Benny’s TEDx talk: Speak from Day One

If you’re a new reader here and would like the most concise version of my best advice to speak from day one, then this video is for you :)

If you’re a long-term reader and have wondered who/what precisely inspired me to start on this road to become a polyglot some day, then you will see me finally share that story in this video.

Although this was only the second time (hopefully of many) in my entire life that I’ve spoken publicly in front of a decent sized audience (the first being at TBEX), a combination of several camera men, a decent microphone and a cool audience made me look like I didn’t hurriedly prepare the speech the night before, and I think I actually managed to convey the speak from day one message pretty well!

Speaking at a TED associated event has been something I never even dreamt possible, but I was hoping to some day. You may remember that I asked for some help from my site readers (as a birthday present) to vote for me to speak at SxSW (an event in Austin in March)? In the end, they weren’t interested despite the many votes (probably for the best as that would have made it impossible to have 3 uninterrupted months to devote to Mandarin), but the real reason I wanted to speak there was to build up my speaking resume to maybe be considered by a TEDx event some day.

Luckily for me, those at San Antonio wanted me to share my simple message in true TED style. It turns out San Antonio has America’s largest Hispanic population that does not speak Spanish, so they were especially motivated to hear my story. Since I’m so grateful for the opportunity, I’ll forgive them for misspelling my name ;)

Since this was only my second time ever on stage like this, if you have any feedback make sure to let me know in the comments! This way I’ll improve the message in any future speaking engagements. If, however, you think this is the kind of quality you expect in a TED talk, please contact the TEDx team and let them know that so that they may consider putting it on the big TED! Being hosted as a TEDx video means that most of the people who view it will likely come from my website, but if big TED took it on, I could get this message in people’s iTunes stream, and on TEDs official Youtube account and main webpage.

Of course there are no sales pitches and not a single mention of my website on the video, since I wanted to focus only on the simple, but life-changing message that speaking a language is what makes a world of difference, not studying it.

To suggest this video for TED, just write a quick message to tedxtalks AT ted DOT com mentioning my name as the TEDxSanAntonio speaker, with the title “Rapid Language Hacking”, as perhaps a candidate for TED and hopefully they’ll consider it! To be honest, I really feel the TED stream needs something like this after their discouraging message about language learning somehow got shared. The stream needs some balance!

After sending the email, leave your thoughts in the comments below; really appreciate it! :)



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  • Shane Carmody

    Hi Benny! Great presentation :) I’m learning French at the moment and this is really good advice. I didn’t really get the whole Speak from Day One thing until I saw the video. Well done!

    How’s your Mandarin ;) ?

  • Benny Lewis


  • Jay Kane

    Great speach…I visited San Antonio by way of HereStay not too long ago, but missed this event…would have been great to see you live!

  • Kevin Post

    Have you kept in touch with that brasileño? 

    • Benny Lewis

      A couple of years later, I visited him in his home town, and we did all of our talking in Portuguese :) It was a pleasure to meet his family, and tell them how much he inspired me to get into learning languages in the first place. He was extremely humble and dismissive of that of course.

  • Crno Srce

    Well done! It’s a great summary of your philosophy, concisely delivered. I especially really liked your final statement about a whole new world opening up! So true!

    I’m starting to wonder about that shirt of yours. Looks brand new, despite the number of pictures I’ve seen with you in it. Do you only wear it for special occasions, or do you have a suitcase full of them? :-)

    • Benny Lewis

      Haha, just have the one! I got it a year before this talk, in Colombia. I wear it every week! I suppose I just washed it well before the talk?

  • Kristy Desilets

    Benny, you make a lot of wonderful points, as well as presenting an approach that deserves consideration. We don’t have to speak perfectly to speak! My newest language experiment with Korean (which I am documenting in my blog) is seemingly opposite to yours because I am trying the TV Method (hours upon hours of native-speaker input BEFORE trying to speak).

    But, upon hearing your approach, I realized that one fundamental thing is the same about the two approaches; they both rely on meaningful input. One thing you didn’t mention about speaking right away is perhaps the most important. When you speak, others react and speak back. They give you feedback on what you’ve said and its effectiveness. Then, they give you meaningful language to listen to in response! The result is the same. The more exposure you have to real-life language and its usage, the faster you learn.

    Very eloquent and well put. Good luck in your adventures with Mandarin!

  • Kristy Desilets

    In case you’re interested:

  • Benny Lewis

    Best of luck!! :)

  • Benny Lewis

    They have been great conversation starters!

  • Benny Lewis

    Hahaha, dankegon :P

  • Tim Junck

    JoDER!  Qué impresionante! Soy una persona que estudié un idioma. Tengo problemas con las faltas de gramatica del nivel de un pais. Pero cuando hablo con una sola persona, muchas veces los problemas de gramatica no me importa.

    Mi meta es hablar diez idiomas fluentamente… Y si se puede dominar un idioma en solo 3 meses… es posible anadir 7 mas idiomas en un espacio de dos anos… Qué Bien!!!! 

    Gracias por ser un ejemplo de lo que es posible!

    TimUn gringo blanco de Wisconsin… found at

  • Caper Gooden

    Aunque me gusta tu discurso, mi pregunta seriosa es:

    ¿¿Adonde compraste ese camisa?? Me encanta, pero cuando la busco en la Red, no puedo encontrar nada tan guay como la tuya. 

    • Benny Lewis

      En el aeropuerto de Bogotá :)

  • Ken Seeroi

    Good talk.  Very inspirational.  I look forward to hearing your progress with Mandarin, since I’ve immersed myself in Japanese for years. 

  • Alicia

    Cool shirt. Juanes! :)

  • Jessica Bencosme Tejada

    This is great I’m going to use it to motivate my students.

  • Jarp Finnish

    Loistava puhe! Kommunikaatio on todella tärkeä asia..bugger..I really loved your speech on tedx. It was very inspiring and rewarding. U got to come finland and learn some finnish mate..i can teach you and show how to have sauna and drink beer afterwards in Finnish…heh! Pidä lippu korkealla kaveri!

  • Beatriz Cruz

    I think this post was published a long time ago, but I just founded your website this week. I’m a brazilian trying to learn languages (especially english) and I got really inspired by your example and your message! Congratulations and thank you for the inspiring words!!

  • Malek Allaham

    Very nice talk , i wonder if there is any Arabic translation, if don’t i will volunteer to translate this talk because it’s very useful !

  • Benny Lewis

    Fan of Kaufmann I see.