047: How To Teach Foreign Languages (Benny Lewis)

Benny Lewis

Have you ever been afraid to make mistakes? Have you ever wanted to learn a language but thought you didn’t have the time or resources to do it? If you answered yes to either of these questions, our guest today is a man you’ll want to listen to, Mr. Benny Lewis.

Benny is a language expert and successful entrepreneur. His popular website, Fluent in 3 Months, gets 750,000 unique visitors each month and is the largest language learning lab in the world.

In this episode, Benny shares his personal journey with us and how his perseverance, hard work and being okay with making mistakes led him to where he is today. Join us as we talk about all of this and more on the 47th edition of How’d You Get Into That?.

MORE ABOUT THIS SHOW

Benny speaks 11 languages in varying degrees of fluency, but he wasn’t always a polyglot. Growing up in Ireland, two hours northwest of Dublin, he took the traditional college route and went to school to become an engineer. Being averse to risk, Benny figured he’d take the university path and get his masters and then a Ph.D.

His studies were extremely intense, and he had little social life. If he was going to compete for an engineering job, he wanted to be at the top of his undergrad class. When that didn’t happen, Benny found himself questioning what it was all for.

Benny needed a change in perspective, so he moved to Spain to work in an internship and figure things out. While he was there, he thought he could easily pick up Spanish. Turns out it wasn’t so easy after all! After six months he hadn’t learned a thing. This reinforced his belief that maybe he just wasn’t cut out to learn languages or didn’t have the genetic make-up. He tried several different ways to learn Spanish – group classes, studying the dictionary and other things. They all failed.

He had no scientific proof that he didn’t have the “language gene” but he did have serious doubts about his ability to learn a language. That’s when Benny noticed that some English-speaking people who had moved to Spain were able to pick up the language relatively quickly. Benny asked them, “What’s your secret?” There is no secret, they all said. They were speaking the language, and he was not.

THE FINER DETAILS OF THIS SHOW:

  • Why taking immediate action is key.
  • How to be ok with making mistakes in any area of life.
  • A simple trick anyone can use to create a unique niche.
  • Can you learn a language by immersion without traveling?
  • Benny’s web site is one of the 10 travel sites online: true or false?
  • And so much more!

The one realization shifted everything for him: he simply had to continue to speak the language, push through the fear and be okay with making mistakes. And when he did, he finally learned Spanish! After one year in Spain, he didn’t want to go back to Ireland and be an engineer, so he decided to go to Italy and see if he could learn Italian (which he did). Then he kept going: to France, Germany, Brazil, Thailand, China and several other places, and he learned the language of every country he visited.

Along the way Benny decided he wanted to become a conference interpreter. He invested the next 4-5 years in studying and learning languages so he could pass the necessary exams. As fate would have it, as soon as he was ready, the rules were changed and he was no longer allowed to apply to take the exams. Initially he was devastated, but it became a blessing in disguise when new opportunities opened up for him.

That’s when he came up with the idea to become a freelance translator. Benny combined his new skill as a Spanish speaker with what he had learned in engineering and started translating engineering documents, a brand new niche! Benny charged whatever he wanted because no one else was doing this type of work. This is what gave him the freedom to start blogging and consider other income possibilities.

Then he started his now-wildly popular blog, Fluent in 3 Months. He was really interested in travel, and could have made it a travel blog. But at that time travel blogs were everywhere, and it would have been very difficult to break into an already crowded space. So he combined two areas of interest to find a new niche: languages with travel. His blog took off.

As the blog grew, people started asking him what his method was to learn languages. He realized there was no series of posts on his blog about how his process. So he wrote his first eBook on learning a language. Benny took six weeks off from his translation work and wrote the book. He just asked his readers what they wanted and he put it in the book. The demand was so high that he was able to stop his translation work and write full-time for a living, and he hasn’t looked back since!

Please join me in thanking Benny for sharing his knowledge and insights with us today on the 47th episode of the show; he was a fun, informative and ultra-interesting guest. Thanks for being here and we’ll see you next time!

Tweetable: “There are 7 days in a week and someday isn’t one of them.” Benny Lewis

EPISODE RESOURCES


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