How to Learn a Foreign Language From Scratch, Part 1/2

Interview with Luca Part 1

[interview video below]

Beginning the study of a foreign language from scratch, with virtually no prior knowledge of that language, and the culture and history of the people who speak it, can be a daunting task. Getting off the right foot, however, ends up predicting with striking accuracy whether somebody will be successful or not at learning a language. It’s not for any reason that proverbs underlining the importance of a good beginning abound. You surely must have heard once, for example, the Chinese proverb that says that “A good beginning is half the journey.”

The truth is that the rate of failure of traditional classroom-based language training, and the rate of self-taught learners who give up in the early stages of their language studies, is astronomical. Just to give an example, a 2012 European Union Working Document has data showing that the share of students in school reaching the level of “independent user” in their first foreign language is 9% in England and 14% in France. That’s roughly the success rate of Americans and other native English speakers, which means that over 85% of people fail to become proficient in a foreign language in those places.

The central question is then: how can you, a current or aspiring language learner, get off the right foot, and ultimately achieve a higher rate of success? To answer this question, I have conducted an interview with Luca Lampariello, an Italian polyglot well-known for his amazing skills in over 12 languages, asking him exactly those questions. Luca was kind enough to share his wisdom with the rest of us and answer my questions at length. I hope you’ll enjoy the first part of this interview, and let us know in the comments section your questions and feedback.

The questions I asked Luca in Part 1 of our interview:

  1. We often hear that everybody learns differently. How can you determine your learning style and leverage this knowledge to your advantage when learning languages? Do you think that some people who say they are not “talented” in languages might simply not know themselves as learners?
  2. Learning and memorizing new words and sentences naturally plays a huge part in foreign language acquisition. How does our memory work and how can we develop it and make best use of it when learning a language?

To read and listen to PART 2 of this interview, click here.