Today I am proud to feature an interview with one of my first followers of this blog. Artem is from Novosibirsk, Russia and runs the blog Yaziky.com. I have followed his learning process closely and I have been amazed by how far he has gone. I am quite confident he is doing a great work with a learning process he has adapted to his lifestyle and situation.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself? What is your main occupation?
My name is Artem and I am a language enthusiast from Russia.
I am a student of International Relations and European Studies. I really love it. But this wasn’t my first choice. I had to make some efforts to find out what to do in my life. In a way, language learning helped me find my purpose.
Apart from my university studies, I love learning languages, practicing sports and getting to know people from all over the world. That’s why I worked in a local hostel.
My main job, for now, is my language learning blog (yaziky.com).
The languages I speak now are Russian (native language), English, Italian, French, and Spanish. I am also learning German and Portuguese.
How did you become involved with languages? Did anyone motivate you?
I was born and raised in an absolutely monolingual environment. Here in Russia, it’s not easy to encounter anyone who speaks English well, let alone multiple languages. So I never actually thought that someday I would be able to speak multiple languages. But I clearly remember the moment when my language learning journey began.
I was 19, the only foreign language I was able to speak was English. Back then, I went abroad for the first time. I have visited some European countries such as Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It was an amazing experience. I was impressed by everything I saw.
I realized how cool discovering new cultures is. And what had the most impact on me was the Italian culture. I totally fell in love with it and when I returned home, without any hesitation I started to learn Italian.
This trip motivated me a lot, but it wasn’t the only motivator, so to speak. The other one was a very famous youtube polyglot who showed though his own example that speaking multiple languages is not only possible but could lead to an amazing lifestyle.
I am talking about Luca Lampariello. His native language is Italian, so I used his videos and articles to learn that beautiful language. It was very useful because I was not only learning Italian, but also fundamental language learning principles that I apply now.
That’s how I was deeply involved in an amazing lifestyle full of cultural discoveries and constant engagement with people from all over the world.
Have your family, loved ones and friends been supportive with your language interests?
To be honest, nobody in my circle has ever shared my language interests. I mean, of course, all of them were supportive and very happy that I have such a great passion for languages. But I really was the only language enthusiast around.
However, thanks to the Internet and numerous language learning communities, I’ve always been in contact with people who are also into languages. So I’ve never felt alone in that sense.
Have you ever faced a hard moment while learning languages? How did you overcome it?
When I was learning Romance languages, I never had any difficulties, lack of motivation or anything like that. I’ve never given up on my language learning before. I thought it would always will be like that. How naive I was…haha.
One day, I decided to learn German. And here my biggest language learning challenge began. I knew that it was going to be harder than all the other languages I’ve been learning before, but I wasn’t ready for German. I was so relaxed after learning 3 Romance languages in a row, that I forgot that to learn a language one should actually make some efforts.
The first difficulty with learning German was that I had no basic vocabulary in common with other languages at the start, which is not the case when learning multiple Romance languages.
The second difficulty was German grammar, which also has nothing to do with both my native Russian or any of the languages I had learned before.
Third, I had a lack of motivation caused by the fact that I couldn’t understand and speak the language for a long time.
And lastly, I just didn’t know how to approach such a complex language.
That’s why after a couple of months of learning German I quit, for the first time. I switched to Portuguese which turned out to be the easiest language I’ve ever learned so far. Fortunately, after a couple of weeks of my break, I began to learn German again.
Although I can’t say that I’ve overcome it, the fact that I try to do something to learn German on a daily basis convinces me that one day I’ll finally reach the level I’m aiming for.
What languages are you currently interested in right now? How do you practice them? What are your methods or “secrets” for that language?
As I mentioned earlier, the languages I am interested in right now are German and Portuguese. And, of course, the way I approach them is not the same.
Portuguese is the 4th Romance language I’ve been learning. So it is very easy and I don’t really learn it, in the sense we used to call it, I’d rather say I use it.
Mainly, what I do to learn Portuguese is, first of all, listening to podcasts every day. I’ve found an amazing show called «Café Brasil». Second, is speaking with native speakers at least once a week.
Less frequently, I write in Portuguese on italki.com and I read some article on the web. I call this approach to language learning natural and I am happy that it gets more popular with language learners. It’s a lot of fun and stress-free. But it works when you already have the basic knowledge.
As for German, I use a completely different method. Listening to podcasts and waiting till I start to understand everything doesn’t work here. Speaking with natives neither. Focusing on Grammar will only make matters worse. So what I do is translating. It worked out with French and it’s going to work with German as well.
So I’ve got a book with authentic texts for beginners and intermediate students. It has both translations and audio files recorded by native speakers.
I try to first figure out what the word means from the context, then I look it up on Google translate. Then, I read it sentence by sentence listening to the recording and trying to imitate the pronunciation and intonation.
That’s going to build the vocabulary I’ll need to understand native speech. It will help to work on my pronunciation and also to learn grammar in a passive way.
What counts most when it comes to language learning is not so much the method you use, as the attitude. If you like the learning process and you practice it every day, you’ll certainly end up speaking that language.
From my experience, to reach basic fluency, meaning that you are comfortable with communicating on non-specialized topics, it takes about 6-10 months, depending on how far the target language is from your native one.
My «secret» to learning languages is first being in contact with the language in any possible way you can. Second, attack the language from different sides (listening, reading, speaking, writing). Third, don’t skip your language learning two days in a row.
Be consistent, patient, and creative. Then, you’ll become a successful language learner.
Are you interested in a certain language that you know, more or less, you will not be able to learn it properly?
I was recently thinking about the languages I would like to learn in the future. I counted about 13 languages, among them are the most difficult ones like Chinese and Arabic.
Of course, I don’t pretend to learn all of these languages up to a native-like level, it would be impossible. I am ok with making mistakes. It’s normal and I am not aiming for perfection, I am aiming for the amazing experience I get from the communication with native speakers in their own language.
The difficulty of the language, lack of materials or any other obstacle shouldn’t deprive us of the cool experience we get from learning a new language.
Can you tell me a short, positive anecdote about your language learning history?
When I was learning Spanish, I used to hang out with Colombians a lot. We spoke entirely in Spanish, no Russian, though they spoke some of it.
One day, they took me to a salsa class full of guys from Latin America. I talked to one of them. I wanted to ask him if he was from Colombia as my friends were. But instead of saying «¿Eres de Colombia?» (Are you from Colombia?) I said «Soy de Colombia» (I am from Colombia). We had a chat for a couple of minutes and then my Russian friend came to me. Of course, I responded to him in Russian.
The guy I was talking to before said to me «¡Vaya! ¡Hablas ruso sin acento!» (Wow! You speak Russian without any accent!). And I realized that I have just come across as a «Colombiano». I explained to him that I made a mistake and we laughed. It was such an unusual and fun experience. I’ll never forget that moment!