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
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.
It was my first attempt to try to talk to an audience of aspiring language learners like this (all other times I had spoken were in closed conferences, rather than open to anyone in the public who may be very casually interested and need more inspiration than most), and I gave it my best shot and people found it encouraging. My girlfriend had lots of feedback, and I’ve applied it to get better and better at inspiring people in the short-time we have there.
Coming home to Ireland and hitting the big screen
Immediately after, we had a long weekend in Dublin, which started with a book event in Hodges Figgis, the oldest bookshop in Ireland.
Still improving my presentation I found the best part of all was the Q&A to answer the real issues people were having. From then on, I resolved to just give a quick intro and make future book events about interacting with people, and trying to encourage them no matter what doubts they may present.
So far, Dublin has been my most multilingual event, because while I was signing books after speaking, I got to speak Portuguese, Spanish, German, Irish, Mandarin, Italian, French and Esperanto! Eager learners wanted to practise, and native speakers wanted to see if I was for real 😛
Next, it was time for this fun interview on The Saturday Night Show with Brendan O’Connor (skip forward to 35:55 – video must be watched within the next 5 days before it’s taken down).
I don’t tend to get nervous, since I speak on stage and even on radio/TV more and more with time. Years of learning to speak to strangers, making mistakes as a beginner in foreign languages, and then getting started speaking on stage, has made me pretty confident even when in front of huge crowds of people. Even before the Bloomberg TV slot, I wasn’t flinching.
But being on Irish national TV made me more nervous than even prime-time American TV (with many more millions watching) ever would. My whole family and many friends were watching this, and I wanted to make sure I did them proud. Luckily, it went really well. I was so exhausted after that long and nervous day (the interview was at 10:30pm) that I literally fell off the stage when I was leaving!! (Very luckily this was off camera…)
After the weekend I had an interview with Pat Kenny (Newstalk) followed by Ray D’Arcy (TodayFM), both of whom I was thrilled to be talking with; for instance, Ray was the host of “The Den”, a show I watched when I was younger, so it was really cool for me to meet him. Both excellent interviews, and Ray liked talking to me so much he even kept me on air unexpectedly for 45 minutes!
The UK tour begins: Surprise visits from other polyglots
We flew back to London, and picked up a car rental. I’m really lucky that Collins is supporting me on the UK book tour (my US book tour will be very likely be self-funded) and is cutting my costs in half by covering the car rental and a lot of my accommodation. In an expensive country like the UK (especially if you are only staying a single night in places) this makes a huge difference!
We went straight on to Oxford and had a casual reader meet-up in a pub to talk language learning.
One of those attending was none other than Britain’s most multilingual student, Alex Rawlings!
We were now on a new city every day week, which brings in annoying complications like lack of time to do laundry, barely making it in time for events due to travel complications, and almost no time online. My email/work backlog was getting monstrous!
But we zoomed on to Cambridge and rushed in just in time for a book event at another Waterstones. After I gave my book intro, I opened the floor up for questions and got some fascinating ones from people with one of the warmest receptions we’ve gotten in the country so far. Then I saw a hand raised by a familiar face… Tim Morley!
I had met him in Esperanto events in the past and saw his convincing TEDx talk about how learning Esperanto first can be a great springboard into other languages, which is a concept I’ve talked about myself and even introduced in the print book. It was a great surprise to see a familiar face in the audience! He asked me what language he can ask his question in, and I of course said Esperanto (translating it for the audience after!)
Getting better at encouraging new language learners
After Cambridge we went back to London for a day, for the second Piccadilly event. This time I was ready with an improved (less rambly) talk and better answers for audience members.
The great thing about this tour is that when I do it in conjunction with a bookshop, the vast majority of people attending have discovered it from seeing it advertised in the bookshop’s windows in the days before.
This means that they are not necessarily people who have been following my blog (although they too come of course!) but people who may just be mildly curious about this language learning thing, and a chance for me to plant a seed and create a few ripples across this English speaking country.
As such, the kinds of questions I get asked are very general and from people who haven’t read the book yet or even heard of me before that day. Most people have no experience at all in learning any language, and really just need that initial nudge. And then of course there are others who have tried and failed, or even reached an intermediate stage and are stuck at a plateau.
Every speaking event is a chance to understand a completely new group of people’s language learning woes and think of a good way to encourage them. I’ve gone out of my way to make it about giving advice that works well for them, rather than promoting my way. As such, this isn’t really promoting “The Fluent in 3 Months approach” or “Speak From Day 1”, but to alleviate people’s doubts and lack of confidence in moving forward.
Encouraging language learning is the point of this entire year. At the end of each talk, when I hear people one-on-one (to get my silly signature and multilingual good luck wishes on page 1 of their book) tell me that they never thought language learning was for them, but feel the push to dive into it now, I know that meeting has been a success! I’ve created several brand new eager language learners!
And of course all stops on the book tour are free to everyone to attend! No need to even buy a book to show up. This has been great training for me as I get more and more requests for paid speaking opportunities for businesses.
Hiring a full-time language encourager and reaching Wales
We left London and drove on to Cardiff. On the way we pulled off for a bite to eat and unexpectedly and whimsically found Windsor Castle!
I popped into the local Waterstones and was pleased to see several copies of my book stocked there, in a stop we weren’t even planning. It really was available everywhere!
As I said, time was running incredibly short, so my initial plan to spend the afternoon before my Cardiff meet up giving myself a crash course in Welsh fell through. I was so far behind on work, that I had to accept that I simply could never catch up with my current lifestyle, which isn’t going to change any time soon.
As such, I decided to hire a full time language encourager. I mentioned it briefly on the blog and on Facbeook/twitter and got hundreds of replies. Ironically, my attempt to get someone to help me with my email backlog meant I had an even greater email backlog from needing to select the right person!
In the short time online each day, I’ve gone through applications, called up people, and the right person will be announced in the LHL email list later this week. This person will be helping me encourage you all more directly!
This helps me vastly with my work backlog and I hope that soon I’ll be on top of things and never have to sacrifise the chance to have an interesting experience because of lack of time, such as the couple of hours to dip my toes in Welsh that I wanted.
Even so, the informal meet-up in Cardiff was great fun! Being in Wales was eerily familiar – seeing bilingual signs like in Ireland, and somewhere I’d like to investigate more in future! On the plus side, I did learn Good luck in Welsh – Pob lwc! – not from a book, but from one of my readers. I’ve been writing it ever since in signings if I hear someone is learning Welsh!
Final days in England
We drove on up to Birmingham to leave our things there, and zoom down to Cheltenham for a smaller destination than most of our stops. We got a great warm reception here though, and the locals didn’t mind my slight tardiness from zooming across the country. Since then I seem to finally have caught up on everything enough to be punctual in this tour!
Back in Birmingham, we had another casual reader meet up, and one of those attending brought my book with them, not to have it signed, but to show me that the local library was stocking it!
The popularity of the book was shocking – several branches of Waterstones kept saying they were selling out consistently, it had become the best selling book in some stores and was getting featured, and I heard that back in Ireland Easons are now stocking it on their best selling shelves (rather than in the languages section).
Next, we hit Liverpool for a very casual style Waterstones event in their coffee shop and on to Manchester for one of the biggest events with 80 people attending!
Finally, last night we were in Leeds for another smaller event and I think I am finally getting the hang out of making sure people get the best out of attending, and also meeting other language learners. My girlfriend is of course being a huge help throughout all of this!
On to Scotland and Ireland next!
As this post goes live, I’m hitting the road to drive half of the day up to Scotland for a meet-up in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
With all this moving around, we are really looking forward to staying in one place (Edinburgh) for a whole week (a relatively long time when you have been on the move every day for weeks) to decompress and take a break over Easter. We’ve also had pretty much no time to be tourists and explore each city other than walks around in the evening after each event, which is a pity as I would have loved to have explored so many places we passed through.
We have however met the locals and had a chance to chat to them, and this is (as always) the core of why I travel in the first place! 🙂
I look forward to continuing the next (Scotland/Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland) leg of the book tour, meeting so many aspiring language learners, and spreading some encouragement! And now that I’ll have someone new helping me with the blog/emails and keeping up to date on the best language learning news, I can catch up and get into blogging more myself (with lots of high quality guest posts coming often too!) and finally making videos again!
Exciting times are ahead on Fluent in 3 Months, and I can’t wait to share many new updates with you, but I wanted to start with this fun travel update first. Thanks a lot everyone, and I can’t wait to meet the rest of you on this trip!
Add in your comments below about anything you’ve read here – looking forward to your feedback as always!