Interview with polyglot, educator, and language blogger Lindsay Williams

Lindsay Williams’ blog Lindsay Does Languages is dedicated to “inspiring independent language learners and online teachers.”

Lindsay agreed to share some of her thoughts about learning and teaching languages with The WordBrewery Blog and its readers. She has studied over ten languages, and when not practicing these, she teaches others how to improve their learning experience. For more information about Lindsay and her methods, you can read her blog or follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

WordBrewery: Which languages have you studied, and to what levels of proficiency?

My first foreign language was French at an extracurricular club in primary school. I kept going because we got croissants at the end of term! From there, I added Spanish at school when I was 13, and that was it for quite a few years until I started my university studies. I then began with Italian and Mandarin Chinese as well as adding a little German along the way. After that, I started to teach myself languages including Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, Esperanto, Indonesian and now Guaraní, an indigenous language spoken in Paraguay. French and Spanish are my strongest languages.

WordBrewery: How has your study of other languages affected different areas of your life? (Career, personal, travel, personality, etc.)

Learning languages has of course made travel a lot easier, which is great! It’s also helped me create a business completely founded on my love for languages and desire to help others learn them. It’s honestly something I can’t imagine life without.

WordBrewery: If you could master one language or reach an intermediate level in two languages, which would you prefer or recommend? Do you derive more pleasure and educational value from becoming acquainted with an entirely new language or from doing advanced work in one of your best languages?

This is an interesting one. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer as it depends on so many personal variables. Personally, I find myself being drawn to lots of languages, so accepting that I’d have to curb that enthusiasm if I was to focus on one language to mastery is tough, and I imagine I’d get a little distracted eventually or burn out without input from other languages too. But that’s not to say it’s the best way! I love scratching the surface of a people, place and culture via language, but I also love being able to go deeper with my stronger ones and to keep learning new things in those languages.

WordBrewery: What learning methods, habits, and tools do you use regularly? Do you use the same strategy for every language?

Memrise is always the first thing that comes to mind here! It’s the tool I’m most likely to use every day. Beyond that it does vary for different languages, although there are some common themes such as music, which plays a crucial part in giving me something to enjoy and fall in love with about the languages I’m learning.

I also think it’s important to study regularly, and to define what regularly means for you - does it mean every day for a full study session? Or does it mean once a week? This is something for you to decide, but I do believe that little and often is better than one long study session every couple of weeks.

WordBrewery: What are your favorite tips for successfully studying a language on your own, without the structure of a traditional classroom?

Learning a language on your own can be incredibly rewarding, but so many people fizzle out. There’s a few reasons for this but to keep things short, we’ll focus on what can be done to avoid this.

Firstly, goals are incredibly important, as is holding yourself accountable with your learning. Whether or not you choose to go public with this - either with close friends and family or out there on the internet for all to see - is a personal choice that you have to make as only you will know what works for you best. When it comes to the specifics of goals, it’s necessary to have smaller goals that will help you reach that bigger end goal. That way, you’re constantly achieving and feeling good about the process rather than down that you haven’t yet reached your big end goal.

Secondly, it’s crucial that language learning becomes a habit. How regular that habit is is up to you, but it makes things easier once you are bringing language learning into your life a little each day and it becomes as normal as brushing your teeth.

Finally, find something you love. It could be music, it could be the food, it could be a particular grammar construction. Whatever it is that draws you in and closer to the language, this will be a very important thing when motivation gets low.

WordBrewery: Can you discuss which learning media and methods you have used, and what have been the pros and cons of each?

I’m a huge fan of using social media for language learning. It’s a great way to use all of the language skills you need to develop as you improve in a language. For example, you can follow accounts that share interesting content in your target language and fill your feed with language learning rather than cat videos and random posts from people you knew once 10 years ago.

Beyond that, it’s really simple to get creative and document your language learning via speaking in short video posts or posting photos of your writing practice notebooks. This is a valuable part of language learning allowing you to share, which holds you accountable, as well as document the process, which is great to look back on for days when you feel like you’re not progressing.

That said, of course, social media isn’t the only tool I use for language learning and I’m a huge fan of mixing resources you use to create a solid foundation of methods, tools and techniques that work best for you.

WordBrewery: Thank you, Lindsay, for taking the time to talk with us!

We encourage WordBrewery learners and The WordBrewery Blog readers to check out Lindsay Does Languages, follow Lindsay on Twitter and Facebook, and take advantage of the excellent and motivational materials she produces for language learners, teachers, and everyone who loves languages.