Interview with polyglot Julio César: Romance languages and self-learning

Photo of Julio César Aragón

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!

By Lingholic

16 thoughts on “Interview with polyglot Julio César: Romance languages and self-learning”

  1. Nicolás López Zerpa

    That was a great interview. Regarding avoiding mixing up languages, I do something quite similar, I focus on the things that make the language (and its speakers) unique.

    And, personally, I’m very glad to find a great polyglot who is also a fellow Latin American 😀

    1. Thanks for the comment, Nicolas! Yes, I think it’s definitely a good idea to focus on the things that make a particular language unique.

      Thanks for your input!

  2. Julio César Aragón

    It was very nice to have this interview with you, my friend!! 🙂 Hopefully next time we do it in Spanish. I’m sure it will be so much fun!! Thanks for having, once again!! Nice job and nice interview as well. My best regards and we keep in touch. 🙂

  3. Sam, I think you should consider interviewing Rafael Lanzetti, a Brazilian polyglot. He has a channel on Youtube and it’d be easy to contact him by that.

    Um abraço,

    Luiz Lucena

  4. I think it’s a good point to make sure to have a strong interest to specificities of culture of the languages we wish to approach. And after one have checked his own compatibility with everyday behaviour of citizens of other nationalities can start to imagin himself of being part of a culture and converse and convey messages trough “visualizing yourself really being part of those”.

    By the way, yesterday I ran into this free ebook 😀

    1. I totally agree, Red. Having an interest in the culture of the people who speak the language you’re studying is crucial to successfully learning it. Thanks for the link too, although I’ve already read Lomb’s book. Very interesting!

    1. Julio César Aragón

      Hi Dorothea!! 🙂 It’s me! It’s Julio responding to you. The languages I speak &/or have studied (not all are fluent, in different levels) are Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and I have basic knowledge of Swedish and of Russian two (I’m studying actively now). I’m glad you liked the interview!! 😉

      1. Really nice! Spanish, French and Portuguese are some of the most beautiful languages I know, so far. As for Italian and Russian…. still hope to explore these in the near future. 🙂 All the best with your future language journeys!

  5. Very nice interview! I also love the languages, I speak / I’ve studied spanish, english, german, french and right now I’m studying italian. I have a little question for you: which is the most “difficult” language that you have studied and why? Greetings from Monterrey, Mexico!

    1. Wow that’s very impressive, noyovalo. Are you finding it progressively easier to learn languages as you learn additional ones?

      On my side of things, I would say that the most difficult language I’ve studied is Korean. There are many reasons for this, but one of the major reasons is because of the grammatical complexity of the language, and the order of words which is the total opposite of most European languages. Korean also has about 4-5 different levels of speech (depending on the formality of the situation, whom you are speaking to, etc.)

      But it’s a wonderfully beautiful and interesting language, and I would recommend anyone to learn it!

      Thanks for your comment 🙂

      1. Well, right now is very helpful, I’m studying italian and I’ve found some similar things with spanish and french and that’s very helpfull; the first language I learned was english, is the most common at schools, after that, I studied german, is similar to english and that’s why I didn’t have many trouble; after german, I studied french and I mixed the words and I pronounced french with german accent… it was a nightmare, but I kept practice and I didn’t have that issue anymore, hehe. Korean sounds interesting language, it could be my sixth language =) thanks for answer!

  6. Thanks for the kind words, Graciane!

    It’s awesome that you want to become a polyglot. Which language(s) are you learning these days? Let me know if you have any questions!

  7. Julio César Aragón

    I’m glad you enjoyed it, Graciane! 🙂 It’s me, it’s Julio responding to you. It also makes me happy to find people with the same passions and interests as I do because I used to think that I was the only crazy guy on earth by loving languages but when I found out about this Polyglot Community, I totally feel as if I’d made a new family. So, yeah! Here we are to serve the people as we Mexicans say. And yes, read Sam’s other articles! They are worth Reading! Cheers!! 😉

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