Matthew Youlden speaks nine languages casually and gets along in at least ten others. We work in the same office in Berlin and I regularly hear it pass from one language to another like a chameleon that changes color. It is so polyglot that until recently I didn’t even know that English (British) was his native language. When I confessed to Matthew that I was struggling to learn even one language, he gave me some tips that proved to be very useful. If you think it’s impossible to become bilingual, read below and change your mind!
- YOU MUST KNOW WHY YOU ARE DOING IT
It may seem obvious, but if you don’t have a good reason to learn a new language you will be less motivated to carry on your mission. Wanting to learn French to put on airs in front of one’s countrymen is not one of the best reasons. If the aim is to have a conversation with a native French speaker who you would like to know better, you will already have something extra. Whatever the reason for your interest, once you have chosen the language to learn, the essential is the commitment you will put in it: “Well, I decided that I want to learn this language well, so I will do everything possible to use it, read it, speak it and listen to it whenever I have the opportunity. “
- IMMERSE YOURSELF!
Once you have made the decision to commit seriously, how do you proceed? What is the best way to dedicate yourself to the study of a language? Matthew recommends the maximalist approach: no matter what tools you use, the fundamental thing is to practice daily with the new language. “Usually I tend to want to absorb as much as possible from the beginning. Day after day I try to think in that language, write, or even speak for myself. For me it’s all about really putting into practice what I’m learning, whether it’s writing an email, talking, or listening to radio or music in that language. It is very important to immerse yourself as much as possible in the culture of the new language. ” Keep in mind one thing: the best training ever is to speak in other languages with other people. Being able to conduct a conversation, however simple it is, is already an excellent reward, as well as one of the initial goals that help you stay motivated and keep your commitment to practice continuously. “I always keep one thing in mind: it is essential to adapt our way of thinking to the way we think in the other language. Obviously there is no single way of thinking for all people who speak Spanish, or Hebrew, or Dutch, but the point is to use language as a tool to build your own world around us. “
- FIND A PARTNER
Matthew started learning various languages together with his twin brother Michael (just think: they grappled with their first foreign language, Greek, when they were only eight years old!). Matthew and Michael received their superpowers from a typical sibling rivalry case: “We were very motivated, and we still are. If my brother realizes that I am doing more, he becomes envious and works hard to fight me, and vice versa – we understand that we are twins … “. Even if you don’t have brothers or sisters to keep you company on your language adventure, having a partner with whom to practice will always push both of you to take one step further and stay motivated.