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Interview with a Polyglot: Olly Richards


Mango Languages was recently able to chat with the incredible language-learner, Olly Richards. Olly speaks eight languages and has made a name for himself in the polyglot community with his blog I Will Teach You a Language and podcast of the same name. We originally met up with Olly at the third annual Polyglot Conference in NYC and then worked with him to host a Polyglot Workshop in Brooklyn. He shared some great tips about language-learning there, so we wanted to invite him to share his insights with you all as well.

How did it all start?

Olly first started learning languages when he moved to France for a few months to take a break from his U.K. life. He ended up learning French in the three months he was there and then started travelling to more and more places. Now, he has a successful language-learning blog, a Spanish-language book series,and helps host the Polyglot Workshops throughout the world.

However, Olly did not always start out as a language learner. He initially went to school for music and enjoyed learning bossa nova songs. We asked him about how his background in music affected his language learning — he doesn’t play music as much as he used to, but in the case of bossa nova, he has used it to help him learn Brazilian Portuguese.

Why learn a language?

When asked what the main reason one should learn a language, Olly explained that he does it for a number of reasons. In order to get our English-speaking communities involved and interested in learning another language, we have to show them the benefits. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink”. This is something that explains why language teaching in our school system is often not successful — there are many kids who don’t want to be there and their non-motivation prohibits them from learning the language.

Speaking of the benefits of learning a language, there are plenty: you can travel with ease, you can widen your view of the world, increase your brain capacity, broaden your career opportunities and even lower your risk for dementia. In order to receive these benefits, you’ll need to have motivation to learn the language.

What motivates you to learn?

Many of the people who have written Olly about learning a language say that they want to learn Spanish because it is useful or they want to learn Chinese because it is difficult. Although these motivations will get you started in the language, you’ll need to have a deeper, underlying passion or reason for learning that carries you through when your time and motivation starts to wane. For example, Olly mentioned, “What is it about Italian cooking that makes you want to learn [Italian]?” By drilling down to these underlying motivations, you can determine how you can best spend your time and energy with the language.

When it comes down to it though, in the words of Olly himself, “There’s something very special about going to another country, speaking to someone in their own language and seeing the look in their eyes when they realize that someone has taken the time and effort to learn their language. There’s something very, very special about that. It has to be experienced to be believed.”

Listen to Olly’s full interview with us on the Mango Languages podcast to hear more of his language-learning wisdom.

With more than 71 languages to choose from, Mango Languages is the perfect start towards achieving multilingualism. To begin, find out if Mango Languages is offered for free through your local public library.

One of the best ways to stay motivated when learning a language is to share the experience with friends. Share this post to get them interested.

Meet The Author:
Author - melanie moore
Melanie Moore
Linguist at Mango Languages
Melanie speaks German, Lithuanian, and Japanese and has dabbled in several others. She is an aspiring polyglot and enjoys sharing her passions for language learning and music with anyone she meets.

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