only for my book reading and a very long line for signing; and now I am in London, having completed a whirlwind media tour 24 hours after my plane touched down — jetlag be damned!! Read the Rest!

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The book is selling like hotcakes in both the US and the UK and has already become an international best sellerMy next project is to continue adding new videos and tutorials to my new Premium package, and of course to continue with my massive book tour! So come meet me in the UK/Ireland/US/Canada and get your book signed or ask any questions about language learning!

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My philosophy in language learning is, always has been, and always will be to Speak From Day One.

But for many people, this is terrifying! And because I have been talking so much about how effective I’ve found using Skype and language exchange websites, or in-person meetings early on in a language project to chat with native speakers right away, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about what to do if you’re too shy to speak from day one.

So today I’m going to answer these questions. Read the Rest!

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2014-03-03 12.19.34

Hi everyone! I just got an email from my mother, who told me that the bookstore in Cavan (my hometown in Ireland) has Fluent in 3 months on its shelves. The book has finally been published!I absolutely can’t wait to share this incredibly encouraging language learning advice with the world and am so glad you all finally get to read it!! I really look forward to your feedback and welcome all reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.

In the book I talk about:

  • Why you definitely can learn any language, at any age, from anywhere in the world (no need to be a baby or pre-voting age, or buy a plane ticket!)
  • How to get from zero to fluency and on to mastery in a language
  • How to speak multiple languages and how to pass yourself off as a native speaker!

If you don’t have it yet, get your copy on Amazon US paperback or Amazon US Kindle (or Barnes & Noble as a book or on the Nook or on Indiebound or Books A Million and many other vendors) or on Amazon UK or Amazon UK Kindle (or Waterstones/Collins) or your local online store like Amazon Canada or even non English stores like Amazon Germany (book available only in English in all stores just this year).

If you order it TODAY, then you will have your copy this week if you are in the US or Canada. UK vendors have already exhausted their stock! But worry not, they are already very quickly restocking and will ship the next batch on Friday, so order now to have it as I’m touching down in the UK myself next week! Read the Rest!

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