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.

Donovan Nagel Egypt

Me when I was 18 doing my first language immersion in a small village called El-Fashn in Egypt.

Donovan Nagel

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 Korea

Language immersion in South Korea.

Donovan Nagel Irish

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:

Donovan Nagel

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!


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