This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Julio César Aragón, a polyglot and good friend from Mexico who is a fellow passionate language learner with amazing skills in over 8 languages.
Two questions often arise from people undertaking the study of foreign languages: the first one deals with the issue of mixing up languages when you learn more than one. It can be especially confusing when the languages you learn have many similarities, such as is the case with Romance languages (i.e. Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, etc.). So how can you make sure you keep them in separate mental boxes?
The second question I often get asked is how to go about learning a language on one’s own. The fact that many people can learn foreign languages entirely on their own, without ever taking a language class, is something curiously beyond the imagination of a lot of people. However, it’s not as hard or complicated as it sounds, and Julio serves as one example out of many of someone who managed to do exactly that, multiple times over.
Julio was kind enough to answer both of these questions and more, and I hope you will find his advice useful for your own studies. You can now skip directly to the video interview just below, but I’ve written a short summary of Julio’s answers to those 2 questions in case you’re short on time. Enjoy!
1. The first question I ask Julio is about how he manages not to mix up his languages.
In response to this question, Julio says that he sees languages as each having their own distinct personalities. He even made a video about it recently (in Italian), well worth the watch. This is a really good way to think about languages, and “personalizing” the languages you learn might be a good strategy to pursue.
Julio also pays particular attention to how the languages are pronounced, their intonation, as well as the culture associated with them (including things such as body language, gestures, music, festivals, etc.). Julio also mentions the importance of getting used to how a particular language sounds by listening to recordings, even before you actually start studying the language in question.
2. The second question I ask Julio concerns his self-study of languages (apart from French and German, which he studied partly through formal classes). In other words, how does he do it?
Julio says that social media websites and the internet, more generally, have made it considerably easier to learn languages on one’s own (last week’s post on the blog actually deals with exactly that). He also mentions his use of language books—such as Assimil, Teach Yourself, or Berlitz— that contain lots of dialogues and translations, which are fantastic tools for self-studying a language. And while grammar is important, he says, do no start learning it straight away. First, it’s important to look for dialogues and to try visualizing yourself really being part of those. Once you’ll have gone through some dialogues and you’ll have slowly gotten used to the new language, you can then start dealing with basic grammar. But as with everything, moderation is the key.
Finally, Julio mentions the importance of making the language part of your life. Just as a boy learning how to play soccer would go out in the streets to play with his buddies, language learning shouldn’t be confined to your bedroom or classroom. Go out and have fun with it!
Did you enjoy this interview? What do you think of Julio’s advice? What advice would you yourself give to others regarding the two questions raised in this post? Share your thoughts with us!