The Mezzofanti Guild Language Learning Made Simple

G'day! I'm Donovan.

Donovan Nagel

Nice to meet you!

Hi! I’m Donovan and I want to welcome you to my site The Mezzofanti Guild.

In case you’re new here and weren’t sure, this site is all about language learning. More specifically, it’s about proven strategies to learn languages better and faster.

I’ve been here now for about 5 years and have helped millions of people worldwide achieve their goal of learning another language.

I want us to get to know each other so I’m going to share with you a little about who I am and I hope you’ll introduce yourself in the comment section below too.

I love getting to know my readers and visitors!

I’m from Australia and I’ve been travelling the world now for over 14 years, learning many different languages at home and abroad using a variety of approaches and tools.

I know what works and what doesn’t because I’ve been the guinea pig for just about every method and learning style you can think of in just about every situation you can imagine.

I hope and believe that what I’ve learned will help you achieve your language goals.

 

My story with languages…

I was only able to speak one language up until my early twenties: English.

Like most people though, I had to study a language in school (5 years of Mandarin Chinese).

I say “had to” because it was one of those things that I had no interest in as a kid and I resented my parents for making me do it!

I wish I could say that it turned me into a bilingual English/Chinese speaker but even though it gave me a solid foundation in Chinese and my first ever exposure to foreign language study, I had nothing to show for it at the end.

Five wasted years of language study (or so I thought!).

After school, I went to college and did my undergraduate degree in Theology. It was here that I realized for the first time just how fun and exciting languages actually are.

I opted to do a few years of Greek and Hebrew.

As I grappled with new grammatical terms and worked out my own learning strategies (learning through failure after failure), these languages really came alive to me.

During this time, I was also introduced to Arabic (MSA, then Levantine, Iraqi and finally Egyptian), and by getting plugged into the local Arab community back home it became the first language after English that I became truly fluent in.

Me when I was 18 doing my first language immersion in a small village called El-Fashn in Egypt.
Playing with cobras in Aswan, Egypt recently. 🙂

I’ve stuck with Arabic ever since and have lived in the Middle East many times over the years.

Throughout my twenties, I studied French, Italian, a little Spanish, Georgian (the country), some Turkish, Irish (Gaeilge), Korean and Russian.

With the exception of Spanish, I’ve travelled to and done language immersion in all of those places, documenting much of it here on this site.

A few years ago, I finished my Masters in Applied Linguistics where I was able to spend time researching how people learn their first and second languages. This really solidified a lot of what I had already learned through experience but it also opened my eyes to so much more.

Language immersion in South Korea.
Irish Gaeltacht immersion in Donegal, Ireland.

Some of my language missions have caught the attention of the media too including BBC News (here and here).

My goal is to attempt to learn a new language every year.

 

What I do when I’m not learning languages or travelling

First of all (most importantly), I’m a happily married guy and I spend every spare moment I get with my wife:

On our recent revisit to South Korea (I took her back to where we met for Valentine’s Day).

We met during my language immersion in South Korea on a beach in Busan, went our separate ways and then reconnected again in the Middle East (!). We got married a year ago and we’re currently based in California for a little while.

For me, doing language learning together is a new and exciting challenge.

I’ve always been a solo traveller which has had some enormous benefits in terms of being totally flexible with my availability (I also previously became fluent in two languages by dating women (1, 2) who couldn’t speak English!).

But I’m finding now that marriage is opening a whole lot of new doors for us – especially in places like the Middle East where families and married couples are able to befriend and socialize in ways that singles can’t.

I’m also an entrepreneur of sorts and run various web projects which is how I make a living (some related to languages and some not).

A big part of this is helping people understand how to excel at branding, blogging and social media (UPDATE: I now do private consultancy. If you’d like one-on-one help starting a successful language (or other) blog, contact me here).

Here are just a few random facts about me:

  • My faith in Christ is my reason for being.
  • I’m a health and fitness fanatic. I spend 6 days a week training at the gym and I’m always looking for new ways to improve myself physically.
  • My ultimate downtime activity is fishing. Nothing relaxes me more than to turn off technology and park my butt beside a body of water with a fishing rod.
  • Favourite food: Indian curry.
  • Favourite desserts: Sherry trifle and rhubarb pie.
  • Favourite book: Credo by Melvyn Bragg (an historical romance fiction set in Ireland/Scotland during the Dark Ages – one book I can’t put down).
  • Favourite city in the world: Cork, Ireland (most of my family originates from here too :)).
  • Least liked city in the world: Paris, France (sorry Parisians!).
  • Most desired travel location: Samiland (northern Scandinavia).
  • Some languages I’d like to learn soon: an Australian or American aboriginal language, Maori, Assyrian and Lithuanian.
  • I now run a tech YouTube channel and blog totally unrelated to language learning that has also become quite popular.

 

So what’s your story?

Now you’ve gotten to know me a little better.

I’d like to know you better!

What’s your story?

Did you come here because you’re learning a language?

Do you already speak a foreign language?

 

Post YOUR story below. I’d love to know more about you!

 

Comments

House Rules: I love comments and feedback (positive and negative) but I have my limits. You're in my home here so act accordingly. No advertising. Links will be automatically flagged for moderation.

Got something to share?

  1. Dear Donovan,

    I totally love that the first random fact about you is your faith in Christ. I recently left a well-paid corporate job to figure out what I wanted to be when I grow up. There is no job lined up and I have no idea what the future holds for me. It is my faith in Christ that keeps me steady to know that everything will turn out ok. Through him, I’m finding my life’s purpose, which always comes back to writing. It’s what I’ve known since I was twelve years old. However, along the way, I let myself be defined by other people’s standards. No worries though; I’m back on track! Your blog is truly an inspiration to what I can achieve.

    It was only by chance I came across your site after I saw your job posting for a blogging position. What a dream job – traveling and writing! While my husband and I have not had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in another culture, we really want to experience more international travel. We recently returned from 10 days in Nicaragua and we are dreaming of returning and opening up a business there. My husband was previously a missionary in Northern Ireland and he really wants the opportunity to serve internationally again.

    So, your site will serve two purposes for me – a resource for learning Spanish and an inspiration for my own dream of writing. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll be writing about my experience navigating the business world of a foreign country soon.

    All the best,
    Mindy

    1. Hey Mindy!

      It’s great to hear from you. Thanks so much for your kind words.

      Wow. I’ve met quite a few people here in the US who have said great things about Nicaragua. I really hope it all works out for you and your family. Good on you for taking the step to leave your corporate job and pursue your calling.

      If you ever need any help with anything as far as blogging goes, feel free to shoot me an email.

    2. I have no reply, only a question and I am undoubtedly presuming, (although I have a relevant comment after reading the above comments –I too am a language-liker and learner, and a retired Latin teacher, and have for many years been especially fascinated by the the Assimil approach, versus “grammar-drill”). But to my question: Is there any publisher interested in an English edition of “Le Latin sans peine.” Thanks for any info forthcoming. Tom Montgomery

  2. Hi Donovan,

    Recently, I discovered your site when googling for Syrian/ Levantine Arabic resources. I am currently studying MSA and Syrian Colloquial (the latter through ITalki) I love your passion for the Arabic language and all of its variaties. Unfortunately, in my country people wanting to learn Arabic don’t always get positive feedback. Keep up the great work! My native language is Dutch.

    1. Great to hear from you, Anne.

      All the best with your Arabic! 🙂

  3. Hi Donovan,
    I totally agree with Mindy above: wonderful that your first fact is your faith in Christ! I suspected as much as I read down the blog post – just the way you put things 🙂 We have been Christians for many years (hubby and myself) and find ourselves at a crossroads facing the “what next” phase of life after retirement and near-retirement. We want to serve the Lord somewhere, and sense a great need to move from where we have been the past 20 years. After a really devastating year emotionally, we are taking a trip to Latin America, where I once aspired to be a missionary. We would love to consider the possibility of me working with autistic children (English or Spanish speaking) somewhere in Latin America, and so I am renewing my goal to really learn this language, and try out my skill in a few weeks from now – I have forgotten just about everything I ever learned (which wasn’t a lot in the first place) and am going to really try to get a lot of Spanish under my belt over the next few weeks. We are hoping and praying that perhaps, after all these years of wandering in the desert, that the time has come to leave Midian and set out under God’s call – we don’t want to waste our lives, or our retirement, as a certain pastor says. Thanks so much for the site – I look forward to exploring it further.

    1. Hi Lorraine,

      Thanks very much and sorry to hear you’ve had a tough year. I hope everything changes for you for the better and your trip gives you new clarity. Is there a particular place in Latin America that’s on your heart?

      Do keep me updated!

    2. Hi, Donovan,

      I enjoy your reviews and share your passion for languages! Outstanding, concise, frank…. In your opinion, which method(ie rosetta,pimsleur etc) is best overall? I speak german and some polish, but I intend to tackle either 1.) russian 2)persian 3.)arabic next. Your input would be extremely beneficial.
      ta
      t

  4. Hi Donovan,

    While completing/procrastinating on my uni assignment, I looked for ‘best way to learn arabic’ and your site came up – thanks algorithm boffins at google! But more importantly, thank you, Donovan, for this website and sharing your story. It’s been so helpful and informative, and I can’t wait to read through it all. By learning and bringing attention to minority languages (amongst many others) you’re also helping to preserve significant parts of human culture; this can only be a good thing! It’s also interesting that you were monolingual till age 20 or so, that gives a lot of hope to adults learning new languages. So thanks for that too 🙂

    What brought me here was a number of reasons: advice for the times when my children sometimes struggle switching languages when they come home from school (between English and Hungarian). I’m also trying to reestablish the Italian they once knew from our time living there.
    My wonderful partner (who’s learnt French and German) would like to learn Hungarian and as a native speaker I’m concerned my help may be more hindrance so I’m looking for a better method with this difficult language (from what I’ve been told).

    Lastly, I’m doing research on herbal medicines and many times I find Iran has the best science and medical evidence. I’d like to learn Arabic to travel there and conduct research myself, but I don’t know where to start with Arabic or which one is suitable for that area (Iran, Syria and Afghanistan for travel in better times when the people have peace and stability).
    I’m hoping there might be a starting point which opens the door to that area of the world. I notice you mention Georgia which would be great! though again a completely new and unique language. I wonder if learning Georgian was easier for you as you knew Russian?

    Though the big question I’d like to ask you is: what do you think is the single most important factor in learning a language? is it openness, confidence, determination, a willingness to make mistakes, daily practise, ‘an ear for languages’, being very intelligent, or something else?

    Thank you for your time and best of luck with your amazing travels and work abroad 🙂
    From a fellow Aussie and global citizen

    1. Hey Ildiko!

      Thanks for your awesome comment.

      To answer your last question first:

      Single most important factor when learning a language is in my opinion willingness to assimilate. In other words, not just saying ‘I want to learn Hungarian’ but rather ‘I want to become Hungarian’. I believe this mindset changes the way you approach the language and the people, and is a much more holisitic way to approach it (plus I believe it demonstrates respect toward the target language people and culture).

      In my experience, people with an ‘assimilation attitude’ are exponentially better at learning languages than those without.

      I didn’t know Russian when I studied Georgian. I learned it afterwards. It may have helped for sure with some words but overall they’re totally different.

      Also Arabic won’t help you in Iran really. They speak Farsi. There are lots of borrowed expressions but if Iran/Afghanistan is where your heart is, learn Farsi first.

      All the best. 🙂

    2. Donovan, I understand your view and why you take that view, but I disagree. The most important factor when learning a language is motivation. If you are motivated, you will learn. Motivation will provide the persistence and persistence will find a way.

      Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

  5. Hi! College student with the idealistic view of wanting to change the world, to make it a little better. International relations is my major, but I am specializing in Non-profit organization. Planning on doing a study abroad within the next year, preferably working with Syrian Refugees. I’m always up for trying something new, and my main goal is to learn as much as I can so I am able help as many people as I can.

    1. Great to hear from you, CJ!

      Absolutely do the study abroad thing if you can. Spend some time with the Syrian people and it’ll change your life.

      Take care.

    2. If you are not motivated, you wouldn’t have read this far. If you _are_ motivated, then it makes sense to look for the most effective (other) factors for acquiring the language.

  6. Your recommendation for the Arabic grammar was very good. Now I’ve looked at a lot of grammar but this filled all the holes those left so I don’t know if it would have been as good without the prior work. Also I think they use a little s shaped diacritic for the double damma which took a little figuring out since its different elsewhere. I’m going to follow your other recommendations. I’m using Pimsleur for verbal which is pretty good as far as it goes

  7. Hello!
    I, like you, wish that I learned a language when I was younger. Because of my family’s Spanish heritage, my mother wanted to teach me Spanish as a young child, but as little kids do, I refused. Then, when I was about nine or ten years old, I noticed that all my friends and their families spoke Spanish and suddenly I felt left out. I learned to speak a very rough Spanglish which was very helpful, but I didn’t feel like I spoke Spanish. Then, I seriously started to learn the language when I was about 13 and fell in love. I was conversationally fluent a few years later.
    Speaking two languages opened up a new world for me, so when I started university, I decided I wanted to learn Arabic. I grew up in Minneapolis, USA which had a large Somalian population. Because Arabic was one of Somalia’s national languages and a very useful language as well, I thought why not. Columbia University has a very rigorous Arabic program and I was overwhelmed on the first day, but after using some of the resources on this site. Arabic became my favorite class. I decided to take two extra classes on the weekends with an Arabic tutoring program called NaTakallam, and I became a Middle Eastern Studies major.
    My recommendation to anyone who wants to learn a language is that you should go big or go home! I spend three hours on Arabic every day, and I have made great strides in MSA and Levantine. Because I started learning Arabic at such a fast pace, I actually felt like the work I was doing was making a difference.
    Thank you for this site and your reviews and recommendations! They have served me well, and I am now on my way to becoming trilingual because of this site!

  8. Donovan,

    I thoroughly enjoy your guide of resources for books on the Irish (Gaeilge) language. I want to learn the Ulster dialect but there’s not as many resources for it with audio. I have been currently using Buntús Cainte (books 1 & 2) even though it’s not in the Ulster dialect as well as a website called Easyirish.com (which is in the Ulster dialect) – that set up audio/pdf podcast lessons in a similar manner. I also like how they both have audio at a nice pace that I can comprehend. However, I wasn’t sure which resource/s to use next. Would you recommend to go with a Ulster dialect only book like ‘Irish on Your Own’ or ‘Enjoy Irish’? Or would it be better to go with a multi-dialect book like ‘Gaeilge gan Stró’ or ‘A Ghaeilge Bheo’ or other suggestions all together? I’ve also been listening to both traditional and non-traditional Gaeilge songs from TG Lurgan, TG4 and other individual artists, which helps too.

    1. Chelsea,

      My own experience is that picking a good Irish is more important that finding one for the dialect you want to learn. Beginners (and even more advanced learners) often exaggerate the differences. The truth is, mutual comprehension is no problem. I speak Munster Irish (Corca Dhuibhne) and I have a friend speaking Ulster Irish (Gaoth Dobhair) – it’s not a problem at all. I started out with Learning Irish; it’s in Connacht Irish and it is VERY dry indeed, but also very efficient. There’s no other course that will give you the same detail. What I did, after using it, was to go to the Gaeltacht, both for holidays and later for working a few summers during my studies, and the switch from Connacht to Munster was more or less automatic. I have Ulster speaking friends who started out with the same book and made a similar transfer to Ulster Irish when living up there.

      As you’ve already found, there are no real courses in Ulster Irish (most courses claiming to be are basically standard Irish with a small hint of Ulster Irish) so if I were you, I’d focus on picking the course you find the most helpful, regardless of dialect.

  9. Hi there! I don’t know what to say, but I’ll just write some about me 🙂
    My name is Jessica, I am from Indonesia and I’m 14. My first language is Indonesian of course, but I studied English at school and I can say I’m pretty good at it! I remember 8th grade was that miraculous time of my English’s growth.

    I remember that at the 4th grade I can’t even remember the formulas of tenses but suddenly I don’t have to remember them :/ I just remember example sentences, hehe.

    I love languages, and I am currently learning Japanese at school, and study a little of it myself through a game in Japanese and talking with a Japanese (who doesn’t know English so I had to ask him to not use kanji ;-;), and also I wanted to learn Vietnamese but lost motivation for it, and I also learn Norwegian! I’m happy I have 2 Norwegian friends and they love to help me too ^-^

  10. Hi Donovan,

    Absolutely love your site, language lover as I am, and very glad to have come across it. I enjoyed reading your reviews of many different language resources, and found it interesting that our experiences are very different. In stark contrast to your experiences, I’ve found a “heavy” grammar focus to be very helpful when learning new languages, and I also tend to find courses with lots of translation exercises far more efficient than other courses. I’m not claiming this as a general truth for all language learners, of course, but that’s the approach that has worked best for me. Today, I speak fluent English, Swedish, French and Italian (able to write and publish academic research in these languages), I’m conversational in German, Irish Gaelic, Finnish, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh (able to carry out normal conversations in these languages, though not at an academic level), and I get by in Russian, Croatian and Persian. It goes without saying that I didn’t reach fluency in any language just through grammar and translations – but they did help me to get to the stage where I could start speaking on a daily basis, albeit with mistakes and an initially limited vocabulary. So while I’m sure many learners have different experiences, I do believe there is at least something to be said for grammar and translating 🙂

  11. Hi Donovan,

    I just discovered your site, it’s so well put together and hopefully will be a great resource for me going forward. As a language lover and aspiring translator, I see myself at the start of journey similar to yours at 20 years old. However my path is leading me to the Romance languages; I’m trying to learn French, Spanish (both of which I speak fluently), Portuguese, Italian and Catalan all at the same time. I’m currently on the year abroad of my undergraduate degree doing a translation internship in Seville for six months, and in March I’ll move on to Paris for another six months. Though I would love to be a translator in the future as it’s something I’m very passionate about and I think I definitely have a gift for it, I’m also fascinated by linguistics. I hope I can combine the two passions in a similar way that you’ve done, and I definitely take inspiration from your story. Helping to raise awareness and conserve endangered and dying languages would be a rewarding and challenging endeavour, and hopefully something that would be possible in Western Europe given the myriad of Romance dialects, some of which are on the verge of disappearance.
    I also dream of bringing the wonders of Romance languages over to Australia and helping the Aussies love language just as much as I do. I was lucky enough to spend five months on a student exchange last year in Sydney and I totally fell head over heels in love with the place. I would love to return sooner rather than later and would hope my Eurocentric plans wouldn’t prevent me from spending some time there too.
    Just thought I’d say thanks for showing me that you can never be too ambitious when it comes to languages and linguistics. I really hope to make a difference somehow using my gift of language, but I don’t know how just yet!

  12. I already partly speak Hebrew and Yiddish, and I’m in the process of learning Russian. I do this as a hobby.

    1. Shalom Aleichem Wolf! I also speak Hebrew, I’m also trying to learn Yiddish and Russian, and I also learn languages as a hobby. I don’t want to put my info here for the world to know, but maybe Donovan can hook the two of us up – would you like that?

  13. Hello Donovan,
    I was doing some research on the web when I came across your webpage and read the information regards to your lifestyle and how you have achieved such a great living. I am from Australia Melbourne and I live in Turkey it has been a year and a half. My background is Turkish but I do speak English having been born in Australia. I speak fluent Turkish and have been trying to find something interesting that involves using both languages and I suggest becoming a translator\interpreter. I studied Italian in school since it was only language that was taught and I considered on learning more but never really got around to doing it since I’ve been improving my Turkish by speaking, writing and reading.
    I recall that you learnt a little bit of Turkish and there are different dialects that are involved within the language. Turkish language is a fun language to learn.

  14. Hi Donovan (Labas)

    It was so nice to find that one of the languages you’d like to learn soon is Lithuanian. I am Lithuanian native speaker. Lithuanian retains many archaic features found only in ancient languages. Anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to Lithuanians.
    I enjoy reading your site.

  15. As an Esperantist, your comments about the language interested me. Yes, Esperantists tend to be liberal or leftist, to be internationalists and not patriots, and hopelessly idealistic when it comes to peace. But they claim to be politically neutral, except for the SAT Esperanto organization. After I retired, I learned Esperanto as a hobby, and because of Esperanto I have travelled to China, Lithuania, Italy, France, Netherlands, and have met thousands of “brothers and sisters” without them feeling inferior because of my English superiority, or me feeling awkward or guilty because I didn’t master their language. I am fluent in Spanish, and feel a kinship with Hispanics, although I am always aware that I am not really a Mexican, a Puerto Rican, or a Spaniard. Besides, I don’t look like a typical hispano. With an Esperantist, that feeling of ethnicity, of not belonging disappears. I see a valued person, just as I am valued. As you do, I love languages. I speak American English, Spanish, German, Esperanto, and French in that order, and bits of other languages. I get the sense that your love of Arabic and mine of Esperanto are roughly equivalent. By the way, no Esperantist today sees the language as rivaling English as “the” universal language, but as a way of protecting minority language rights. (can linguistic justice ever exist?)

  16. I am a Norwegian, thus I understand and speak Norwegian fluently. I do understand Danish and Swedish as well, naturally. Furthermore, I have been learning English for the past 13 years in school, and French for 6 years. I hope to become fluent in English and French, and possibly learn Spanish, Arabic, Persian, Hindi or Urdu in the future 🙂

  17. Hi Donovan,
    please i have a dissertation and i’m lost in a subtitle which is caracteristics of speaking performance “fluency, accuracy: grammar, vocabulary, and pronounciation”. So, please can you explain it for me!

  18. Hello Donovan
    With your surname I’m guessing you have a South African or Dutch root somewhere?! I’m presently looking for an online/home tutor programme to learn Zulu – but there’s nothing in the “traditional” offerings (Babbel, Rosetta Stone, Rocket). Not even iTalki has any tutors! Can you give some guidance?

  19. Hello.I am married to a beautiful Egyptian husband.He speaks fluent English, I wish now to become fluent in Arabic,original and Egyptian dialect inshallah.

  20. Hi Donovan: I came across your site purely by accident. I have always been fascinated by Australia and the Australian language, which led me, very recently, to The Dr. Blake Mysteries on Netflix. I love to hear Craig McLachlan speak! After watching three episodes, I Googled for more information about the Cockney influence on Australian English – I have known about that for years – and there you were! I live in the beautiful state of Michigan, and am a first generation American; my parents immigrated from Hungary long ago, and although they spoke Hungarian with relatives, they did not teach the language to their children. I learned, in a linguistics class at the University of Michigan, that the Hungarian language is quite difficult to learn, and that it is not Slavic, but is related to Finnish, as you probably know. Netflix has lots of Australian movies and series, and I plan to watch them all. Your text about the three primary influences on Australian English was fascinating! I choose not to be on any social networks, but I will read your blogs. Like you, I love language, and would like to learn French someday. My daughter was a French minor at UM, so I know quite a few words in the French language. It’s interesting that you are drawn to Arabic – we have a fairly large Arab community in the area where I live. Thank you for one of the few interesting blogs around! See ya.

    1. It’s great to hear from you, Kathy!

      Glad my article on Australian English was insightful. I’ve always wanted to spend time living in Hungary and learning Hungarian too. Still a possibility! 🙂

      All the best.

    2. Hi Donovan: Thanks for responding. I have a question for you: why is the accent of Paul Hogan so different from that of Craig M. of “Dr. Blake Mysteries?” Both seem to say some of their vowels with a distinct Cockney influence, but Hogan’s is more pronounced. Then, again, Hugh Jackman’s is similar but not like Hogan’s. I read once that the Australian language is one of the few wherein speakers sound the same from coast to coast. Is this true? Thanks.

    3. Hi Kathy,

      As I talked about in my article on Australian English, the character in Dr. Blake Mysteries uses a ‘cultivated’ Australian accent (more of a Victorian upper class).

      Paul Hogan’s accent is ‘broad’, typical of the lower or working class in Australia.

      You’re right about our accent being the same from coast to coast but it does sound different depending on socio-economic class as these two examples demonstrate.

  21. Hi Donovan,

    I saw your website interesting when i was googling about learning a foreign language as a career but got in sync with the idea that goes in the process of having a flair for learning a new words gradually to knowing a second language after English which can come in handy in future although working in IT profession. Hope to become fluent in at least one foreign language.

  22. Hi Donovan,
    I’ve always loved languages. In Finland where I’m from you need to learn at least 2 in school. One would be Swedish, which is the other official language (or Finnish, if you are going to Swedish speaking school). For most the other one is English. Because I’m a bit of a language geek, I also studied French and Russian and a bit of Spanish. After high school I studied more of these in business school + a bit of German. And later Japanese also. I learned English really well when I was in US as an exchange student in high school. I also lived a year in Russia and at the time I could converse comfortably in Russian but now I have forgotten a lot and I’m out of practice. I can speak somewhat comfortably in French after living there 3 years (I was doing my PhD in English, which took a lot of energy from the language learning) and now I’m a postdoc in Germany and would like to learn more German. I actually understand quite a lot, German is very similar to Swedish after all, but I can’t really speak that much. The problem also being that my job requires quite a lot of learning and I don’t really have much energy for anything extra. After being thought languages in school, I find most language courses somewhat inefficient and frustrating. On the other hand, learning on your own can also be difficult, because you choose to do something else… Anyway, hoping to learn new hints on what to do from your site 🙂

  23. Good evening. I from Brazil and I had my first contact with your blog today. I’m 64 years old and I’m trying learn to speak English. I studied English when I was at school and I had to stop when I began the university. So, about 40 years after I decided study it again. I have several difficulties mainly in listening. I get read more or less. I hope that I can speak English fluently and to do this , I’m looking for listening more, read and write too.

  24. Hi Donovan!

    I’m a college student from the US, although I am currently completing an internship this summer in Cork, Ireland 🙂

    Next year I would love to complete an immersion experience to study Arabic, although after reading your article on learning a dialect rather than MSA first, I have to say I feel a bit overwhelmed at choosing where to study. While I would love to study the Egyptian dialect, my university only allows scholarships/grants to be used in countries not on the US Department of State’s travel warning list (https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html). Thus, I am contemplating studying in Rabat, Morocco (http://www.qalamcenter.com/). I hesitate only because 1) my Lebanese friend has warned me that the Moroccan dialect will not be understood much outside of Morocco, and 2) if I study only MSA in Morocco rather than a dialect, I will have a hard time communicating verbally with people both back home and when traveling.

    I’d greatly appreciate any thoughts you have on the matter! I am looking forward to exploring your website as well.

    Kind regards,

    1. Hey Jackie,

      I lived in Cork too. I miss it 🙂

      I talked about these issues with the Moroccan dialect here: https://www.mezzoguild.com/moroccan-arabic/

      Whatever you decide to do, it should be based on what you are interested in, not what other people or the government restrict you to. With Moroccan, you’ll find yourself quite limited in conversations in most other parts of the Arab world.

    2. Jackie,
      I spent a month in Rabat learning MSA, and it was definitely a helpful experience. Be warned that if you are white, then people will try to speak to you in French. However, on the whole, I was delighted with the adventure. I’ve heard that Amman is also a good place to go for a more central experience.

  25. Hey Donovan,

    I love your story and how amazing and romantic (? I don’t know if it was but to me it is) you just met your half ! I mean how incredible that you both connected through languages.

    Who am I ?

    I am Himeyuki (or Yuki for short). I was born in France. During my school time I learned English and now live in the United Kingdom. Beside learning English, at 15 years old I started to learn Japanese and became fluent. So now I am proud to talk fluently English, French and Japanese!
    I am also a singer in Visual kei (a special Japanese rock style).

    Why did I join this guild ?

    Well, I want to learn Korean and I sensed I could do it through the guild !

    Much love,
    Yuki

  26. Hi Donovan,

    I am really excited to find someone who has that passion towards language!

    I am Mai from Egypt. I graduated as a physician five years ago and had some post-graduates studies done too in the same field, but I always knew that I don’t fit inside a hospital!

    A year ago I decided to follow my instinct and go for language studies. I have always been a fast language learner and always thought I would be much happier in that field.

    Anyway, I learned a lot last year and keeping the same track, I have learned practical and comparative linguistics and currently having a freelance job of teaching Arabic for non-natives.

    I actually came here because I was googling for new methods for my students, but now I am here for myself 🙂

    I am currently studying Italian and Spanish, I have never been to a non-Arabic country but I might have a chance to be in Sweden next year so I should get prepared, but I still find the Swedish language intimidating.

    I think I would try to learn new languges as long as I am capable of learning 🙂

    It’s very nice to see your site, your picture with your wife is so nice and I wish you a happy life together.

    Thanks for all of your efforts Donovan, I really appreciate what you are doing.

    Mai

  27. Dear Donovan,
    This is a great site, clearly a labor of love. I myself am a former military linguist in Arabic, but I don’t use the language professionally anymore. As a hobby, I transcribe and translate Arabic videos from YouTube about economic/financial topics. I like the idea of turning my translations into a blog but I don’t know what the legal issues would be, since I have no right to the original content. What do you think?
    -Tim

  28. Hi. My name is Hiba, I’m from Morocco and I’m 17 yo. I actually speak three languages(arabic, french, english) so I’m trying to learn my forth one: Korean. The first reason why I wanna learn Korean is that I love Korea (culture, drama, pop…) so I’m trying to learn the language so I can communicate whith korean people while visiting korea. The second reason is that I like the language because of its pronounciation (so cute😊) and the writing is so beautiful. Third, I love languages and learning them so I wanted to learn another one and I couldn’t find better than Korean espacially cuz love it so that what push more and encourage me to learn this beautiful language.

  29. Hi Donovan

    Just read your article about grammar and it was really insightful. I’ve just returned from a holiday in Turkey and have decided to give learning Turkish a go. The guy who taught me reckoned I had good pronunciation and seemed impressed!
    The grammar aspect of learning a language does scare me though and almost makes me want to give up because I think how will I ever learn all that.
    I also visited Greece last year and loved picking up words and phrases from the locals in Greek. I do seem to be able to grasp pronunciation quite easily in some languages. I believe though the best way would be to live in the country where you are learning that language (not always possible!) I grew up in Zimbabwe and was able to talk quite well in a local African language Shona just by listening and talking with locals.
    Here’s to the learning….!

    Ash

    PS your life sounds really interesting

  30. Hello Donovan,
    I am a mother of a soon-to-be senior in high school who has not had any foreign language classes. He decided six-year his junior year that he wanted to be home educated for a more flexible schedule and for less having to deal with all the drama of a public school teen scene. (We are also Christians).
    I came across your review on Rocket language courses. I am hoping the 2017 version will be a good choice for us.
    Do you know how we should determine how much of it is equivalent to the amount of material taught in a level one high school course?

    Also, since he did not have any Spanish course yet (a long story, as most US public school kids have Spanish classes), I had planned to purchase a level of Spanish, but he just informed me that he wants to learn Italian.

    He is half Italian by blood/ancestry and hopes to travel there to live for a year. His dad and grandparents are Italian American but do not speak the Italian language fluently.
    What are your thoughts on this?
    Should I let him skip Spanish and take Italian? Is Rocket the best choice for that? (BTW, I am not Spanish despite my name, Juanita).

    Thanks!

  31. Hello,
    I realize that you are a very experienced Arabic learner. I am a young student in the U.S. and there are many Syrian refugees in my nearby city and I want to help them, first by learning Arabic. What dialect do you reccomend I learn first? I have also heard that Modern Standard Arabic is not used anywhere?? I am utterly confused and need your help as to where to start. What dialect do you suggest I learn first? Also, are there any tips you have for an extreme beginner studying solely independently?

    Thanks for all the advice your blog has given me so far!

    1. Hello there,
      I have just read your comment by chance. Anyways, I am an Arabic native speaker, I may help you. If you are willing to learn Arabic, you’ll just have to reply on my comment and let me know.

    2. I am interested!!!!! I am a freshman in college in America and also speak Hebrew and English. I am really struggling with Arabic!!!

  32. Hi there,
    I am Turkish and in love with Greek language and i have been trying to learn it myself for a month.At times it brings me to such certain points that i wanna rip my hair-lol-(thats a turklish saying now :P),can you recommend me anything /any source to make it easier for me…thank you

    1. gamze tetik,

      I’ve studied both Turkish and Greek, and find them both very interesting. I love the way they both sound, and I especially like the grammar of Turkish. There is a Turkic language Bashkir that fascinates me too.

  33. Hi Donovan,

    I very much like the idea of learning a Native American or Australian aboriginal language too. They are often very interesting languages, very different from those coming from other continents. I have read some linguistics books by R.M.W. Dixon on Australian languages. The second option you could learn while in immersion in your home country.

  34. Hey Donovan.
    I have no words to describe how much enchanted I am with your blog. I am Brazilian, fluent in English, but I wish I was able to learn an additional 4 languages. I learned English by myself, only took a private course to get a degree.
    I think there should be a global language community with a scientific body that could provide us all with material and instructions in order to reduce the difference of languages around the world. I find the Education in Brazil appalling, awful. The entire federal school system lacks order. Students come out of school illiterate in their own language. There should be a global program focusing on leveling the distance between students abilities. After that, those who implemented these educational policies would have formed an international corridor of people that could live between these societies without a problem. There should be a force, someone, a body, promoting these ideas and working for the implementation. Within 50 years the distance of abilities would be a thing of the past.

    On another issue, I do have a belief that languages of the past should be preserved, but I am not dying if some come to disappear . It is part of life. Things change. As I am looking forward to learn Arabic, I have been trying to understand the several types of Arabic that there are all around the world, and I do believe that some institution should partner with governments and work to unify languages inside their own languages. On this terms, I can’t stop thinking of the deeply divided India.

    As a Portuguese speaker, I do have an excellent overview of the language. I could go to Portugal or some countries in Africa and talk to them clearly with no problem. I can travel to some Spanish-speaker countries and live off pretty well. At this point I understand that Portuguese and Spanish are very close to each other. But I deeply wish I had a better overview of other languages, a map of how close and distant they are to each other. Specially on Arabic and some Cyrillic alphabets. Russia and its satellites, I know nothing. This is one more thing that we lack comprehension.

    Thanks for all the provided information!

  35. Great blog!
    well, I ended up here after I had read your comment on another person’s blog. The later was about learning korean. I am taking korean classes for the present time. I have been struggling; my teacher only speaks Korean. So, I thought I may get use of someone else’s experiences and thoughts. I am trying to keep on learning Japanese as well; which made it even harder. Nevertheless, I am focussing on learning korean now. By the way I am a graduate student. I am from Morocco, I;therefore, speak Moroccan Arabic, Standard Arabic, French, and English. English was my major by the way. As you may see, I am passionate about languges; and I would like to get to know people, like yourself, and share with them this passion!
    Oh! I forgot the most important part, my name is Sana! I am glad that I had the chance to read about your journy in life. And, nice meeting you Nagel!

  36. Donovan,

    Wow. This blog is really cool, mate! The reason I found it is because I am a first year student in college (Tulane University) and taking a language is mandatory at my school. English is my first language, and I’m also fluent in Spanish. I am also an Orthodox Jew, so naturally I can read Biblical Hebrew. As I want to major in international relations and since I travel to Israel often, I thought I would learn Arabic. But it’s been quite hard for me. I don’t put in enough time or dedication, and I study four days a week for about an hour and a half. I just can’t seem to memorize vocabulary or master the alphabet. Any advice?

    William Cohen

  37. Donovan,

    I am in Mexico for about 8 weeks of Spanish, starting at pretty much zero. I have completed six weeks. Before, at school I studied French and German and have maintained pretty basic skills in both but they get rusty. This experience with Spanish has led me to think carefully about how to learn a language. There appears to be a golden rule of sustained (over many weeks) of classroom learning, plus casual immersion (little English spoken here in Guanajuato), complementary work using internet tools, and then very interesting passages of relaxation, which for me includes reading poetry in English. I read your posting on Pimsleur and want to read more of your posting. Regards, Peter Rousmaniere

  38. Aloha, Donavan,

    Happy to find your site.

    Below are the languages I have studied at in the order in which I encountered them during my education and travels.

    Chat more later !

    Your Trusted Friend,
    Indy

    English
    Spanish
    Latin
    German
    French
    Hawaiian Pidgin
    Hawaiian
    Mandarin
    Taiwanese
    Sanskrit
    Hindi
    Cantonese
    Farsi
    Tagalog
    Korean
    Vietnamese
    Portuguese
    Fijian

  39. Hello Donovan,
    Very inspiring story. I am interested in learning multiple languages. I have started with German, using Teach Yourself Complete. I am hoping to reach the point where I can have a conversation at an Advanced Level. I am just seeking advice as to the path to take-there is a bewildering amount of resources out there, and unsure of the path to take.
    Keep up the good work.
    God bless you

  40. Hello Donavan,

    Like you, I am interested in learning Arabic, I literally just started a couple minutes ago and came across your website. I have chosen to learn the Levantine Arabic, there are so many questions I have right now. Like if I choose to speak Levantine Arabic then how do i learn to write it? is there an easy way to learn without spending money? etc

    thanks,
    bon

  41. I am kumar,currently residing in chennai,india.I am 58 years old, and a non-practising lawyer and currently working in Govt. department.I have studied russian language long back from an indian university and at present studying chinese.I find chinese very hard ,especially writing and remembering characters and also memorising tones.I learn that u have studied and mastered chinese.I would like to know what is the methodology u have adopted to gain mastery over the language.Also by studying russian ,will there be any use in securing jobs,either in india or abroad.If so,what are the type of jobs which will be offered to a person knowing foreign languages. I am planning to learn french also.Kindly reply.

  42. Hi Donovan,

    My name is Vladislav.I’m a 34-year old Russian engineer living in Russia and travelling with a family when there’s a chance.I’m a big language fan.Sometimes I feel like I would learn them all if I could.
    Once I tried to start learning 36 languages simultaneously.Actually I’ve combined them into 6 cycles as follow 6 langs per day, i.e. 6*6=36. But eventually I found this approach to be ineffective,so currently I’m learning 6 langs in total:

    – English(keep on improving it,hope to pass a TOEFL or IELTS one day);

    – Italian(I’m quite good at it,btw,I’ve passed Pimsleur,Berlitz,now I’m follwing another course and hope I’ll be able to watch some Italian movies with subtitles soon where Celentano starred. I already used it successfully when I went to Rome.I was also very appreciated when used it working with Italians);

    – French (still following Pimsleur used to practiced it when worked with the French);

    – Spanish (still following Pimsleur but used it successfully when visited Dominicana and Texas);

    – Arabic (I’ve nearly completed Pimsleur MSA and also practiced it when worked in Middle East);

    – Chinese (the hardest one I’ve exposed by now,btw,native mentor is a must here to pick up tones properly).

    But my linguistic appetite is starving to expand this list,though:-) Btw, I’ve found your blog while surfing web on Georgian.The thing is I have an interest to visit Georgia and would like to pick up its alphabet and at least some general expressions,but the more the better.

    As for langs,I’ve experienced a lot in my life that when you know at least something in a native language of your co-worker,colleague,pal,mate or just a person passing by you will get extra appreciated from their side.Obviously languages help set up good relations at work,as well.Once a person realizes you’re interested in his/her mother tongue, since that moment you’re no longer just some alien to him/her, you will definitely get a respect,for sure.

    I wish everybody to learn,learn and learn.There are only advantages in learning languages,and they are not limited with brain and memory training against dimensia.When you know more about language,culture,history,mentality of other nations the chances are higher you’re gonna start to understand them, to understand what they say,what they want, why they act so and so in some situations and,therefore,you melt the ice,i.e. you will get closer to them and won’t be afraid of them ’cause people tend to be afraid of those they don’t understand or don’t know like something weird.
    So,let’s crash the barriers and make this world a better place to live for all of us! I mean it!

  43. my name is IDDRISU AMADU
    Iam a teacher at a basic school in Ghana and I am interested in learning the Arabic language. I will like to benefit from you outfit having learn Arabic alphabets from my Arabic basic school where I learn Arabic reading with the HOLLY QURAN.
    I wish to minimize time out my schedules to learn Arabic language reading without the enablers.Please help me.

  44. Hi! My name is Gina and I accidentally found your site as I did a little research on “chunking” for my Methods of Teaching Foreign Languages class. I’ve always loved languages. I am fluent in Spanish (my native tongue) and English. I can speak French and German but not fluently (yet), and am currently learning Russian and Ancient Greek. I plan to learn Portuguese and Italian. Arabic attracts me but also intimidates me with all the different “h” sounds that I don’t seem to hear.
    I love your approach to learning languages! I’ve have stumbled on my own into some of the techniques you mention in blog. You are an inspiration! 🙂

  45. Hi Donovan!

    My name is Veronica, and I’m so pleased to read your blogs on the different kind of jobs a Language learner can do!!! I’m 18 years old and my dream is to study Japanese and Korean at my university! But I honestly, didn’t knew exactly what to do after I acquire such skills.

    Also thanks for opening my eyes with the “Mainstream Languages” that you talked about in one of your blogs like (French and Italian or German) because my Dad is always telling me that I HAD to learn the most used Languages before I learn what I really wanted (Japanese and Korean).

    Again thank you so much for your tips and sharing your life experiences!! It really helped me A LOT!!! (Oh! I also wanted to tell you that currently I speak Spanish and of course English; Spanish being my native language!)

    I hope that I can keep learning stuff from you!!!

    Bye!🖖

  46. Donovan,
    Your interview with Michael Campbell from Glossika is very interesting. If we believe that a foreign language is an information to be remembered then Glossika Spaced Repetition (GSR) is a great innovation to the system that was introduced by Pimsleur in 1973.

    However, if you believe that Training English skills subconsciously is a better alternative to the conscious passive learning and memorization, then GSR is not applicable anymore!

    If you want to learn more about this patented process of subconscious Training English skills, write to me.

  47. Hi
    I am an old Kerryman who used to speak Irish fluently as a boy.
    Now that my epitaph is creeping closer I am considering re-establishing some ability to speak gaelic again.
    I may be deluding myself so please see this as a cursory enquiry/ interest.

  48. As above. I may have engineered this badly.

  49. Hi!
    My name is Sylvia, and I’m learning Bengali (Bangla), German, American Sign Language (ASL), and a little Levantine Arabic. Other languages I am interested in learning are Tamil, West Bengal Sign Language, Levantine Arabic Sign Language, French, Hindi, Sinhala, and maybe Tibetan, Konkani, Russian, and Azerbaijani. That’s all a long ways a way though. I’m fluent in English, have an upper intermediate level in German and ASL, lower intermediate level in Bengali, and a very basic level in Levantine Arabic, Spanish, and Russian.

  50. Hi Donavan,
    I’m in the process of learning Italian because I’m planning to move to Italy, hopefully in the next 6 months. I’m an Italian citizen (dual American/Italian), but I spent my whole life in the USA. Unfortunately, my father never spoke Italian at home, so this is new for me. I’m excited to learn, though. I’ve had a little French (grade school), more German (college), and taught myself some Spanish (a couple years ago). Also had some Latin in High School. One thing that’s amusing and aggravating to me is that as I’m learning a new language, all my previous languages start to intrude. For example, when I’m trying to learn new vocabulary in Italian now, the words in French, German, Latin and Spanish pop into my head, but not the Italian words! I can structure a sentence in German more easily than I can in Italian! I’m in my 60s now, so it’s amazing to me that languages I learned so long ago are still stored in my brain. As a neuroscientist, I find that fascinating, but it’s also frustrating!
    One other interesting thing is that I am much more comfortable actually speaking Italian out loud than any of the other languages, and my pronunciation is pretty good even though I’m just at a beginner level. I have a large Italian family in the US, many of whom did speak Italian at family gatherings, and when I was very young, I must have picked up the sound of the language. It feels very natural to me to form the words and make the right sounds.
    I’ve bought several Italian courses, none of which seem very interesting to me yet. I do have Rocket Italian, although I haven’t used it much. I would never buy Rosetta Stone because it just does not seem a good match for my learning style.
    Anyway, I just found your website, so I’ll spend some time perusing it and checking out your learning tools.
    Ciao!

  51. Hi Donavan,

    I stumbled across your blog in my search for Arabic resources. After tons of research and endless “googling”, I must say your blog is the absolute best. It is straight forward and very informative yet personal, all at the same time.
    I hope to learn Arabic and begin to understand the culture better as it has always been very interesting to me.
    This will be my first time learning a second language. I am very determined and ready to do whatever it takes.
    Thank you for the wonderful resources.

    Courtney

  52. Hello and greetings Dononvan. I found your blog because of your critical review of Esperanto. I speak Esperanto semi fluently. Now, i am not here to cine or rebut or debunk you. I find that alot of what you say about Esperanto is fairly accurate and should be used by Esperantists to improve their beloved language. I am NOT the fanatic you describe but I still love Esperanto-which i found because of Tolkien.
    I am actually here because i am a developing polyglot and i admire other polyglots. I currently however, do not speak any Arabic or Chinese. These are two languages i want to crack. I am also late in life, 52, to add many languages. But, i am still going to try.

  53. Hi,

    I’m got accidentally here as I was searching on ways to learn Korean (willing to learn it to excel in my career) and I really liked the enthusiasm and the positive energy in your article. I’m Lebanese living in Czech Republic and I’m fluent in Arabic, English and Czech. I never thought of myself as talented on languages but im hearing it all the time. I’m not sure though if it is true or just the people around me are lazy to learn a new language. I will try to learn Korean first as a career aid and to check if I’m really talented in this or not.

    I just wanted to post my thoughts here, I will keep on reading your blogs and hopefully I will make some steps forward in learning Korean. Wish me luck.

    Great day and regards
    Hassan

  54. Hi Dononvan,

    Its my first time I am writing to somebody. So, I am from a small town, then came to Delhi and opted for graduation and in the 3rd year of my graduation I got knowledge about the foreign languages and then I opted for Spanish. I have given my 2.5yrs to Spanish but the point is I cannot use my language, and the company where I am working there is not much use of language. I really don’t know how to improve it. Give me some suggestions please.
    Secondly, I also want to learn an another language but little confused I should go with French or Arabic, But my concern is I should first improve my Spanish or go with another language also.
    I saw your talkinarabic.com and I am thinking to join it but I don’t know whether I would do both the things together.
    Thirdly, like you, I also want to do something different like travel , blogging etc. but the point is I don’t know nothing about blogging. I am not creative. I just love to do dance.

    I hope you would solve my problems.
    Looking forward for your response

    Thanks and regards,
    Garishma Arora

  55. Hi Donovan!
    I randomly found your blog when looking for ways to self study German (your germanpod101 review- very helpful!). I am from Tel Aviv, Israel (born and raised :]). I actually am bilingual- I speak Hebrew (native) and English (just from studying it at school). I do want to study more languages (german first, as I am part german)- I really like studying languages!

    I did study Arabic for 3 years but it was honestly not very helpful… I speak grade A level, maybe even less :/

    I do have a few questions if you don’t mind 🙂
    1. Why did you decide to learn hebrew as one of your first languages learned? It’s a pretty rare language (and a hard one).
    2. you said you were in the Middle East a lot- Were you in Israel? Are you planning to visit? We do have a mix of many different cultures which means we have great food and many people speaking many different languages.

    have a nice day!
    Naomi

  56. Hello Donovan,
    I just found your site because I was looking up reviews on the Rosetta Stone language program; I had planned on using it, but now I am not so sure. I need to find a good program for learning Spanish for my daughter (16 years old) for school credit; she goes to a small private high school, where we can do some of the school credits at home. Because I have wanted to learn Spanish myself for many years, I plan on learning along with her. I want this to be really practical (as opposed to just grammar knowledge), as I see that knowing the Spanish language is so beneficial in the U.S.. I read through some of your information, but I am not sure, yet, what to do.
    I could use some advice!
    Luann

  57. Hi Donovan

    Reached your site via searches to learn Hindustani (the brain remembered last decade something called worm useful for new languages!).

    In brief I left Australia in 1999 as an expat spending the last 10 years in the Middle East.

    Unfortunately with the exception of a few phrases I have not learnt Arabic. As you will be aware English is widely used here to the point that there is no need to learn the local language to function day to day. Only once has a local Expressd disappointment that I did not know Arabic (customs officer at Doha airport).

    My goal is to learn Hindustani in order to communicate better with work colleagues.

    Greatful if you could provide any advice on the best method to undertake in this instance. Note I also have face to face contact with my Indian friends.

    Ultimately would like to have a broad understanding of the language and potentially have technical discussions as I am an Engineer. That said I realise the importance of the basics.

    Often their is criticism on people’s secondary language skills (oral written especially reports) however those unpublished critics* normally only speak the one language.

    *had to put in an Aussie crawl reference

    Cheers and great site

  58. Hi Donovan.

    Good for puting your faith in Jesus Christ first. I share your faith in Him. In my case, I am a member of the Roman Catholic Church. I welcome all Christians and all men of women of good will.

    I am Argentine, and my mothertongue is Spanish. I studied English from age 9 to 17, non intensively, in an institute appart from my school. In fact, English is a mandatory subject in middle school, but people seldom learn it that way. In general, those who have intermediate or higher level have studied the language appart from official school, or have gone to bilingual schools (not my case).

    At age 20 I read an article about Esperanto, which up to that moment I thought was some strange failed project seeking to replace all languages by one. I was stunned to know that it was actually a living language. So I set up to learn it and was able to reach a level similar to which I have English, but in 10 % of the time (also non intensively). Being an esperantist has given me great joys (and a couple of sorrows, as it is often the case under the sun of this world, but the joys are overwhelmingly more.)

    For more than 30 years, busy with life obligations, I didn’t learn any other language, which I deeply regret.

    Beginning 2016 I went on vacation to Brazil with my wife. I had never been abroad in a non Spanish speaking country (I’ve only been to Brazil and Uruguay). Argentines tend to think Portuguese is s just Spanish with an accent and words ending in inho and ção, but the real thing is a bit different.

    On a scale in São Paulo’s airport I ran into a book of phrases fir travelers to Brazil, written in English It had a synthesis of the grammar, a good quantity of phrases, and a small bilingual dictionary, all packed into a book you could carry in your pocket. I separated from the book just when I took a shower, and if it had been printed on plastic instead of paper I would have left it not even there. It was really very useful for me.

    Armed with that book, lack of shyfulness, deep desire to learn, all of which sum up to 2% of the merit, and the remaining 98% being the good will of the Brazilians, I managed to turn that vacatuon into a very enjoyable experience, and I left Brazil being able to manage the very basics of conversations, and with a deep desire to learn more. I really loved that language I had previously paid little attention to.

    So after that I began to learn it using several resources: Duolingo, web sites, Facebook groups, TV programs from Brazil and Portugal, Whatsapp groups (both for written and spoken messages), books in Portuguese, and what has proven to be the most useful resource: bothering Portuguese speaking esoerantists with all my doubts. In general, esoerantists are fond of languages and glad to share knowledge, snd Brazilians in particular are happy to see someone interested in their language.

    Little more than two years later, that is to say last June, we traveled to Curitiba, Brazil, to take part in the Brazilian Esperanto Congress. Needless to say, I was at ease inside the Congress, since we all spoke our common language in which, paraphrasing the Roman poet, nobody is the barbarian. But at the hotel, streets, shops, etc., Portuguese had to spoken, and I was glad to see I could manage it well for a tourist’s needs, even if my accent was more eloquent than my passport. I had the same experience in another short trip this month.

    I know I have much more to learn, but I’m already tasting the sweet fruits of what I have learnt so far.

    My wife and I recently began learning Argentine Sign Language (yes, it’s a real language, not encoded Spanish, English or whatever). But I’ll talk about it in another post.

  59. Hello!

    My name is Diana and I am currently working on an essay for my college english class about language learning and the most effective ways of learning a new language. I was wondering if you would be interested in maybe letting me interview you for this essay. Please get back to me ASAP.

    Thank you so much for your time,

    Diana

  60. Ahoy Donovan! So happy to have found your site! I too enjoy languages and am passionate about meeting new people from different countries.
    My language journey started when my family and I moved from my native country (Poland) to live in the USA for several years (seven to be exact). I learned English very quickly; since I was just seven at the time and was exposed to the language on a daily basis, after just three years English had become my second language. I also spoke Polish regularly at home and became bilingual which gives an abundance of benefits! Also since my mom was already an American citizen before my birth, I can now freely move to the US whenever I want!
    Well, we moved back to Poland about a year ago (to be honest we still haven’t moved in completely) and it’s been a while since I’ve stopped using English so often. So I am beginning to worry that my English will get rusty! I hope that thanks to your site I can keep my fluency alive and will be able to more easily learn Spanish!

    Danke for all that you do!

  61. Hello Donovan,

    Thanks so much for your review on the Living Language Arabic course. I was in Qatar recently and picked it up at a book store, then promptly forgot about it. I’m going back to the Middle East soon, and figured it would be a decent time to try and learn Arabic. Naturally I first thought of the Language Course, but since I’ve read your review I’m not so sure if I should use it. Since I already have it, do you think it would actually be a negative if I used it as a first point of contact? Or would I benefit from using it to learn, then perhaps move on to something better later on? I’d rather just go with something better if it would actually make things worse to learn using the Living Language material, but I’m not really sure which is the best option. Would love to hear your advice!
    Thanks,

    Wade.

    PS. Fellow Australian 🙂

  62. Hello Donovan,
    I’ve been studying Arabic (not MSA, but a North African dialect) for the past year and a half, and just moved to a Spanish-speaking country to start all over with learning Spanish (I had a couple of years of high school Spanish, but that was a long time ago). I found your blog through your article on how to combat anxiety while attempting to speak a new language. I had just reached the point where I was fairly comfortable conversing and going about daily life in Arabic, but now that I’m starting on my third language, I freeze up and panic almost every time I try to speak to someone in Spanish! Language learning is a humbling process, to be sure. Thanks for your helpful tips on how to persevere through fear/anxiety while trying to speak a new language!

  63. hey i’m an arabic girl and im specialized in learning english you can help me with english and i can help you more with arabic if you want it would be a palisir

  64. Hi there!

    Not sure if you’re still reading comments on this but I wanted to express my appreciation for your site. I’m a first generation Egyptian American, born and raised in the US to Egyptian parents. I was lucky enough to travel to Egypt regularly growing up over the holidays (usually once a year) to see extended family, and to have some resources available to me for learning Arabic in my youth. I went to a Saudi private school in the US for several years, which was probably when I learned the importance of different dialects – the MSA we learned there was obviously somewhat different than the Egyptian spoken in my family, which led to some funny conversations and occasional teasing. I left that school in grade 6 and although I did have a tutor come weekly for a few more years, I haven’t done any formal Arabic learning since then. I studied French in high school and spent a few months in Geneva, but still wouldn’t call myself fluent by any stretch. I’m a medical student now, and actually living in your (original) part of the world, in Queensland!

    I’m sort of in a weird place with my language learning when it comes to Arabic. I have a strong conversational background from my family, but my “formal” Arabic knowledge long ago left my mind. I’m not all that concerned with being an expert in MSA and formal Arabic, but I really do want to improve my skills with the Egyptian dialect my family speaks – especially now that I’m an adult, I want to be less reliant on my parents in that respect. I’m also hoping to do some international medical/humanitarian work in the future and want to be able to fend for myself in the Middle East if I work there.

    I stumbled across your site thanks to Google searches looking for Arabic learning resources. I’ve been looking forever for something free or inexpensive that I can use here and there to brush up on more advanced Egyptian Arabic, and you’ve probably got the best lists/reviews for Arabic resources that take into account things like dialects and learning styles! Unfortunately there’s still a dearth of good Arabic learning apps/programs but hopefully that will change with time. I’ve been keeping an eye on Duolingo’s Arabic version that’s supposed to be coming out – I love the app and use it to try and keep up with French sometimes – but they’ve pushed back the release date multiple times and I’m getting impatient.

  65. I live in a very rural area just under the (Okefenokee) swamp a muscogee Creek word that means land of trembling Earth…(oke/land)(fen/trembling)(oke/land)… I bet you saw plenty of bogs in Hibernia,,, where our ancestors hail… So the only way I can experience the outside world is through books… But who’s writing these books and making these translations… In English you have the literal,literary, mistranslation(innocent and otherwise) and slang,,, so you have to dive deep into the classical languages to be able to pull out the literal definition of an originally authored word for yourself…If French is the language of lovers,,, than English is the language of liars,,, because there’s always a better more descriptive translation in the original authored language… I’ve got many viable ancient copies of the Bible,,, the Masorah, Septuagint, Pentateuch and many obscure books… You’ve got a really cool story,,, I look forward to studying with you thank you… David …

  66. Hi Donovan,

    I am a moroccan native speaker and want to learn the gcc arabic. Ideally, I’d like to be understood by all the arab community which is difficult as it is not the same exact language. Which kind of arabic language should i focus on?

  67. Hi there!
    I’ve loved the post about the jobs that someone could take on if they spoke a foreign language. I’m Vitória and I’m Portuguese. I’ve studied English for some years now and I’m currently learning German and Arabic. In university actually. Nice to meet you, your post was really useful and interesting! 🙂

  68. Donovan,

    I too have always been interested in languages, the more different from my own native English, the better. I lived in Japan for ten years and speak Japanese fluently. While there, I also studied the moribund Ainu language of the northern island of Hokkaido and began translating into English several dictionaries and grammars. (I have since gotten married and spent the last two decades working all the time, raising a family and having little time for languages or translation.)

    I also speak Spanish but not fluently. In my youth, I imagined traveling the world learning various languages as you yourself did before you married.

    The languages that fascinate me most are the Amerind languages of North America, many with strange consonants and exotic grammars. Having grown up in southeastern Oklahoma, I speak the Muskogean language Choctaw on a low conversational level and have also studied the Iroquoian language Cherokee and the Algonquian language Sauk.

    Further, I would like to someday learn to speak several others that are still spoken (Yakima Sahaptin, the Wakashan language Kwak’wala, another Algonquian language Ojibwe, the Athabascan language Mountain Slavey, and the Uto-Aztecan language Hopi), and then be able to sit with the handful of remaining elderly native speakers to listen for hours as they tell their life experiences and old folks tales. I’ve already been able to do this with Japanese and to a lesser degree Choctaw elders.

    Well, I’ll keep checking in on your blog every once in a while to see where you’re learning next.

  69. Bonjour Donovan,

    Veuillez m’envoyer un courriel aussi tôt que possible, SVP. J’ai besoin d’urgence de votre aide immédiament. J’étais béni par let dieu parler 7 langues (je sais bien que c’est vraiment rien), mais je suis deçu de n’avoir ni boulot ni de l’argent.

    Au plaisir!

  70. Hi Donovan I just wanted to say that I appreciate your blog and your podcast as well.I’ve listened all your podcasts and I’ve found them really useful.I’ll continue to follow you because I also think you are a smart and sincere guy who share with me the passion of languages.So,that’s it I hope you’ll keep going because all you have done(and you do)for the people who love languages is great.Un saluto dall’Italia…Alessandro

  71. Hello Donovan sir, Dated: 19th March 2019

    Before i write,let me quickly introduce about me. I am Arjun Rai, age is 42, from small Himalayan Country called Bhutan, which it lies in norther part of India.The main purpose of writing this letter is to learn more good English Language from you, and to improve my English( Writing / Speaking skills) What methodology should i take! What are the shortest and quickest learning English.

    Sir,In this context, your valuable comments is highly needed and appreciated..
    Thanks,
    Arjun Rai,
    Bhutan.

  72. Hi Donovan,
    just bought your book Egyptian Arabic, Easy Stories with English Translations.
    Absolutely brilliant! That‘s exactly what I was looking for.
    So here is my question: Could you do the same book (or a different one …) also in Syrian Arabic? Now working with Syrian refugees in Germany, I am immersing myself into their dialect and am desperate for quality books/texts in Syrian on an intermediate or advanced level.
    Look forward to hearing from you, kind regards,

    Renée

  73. Hello Donovan! I’m from São Paulo, Brazil. Our common interest in language learning arose slowly but strongly in me. As a son of immigrants from a Spanish-speaking country, I grew up in a bilingual Portuguese-Spanish environment. My father figured out that learning English early would be of advantage to me, thus he provided me with a BBC cassete tape course to study at home, alone. Brazilians back then in the 70s weren’t aware of the wider world out there as they are now. Even today, most Brazilians think that they know sufficiently good English, but deceive themselves, since they cannot really penetrate the logic of the language, resulting in many embarrassing mistakes. Maybe because Portuguese is such a complicated language, it becomes a hurdle even for learning an easier one. But I digress here. Being myself fluent in two Romance languages from the cradle, I found easy to understand Italian and, to a lesser degree, French. In high school I took interest in Japanese culture and learned some broken, manga dialogue level Japanese, besides learning to write it with a brush. Already forgot most of it due to lack of practice. Years later I dated a woman of Catalan descent and, lo, I learned Catalan in a matter of months, in time to visit Barcelona. That was also when I suffered through my first baby (mis)steps in German, and couldn’t understand a thing when I went to Switzerland (and the dialects there are quite distant from standard German). Years later I left journalism to study law and finally took up learning German for real, since it’s important in that field. Incidentally, by influence from Jewish friends and aesthetic attraction to the calligraphy, I became interested in Hebrew. Using Duolingo and Drops, I was positively surprised by the relative ease and playfulness of the language. Hey, suddenly I can also read something in Arabic! Maybe to learn both, back to back…? In short, the journey is still beginning and it’s fun…

  74. Hi. I came by here after reading your article about Esperanto. Before i realized how ideologically motivated it was i had already been a part of the esperanto community. I liked your comments and after awhile found myself returning to my second language (italian) which i prefer. Esperanto is so well structured as far as tables of grammar are concerned, but the syntax is…um…anyway, ive never travelled out of Australia but have a fascination with languages and linguistics. im also a poet ( that would have to be, right?) i look forward to reading further articles you write on this topic.

  75. Hi, Donovan, I´m currently learning french, my native language is the spanish and my second language is, of course, English, I’m glad to hear about people that, like me, enjoy learning languages. have a good day!

  76. Dear Donovan,

    I’m a Brazilian who speaks Portuguese (native language), Spanish and English. Although I’ve taught English now for about 9 years, have lived in USA for a year and been in a relationship with an American guy – who doesn’t speak my native language – for two years, I honestly feel my English is stuck. I read books in English, watch shows in English, visit my bf’s family in USA twice a year and then interact with them native speakers and so on. I know I’m a higher level speaker, I don’t know everything for sure, but I know enough language to handle most situations. But there are gaps still. I feel frustrated and embarrassed, specially when I’m in America, since everyone knows I teach English in Brazil. I not always understand everything they say, I feel I can’t add much to conversations sometimes. I’m so talkative and friendly in Portuguese! It’s just frustrating I can’t show my “true colors” when I’m with my boyfriend and family in America. I also don’t know anymore what to do to improve my English. It seems I have already learned everything I could and I’m not going to go any further than where I am now. Is there any hope for me?
    Thank you for this website, I found it amazing.

  77. Hi Donovan, Great to come across your website. i feel pretty depressed really as , over the last few months I have thrown myself into the learning of Gaeilge. Tricky as I have several children, but every spare minute… My child who has just finished the Leaving Cert said very kindly – “I wouldn’t wish it upon yoû, Mum. Don’t even consider it – you have so, so far to go.” As someone reared and educated in Britain, should I exchange my dream of ‘liofa agus Bean an Tí’ sa Ghealtacht’ for drinking cups of tea and leafing nostalgically through ‘Country Life’ magazine into my old age? Go raibh maith agat

  78. Hi Donovan, I discovered your site relatively recently because I was curious to see if I could learn a second language, and appreciated the positive info and encouragement that you have posted on learning language. And just today, I found out that you are a Christian which I kinda suspected from reading your stuff online as I tried to figure out whether I should even attempt a second language. What you have said caught my attention about you being a visual/spatial learner, and I wonder if that is what I am. I took Spanish in Junior high, but only because it was required, and I had no interest in learning another language at that time, because I barely knew my own then. After graduation from High School sometime in my early 20’s a friend and I asked a girl friend of ours to teach us Koine Greek, and I found myself very frustrated, and we only made it thru to chapter 11 in the textbook. But because I have always been curious about making sense of things, especially about God and his world, so after many, many years, I took a course in Koine Greek and made it thru and finally achieved what I thought was an impossibility for me in language: I finished a year of Greek. Now recently being retired from the Postal Service, I wanted to learn a living language, not a dead language, like Greek or the not so dead Latin, so I decided between German, French, or Russian. I chose Russian, because it seemed to me to be straightforward in pronunciation, the alphabet reminded me somewhat of Greek, and a few letters in Hebrew. Furthermore, I did not want to learn a language that used the same alphabet as English like German does, and French seems to me to not be straightforward enough in pronunciation, so I decided on Russian. I have been following the lessons found on Real Russian Club with Daria who is a teacher in Moscow, and her lessons have been a real help. I am going to give it my best, but I am your typical American, who only really knows how to speak one living language, and I want to see if I can break that mold of learning a second language, but not so sure that I can break that language barrier. It sounds like you are very courageous in your pursuits of what you want, which is an encouragement to me, in showing me, that someone who had struggled in school, could turn it around to be a success.

  79. Hi Donovan,

    Thank you for this amazing language-based website you have made available to the world! I came across it a couple of years ago during my Seminary training (I have also studied Theology, earning a BA and recently an MDiv), and have come and gone ever since. Given my theology background, I also studied Hebrew and Greek but have not gotten as comfortable with them as I would have liked. I have been told that my pronunciation is excellent but once I get to the grammar…I do not have the same level of comfort.

    The last year or so I have been thinking about learning the top 5 languages spoken in the world. Fortunately, I already speak English and Spanish so I ONLY have Mandarin, Hindi, and Arabic to go (I am being flippant on purpose of course!) I’m currently going through the Mandarin module on Duolingo and am enjoying learning words, phrases, and pronunciation.

    You mentioned that you are in California. I live in Northern California (the North Bay) so if you are around the area I would love to chat with you in person.

    Best to you,

    Isai Garcia

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