Language Tracking Insider: How To Move Steadily Towards Your Next Breakthrough

You love learning languages, but sometimes you're wondering if all that work will ever really add up to anything? Then look no further and start building a powerful tracking routine today. Tracking doesn't have to be complicated, and with these 4 cool tips you'll quickly get into a true language habit!

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Episode 33: Future You is The Best You, with Irish Polyglot Benny Lewis

Welcome to the Creative Language Learning Podcast.

This episode is all about being inspired by other people and their achievements. We decided to invite a guest well-known language learning hero to many: Benny Lewis from Fluent in 3 Months.

"The people around us are the ones that can inspire us even more than those YouTube superstars."

future you is the best you

Benny has done a lot for the promotion of language learning, and these days he gets hundreds of emails from his fans.

In our interview, you'll find out:

  • How does it feel to be the big language author and influencer man?
  • Who is the mystery man that got Benny excited about language learning?
  • Does "Benny the Irish Polyglot" want people to say that he is impressive?
  • How can we share the love of language and stop people from asking us how many languages we speak?
  • What is the most important difference Benny thinks he's made in the lives of language learners?
  • Which polyglots and community members have made an impact to Benny?
  • What did Barbie, Shakira and Beyoncé do to get us where we are today?

You also get to find out a lot about how Benny is keen to be promoting many others in the community, and how even a speaker of over 10 languages can be thrown when they're "hit with another language".

benny lewis

And what about being someone who runs their own business and travels the whole world learning languages? Benny is a pioneer, but knowing the real situation is a different story.

We hope you enjoy this awesome interview with Benny. Tell us what you think as well! Hashtag #cllp on Twitter, or simply comment below and let's chat about our heroes!

Great Language-Loving People Mentioned In This Show

Why not see them all at once in the fun Skype Me Maybe video!

Top Links From This Episode

The Best Language Podcasts when you need Inspiration

Before I moved to Lancaster I had never listened to talk radio. I moved in with my boyfriend in 2006, and slowly BBC Radio 4 became a part of my life. Talk radio stations bring shows and conversations that talk about the most important topics in our lives. A show to listen to while you wash up, a radio drama on your drive to work, a debate over coffee.

language podcasts

Of course, talk radio has moved with the times. Now you don’t have to tune in at a specific time and day anymore. The new listening trend to help you keep up to date is called podcasts. You can subscribe and listen to your favourite shows whenever you want them.

If you to learn more about how podcasts work for language learning, refer to this Fluent guide. Podcast production has opened up the floor to a new generation of people with something to say. The market for language learning podcasts is huge now, and you can mix independent shows with sophisticated leading media productions.

Get Language Learning Inspiration

It’s easy to find podcasts that help you learn a new language by demonstrating words and sentences, but did you know that there’s a new generation of shows waiting for you? These shows are not about teaching you an individual language, but instead they boost your learning skill. From productivity to learning methods, from careers to interviews with polyglots, these shows focus on making you a better language learner.

In today’s post, I’ll be listing five awesome shows that you should not miss out on. Subscribe to them in iTunes or download just one episode to try a new perspective.

The Creative Language Learning Podcast

Yes, it's Fluent's own podcast and I am so proud to share it with you. For over a year, I have been creating the Creative Language Learning Podcast. This podcast brings you fun discussions with interesting guests that I selected for their inspiring stories, fun approaches and unique messages. I like to talk to teachers and learners alike, and to find out what motivates them. At the end of every show, there’s also a cool little segment called Tips of the Week, where my guest selects the best one out of three fresh learning tips.

Since June 2015 the show has found a very special co-host in Lindsay Dow from Lindsay Does Languages.

If you want to try one episode out of my archive of 15, I’d recommend episode 5 which is one of my favourite interviews I've ever done:

Business of Language

language business

The Business of Language podcast is run by Tammy Bjelland, one of the most impressive ladies I have seen in this community. Tammy was en route to becoming a language professor when she realised that her heart was not quite in it. She went and changed her whole life by opening her own language school in Virginia. In her interviews with language business owners and professionals, Tammy wants to show so much more about the many opportunities that are open to language graduates.

If you have ever wondered what job you’re actually going to do with your languages, this podcast will inspire you. To just try out one episode, I’d recommend her very first episode where she shares her own story.

I Will Teach You a Language

iwtyal pod

Olly Richards from IWTYAL has been a guest on my own podcast previously and now you will get to hear from him every week! In Olly's podcast, listeners can leave a voicemail with their own dilemma or question. He then researches, brings in guests and answers each question in a 10 minute bitesize show.

All episodes are quick and Olly is fun to listen to, but here's my own tip:

  • Episode 30: Should you learn a German dialect?

Actual Fluency

actual pod

Guy from Denmark vows to learn 10 languages and podcasts about it - that's the premise of Actual Fluency with Chris Broholm. Chris stands out in his interview show for the incredible curiosity he brings to every conversation. I like listening to him and even working with him - check out our joint event Language Book Club.

Don't miss out the great episode 47, a solo hosted podcast from Chris where he talks about when it's all a bit more difficult than you think.

Language Mastery

Finally, there's Language Mastery, a podcast all about the routines and methods. John Fotheringham, the host of Language Mastery, has travelled the world and learnt languages in places like Taiwan, Bangladesh and If you're into a classic "Here's how I do it" story, I recommend you listen to John's interview with Luca Lampariello in which he details what works for him and how to become a successful polyglot. His website is also full of detailed product reviews.

Bonus: The World in Words

PRI's own language podcast is a wonderful addition to this list. It's produced in great detail and covers stories of languages all around the world. The one episode you have got to listen to is this amazing one about Utah's new bilingual education drive.

I hope you've found an inspiring new podcast or two in today's list. Please comment and tell me if you tried a new episode as a result of this article. Which one did you try? What did you think of it?

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.

Top 5 Hot Bilingual Hollywood Stars

When I was a little girl, I wanted to become an air hostess. The sleek uniforms, beautiful make-up and obvious intelligence of those women was one of the most attractive things I'd ever seen. These ladies truly had it all. They got to travel the world and speak all these cool languages (English!), all in one of the most glamorous industries around.

Guess I was not living in a feminist world, and I was pretty naïve about the airline industry, but I did become a traveller and language lover. Role models matter! Just like Sheryl Sandberg says in her book Lean In, we need to see more of what we are aiming for in life. When influential people show us how accomplished they are in speaking other languages, it shows that more than one country matters in the world. This list of Hollywood polyglots is just a little start, but I want you to find your own role models and see how far language learning can take you. Each of the stars I am listing in this article have found work in more than one country and fame in more than one culture - so it goes to show that bilingualism is not just a "nice to have", it's actually a real source of success.

top 5 hollywood bilingual.jpg

Here are 5 smokin' hot multilingual Hollywood stars.

Mads Mikkelsen

He is oscar-nominated for the harrowing thriller The Hunt, but you might know Mads Mikkelsen from his fabulous acting in recent James Bond movie Skyfall. Mads Mikkelsen speaks Danish, Swedish, English and German - a classic combination for Scandinavian actors. He's a great symbol of international success, even if you're from a small country. And pretty hot too. Godt gået, Mads!

Annet Mahendru

Annet was nominated as a multilingual role model by Fluent reader Javier, and admired around the world for her acting in The Blacklist and The Americans. She now combines her Indian and Russian heritage while forging an acting career in the USA. Annet stands out from the crowd because she is not only bilingual but a true polyglot, speaking six languages altogether.

Daniel Brühl

I can never see enough of Daniel Brühl - this stellar actor grew up bilingually with Spanish and German. He is one of Europe's finest young actors, and most recently impressed all of us as a chilling Nazi officer, speaking flawless French in Inglourious Basterds.

Daniel Brühl in Inglourious Basterds - son Français nous a impressionné.

Audrey Hepburn

We don't have to go back 30 years in time in order to find a truly beautiful, inspiring, multilingual role models in Hollywood but of course Audrey is the queen of them all. There is this quote that I have seen about her, which sums up plenty of things I believe not only about languages, but also about feminism.

Audrey Hepburn was the granddaughter of a baron, the daughter of a Nazi sympathizer, spent her teens doing ballet to secretly raise money for the dutch resistance against the Nazis, and spent her post-film career as a goodwill ambassador of UNICEF winning the presidential medal of freedom for her efforts. And history remembers her as pretty.

Check out this video on Jennie's blog to see Audrey in action.

Jodie Foster

Hollywood star, successful director, Yale graduate and bilingual. Yes, there is a lot more than just a pretty face to Jodie Foster. You can watch her speaking her flawless French in Elysium.

Bonus Mention for Poor Matt Damon

I want this guy to have the highest credit of all - credit for trying! Matt Damon spoke quite decent French in The Monuments Men and got mocked for it throughout the whole film. Shame on you, Hollywood! We all know that speaking out does not have to be done in perfect tones, and in my eyes Damon's character deserved a lot of credit for using his language skills.

So here I want to celebrate the effort Damon made as an actor, and let's hope he aspires to more bilingualism.

PS: If you also wanted to become a flight attendant, join me in listening to one of my favourite podcasts - Betty in The Sky With A Suitcase!

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent - The Language Learning Blog. Don't forget - if you sign up to our newsletter, you will receive a free Guide to the Best Language Learning Resources!

English is My Native Language - And Here's Why I Learn 3 Others Too.

[ed.] Welcome to Angel Armstead, one of the new writers at Fluent. This is her first post, a fascinating story of how this American realised how much fun other languages are. Her language combination is awesome: Japanese, Mandarin, Russian!

english other languages

I Speak English So I Don't Need Another Language

Growing up I didn’t hear much about learning a foreign language. I did hear these sentiments expressed:

“I speak English so I don’t need another language”

“If you want to speak to me, speak English” or

“This is America, we speak English here.”

Family, friends and associates have asked me why I would waste my time learning another language when my first is spoken widely around the world. Sadly for a while I felt the same.

I first got an interest in foreign languages when I heard Spanish spoken. A friend of mine and I went to the library and picked up a few Spanish books. It was fun learning new words. Unfortunately I didn’t stick with it because I got along just fine with only English. It wasn’t until I got interested in the Japanese language that I really decided to ignore the mantra of “English only” that I had heard from many people.

When I got interested in studying Japanese, things were different. I really wanted to know everything about that language. I fell in love with the writing system (even if I complain about the Kanji sometimes), traditional culture, and the way the language sounds. Later my interest moved towards pop culture (anime, music and video games.) Although I had played video games before, I just never had played them in a language other than English. So far it’s the only language that I’m studying where I have bought movies, games, books and anything I can find in its language. I do think a big part in learning a language is your passion for that language. Once I had the passion for Japanese no excuse to continue with just English were relevant to me.

What If I Fail At Learning A Language?

There is one idea I have always had in my mind. It’s one of my reasons that I think held me back the most from learning a second language after I'd studied Japanese.

The idea is this: I’ve met many people who have tried to learn a second foreign language and failed. As a result they gave up language learning altogether. That made me think that maybe your second foreign language in some ways is your most important foreign language and deserves a lot of attention.

It's Becoming A Habit

Originally before I started learning Japanese I had planned to learn Mandarin Chinese but I didn’t pursue it, because I thought it was impossible as a choice for a second language. I even took classes in Mandarin but had to quit because of the location of the classes. I took Japanese in college for over three years. Their hardest script Kanji is borrowed from China. As a result I ended up learning some Mandarin Chinese words anyway. It does sometimes feel like I’m learning two languages when I’m working on the writing system.

Almost anyone who knows me knows I am in love with the Japanese language. I don’t think it’s just because of the anime, movies and culture. I think that the Japanese language was the language that showed me that I could actually do this. I don’t think I would have the interest I have in foreign languages if it wasn’t for Japanese. I can read all of the kana, speak conversationally and read at least 500 of the kanji. That was a major confidence booster as far as languages are concerned.

Russian is now my latest language interest. I used to joke with friends in college about learning Russian. The good thing about friends in college is that they only knew me after I was truly into languages. So for me to tell them that I was considering learning Russian wasn’t a big deal. This is probably the only one of the three that I listened to on YouTube videos before deciding I wanted to learn more of it. I just started learning Russian & Mandarin full time as I had been putting them off for years. I was really motivated when I came across the #add1challenge, my inspiration me to really work more on Russian and Chinese. Japanese was already an everyday thing.

If my past self as a child saw me now they probably wouldn’t believe that I finally pursued an interest in foreign languages. I used to think the furthest I could go in another language was greetings! I still have a ways to go with Japanese, Mandarin Chinese & Russian but I am much further even in Russian than I ever thought I could be. I even have future plans for other languages such as Spanish, German & Arabic. Once you start..

Which languages are you holding yourself back from?

[ed.] I think Angel's story is inspiring and shows one thing in particular: Most of us are holding ourselves back from success, for fear of failure. If you really want to get started with a language, ask yourself:

Which discoveries are you holding yourself back from?

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent - The Language Learning Blog. Don't forget - if you sign up to our newsletter, you will receive a free Guide to the Best Language Learning Resources!


Finally! Language Festival and 1000 words for everyone

I have recently noticed that the UK Newspapers Independent and Guardian have started running more stories about language learning in schools and universities than I have seen before. Both of them are reacting in really great ways to language promotion "activism" from associations like the British Academy (whose report about the State of Languages in the UK I wrote about earlier this year) and Speak to the Future.

language books

Language Festival

The British Academy and the Guardian have in fact teamed up to hold a UK-wide Language Festival, getting people talking about languages and intrested in them. It seems as though finally they are beginning to recognise that learning a language in school is not where this beautiful world of multilingualism starts and ends. There are articles about careers for languages graduates and packs for businesses and schools to download for promoting the language learning debate online.

While I think that some parts of these packs are clutching at straws a bit (international recipes? really?), the overall intention is great. If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll have an idea of how long I've been waiting for this kind of stuff!

My favourite part is the Guardian call for a Public Language Champion ( They have created a new award for this and after a first round of voting we're now looking at an impressive shortlist (it's missing Danaerys Targaryen I'd say featuring a football manager, a comedian, a yachtswoman, a BBC correspondent and an actor. To me, the shortlist represents what's great about language learning: Diversity, ambition and a special gift that anyone can discover within them.

For a little browse through the Guardian articles in detail, start with their Modern Languages section.

1000 Words

The 1000 Words Challenge comes from my favourite pro-languages association, Speak to the Future.


The idea is simple and beautiful: Teach everyone just 1000 words in a new language and see what happens, how it influences their lives, how they improve their confidence and their attitudes.

In other words, Speak to the Future says this:

We are not expecting instant fluency. Yet if everyone were capable of at least 1000 words in a new language, social attitudes and economic prospects would be significantly enhanced: young people would be better prepared for the challenges of globalisation and our cultural and intellectual levels would be raised.

YOUR turn

I am 100% behind this. In fact, I think the 1000 words campaign is actually a better call to action than the Language Festival, because it is so clear in who it's addressing. That's YOU - they say everyone can do it, they don't call for more teaching at school level or anything else, instead the message is aimed at individuals. As someone who teaches adults and enjoys nothing more than the great feeling of reviving something they thought was long lost, I think this is where the real value is.

Language learning is open to everyone and should be beneficial to all. It's not just for school kids, not just for university students and in fact it can be an excellent hobby or passion for people who never even took a higher level schoool exam. Status, money, age and brain capacity matter so much less than you think.

That's where real value in languages comes from.

So how would you start?

If you want to support the campaigns for language learning, then I urge you to get involved and learn a few words. It does not cost any money if you have internet access or a nearby library.

Personally, I wouldn't even worry too much about language choice. Just pick whichever appeals to you right now and go for it, because you must enjoy learning it in order to make progress. Think about your learning style, and what you do in your daily life.

Have you ever joined a group class before? Did you start a language by buying a Teach Yourself or Rosetta Stone set? What other ways of starting have you tried....and are you still going?

4 techniques for switching your brain into language mode

Have you ever heard of a phenomenon called "Priming"? Priming is what psychologists call it when your brain adapts to the environment around it without you realising. For example, you might automatically walk slower in a nursing home than you do in a gym. The brain helps your body to adjust, and this also affects your memory and even your confidence and the whole way you interpret situations.

Priming in language learning

Recently, the concept of this environment idea has been in the news from one angle, called "Thinking of home makes it harder to learn a language".  It's a cool piece of science, and definitely another argument to get your cork boards out or browse the internet for flights to Switzerland, Mexico or Moscow.

© morethanmaths  on Flickr

©morethanmaths on Flickr

Here's how priming can work against you

I teach many people in their lunch hour and often experience that those students are more hesitant to go ahead and talk. Having thought about the learning environment and what it means for your performance, I came to the conclusion that these students need to make a switch from work mode to learning mode.

It's not easy, because many people who work in management or office-based roles are in an environment that looks a bit like school, but demands a completely different behaviour. Professionals don't just go out and try things. They are expected to control their creativity and maintain a professional image at all times. When you think about the good mindset for language learners, it's a contrast: You'll do well if you can combine curiosity, discipline and a complete disregard for embarrassment!


Make your language learning happy place

Now, how can we make our brains help us with what we're learning? Try out some ideas that learners and teachers can use to make priming work in the right way:

1. Listen to target language songs and watch some movies

I will not promise you that watching an awful lot of films in a foreign language will magically beam fluency into your mind. To be honest, that would be immersion misunderstood. The real benefit of surrounding yourself with the target language is that you stay engaged with it and develop knowledge of the country. In terms of the priming benefit, it will work magic. Plus, you get to do it while putting your feet up or driving.

2. Relax before speaking

Schedule your learning sessions for the right times. For example, I like doing my chatting in Spanish on the drive back from Zumba - partly because the Spanish lady is captive in my car, partly because we've just spent an hour having fun and dancing around. Others also swear by having a nice glass of wine to relax or using breathing exercises.

Another great tip is to create a learning corner in your home - somewhere quiet, free from distractions and full of positive associations. 


3. Visualise success

School classroom teachers have known for a long time that putting up posters and displays around the classroom can get pupils in the right state of mind for learning. They don't have to be written in the foreign language, but just reminders of what's great about the country you're learning about. Take a tip from this and create your own language learning displays full of things that interest you about your language. They could be recipes, tickets from old trips, tourist brochures or printouts from the internet. I particularly love vintage posters.

You can find more inspiration on my Pinterest boards for German, French and Russian

4. Warm up

In my teaching role, I try to start my lessons off easily with some smaller warm-up activities like asking students how they are or offering them a drink. Recently, I received the great tip that using the same warm-up activity every time for regular students is actually helpful - here I was worrying people would get bored, but the learner's perspective was that knowing "what's coming" allowed them to prepare and feel confident at the start of the lesson. That puts every learner in the right state of mind for success.

Does your tutor or group class do the same? I'd love to hear about your favourite warm up.

As always, I would love to know your thoughts and favourite tricks - and sign up for more if you enjoyed this post! 

You can't re-have fun: What I'm learning from the Lernen to Talk show

Happy Friday everyone, and I hope you've enjoyed this week of Lernen to Talk-ing. Having documented my guest in word and sound, I like doing a post where I get to reflect on all this information. I try to see where their good ideas can help me and my students with our own language learning adventures.

The inspiring part

So Mickey Mangan…when I first saw his trailer video, I saw a specific approach to language learning (you move there, you open your mouth, it's often called immersion). But in fact, there's more to this.

The Lernen to Talk Show (LTTS) is so interesting because of the way it documents an experience, no matter where it's at on any progress scale. Language learning is so often measured in external ways like the CEFR, but the LTTS just isn't like that. It's back to basics, never mind goal setting or achieving specific measures of fluency. Mickey learns German because it's fun to learn a language, and it's fun because you get to hang around with new people in new situations.

Pocket Lessons

At the end of this fun week, there are three points I get to take away and share with my students:



Trust the process

Let me tell you why language learning is called language learning. Being rubbish is the whole point. You're not learning if you're perfect to start with, and making mistakes doesn't mean you're not awesome.

Everyone has days where things don't work out to plan, and days where you'll even forget the easy words. But these are not a reason to give up. Remember that learning is not instant, and you continuously adjust course on the way to the destination.

In simple terms, stop worrying that you'll never be fluent in your target language and develop a sense of humour about the mistakes you make, the words you forget and the words you invent.

Be more of a jester, less of a parrot

It's clear that the presenter of the LTTS is a man who is an extrovert and entertainer. Mickey himself actually used the word "jester". All that extroversion allowed him to connect and distract from any linguistic weaknesses.

The message that I saw in this was about having fun while talking to people and growing as a RESULT. It's too tempting to imagine a language goal that describes something like "fluency" or "95% in the A2 exam". But actually, you can correct the errors anytime but you can't have retrospective fun.

In my lessons, I definitely try to share that philosophy with students. German or French are not the end goal, they're a means to an end. I felt encouraged seeing the improvements that kick in when someone just wants to talk, and I'll definitely take this message away with me and try to find more "language angles" of what motivates my students in life.

Do your thing

Mickey's description of starting to learn German was that he got hold of a CD and book, ignored the book and played the CD. Maybe this is just me, but such disregard of rules and the way you're supposed to do things is almost revolutionary. I would have never done that, and as a tutor I worry so much about whether I'm teaching my students things in a way that is acceptable to others.

When talking to Mickey Mangan, you get a sense of his independent attitude of "ah, don't worry about that, it's garbage" (though I'd call it rubbish). As long as we're all getting regular practice in and we know how it's supposed to sound at some point in the future, I think it's all good.

I've been your host for today's blog article

Well, what remains to say except a great big thank you to Mickey Mangan for enduring lots of questions from me, and I hope you stay positive and motivated in your language learning adventures.

Be sure to check out the blog next week when I write about things non related to the Lernen to Talk show!