Why Motivation and Passion Are Everything

motivation passion language learningBack when I was 19, I started learning languages with a vengeance.

I’d just finished my first year of university, studying jazz piano at a fancy music school in London. I had decided to take a year off from formal study. (I had this crazy idea that I’d just practice piano for the whole year and become the best in the world!)

But my girlfriend of 2 years had other ideas…

She decided… that we should split up.

It killed me.

Heck, I was 19… I didn’t know how to deal with things like that. It felt like my world was caving in.

My plan of practising piano for a year was suddenly finished… I couldn’t face sitting in a room for hours on end, practising on my own…

So I started to look for things to take my mind off the pain.

I got a job in a café in central London, just making coffee all day long.

It wasn’t the greatest job in the world. BUT…

The people I worked with were amazing: Italians, Swedes, Spanish, French…

I quickly started to realise that there was a big, wide world out there, very different from my middle-class English upbringing.

I learnt little things… like when a Spanish person orders a coffee, they want an espresso, not an americano.

But I also learnt bigger things… like the fact that the people I worked with in that café really missed home…



Great weather…

Even better food…

And so I started to think: “What must it be like to grow up in places with all those cool things – things that we don’t have much of in the UK?”

Before long, that question had become… “What if I could pick up some Spanish words? Or study Spanish for free whilst I work?”

Now, can you see where this is going?

Motivation Starts With Passion

This was my spark.

What started off as a terrible event, actually gave me the opportunity to meet all these amazing people, and develop an intense passion for discovering more about them and their countries.

And so I started learning languages.

But I had no idea how. I couldn’t speak more than a couple of words of any!

And yet, now I speak eight foreign languages.

So what made the difference?


I’m telling you this story because, whatever your background, whatever your level of experience, whether you think you have a talent for languages or not… so what?

None of that matters.

Teaching the importance of identifying your "why" in language learning to a workshop group in London.

Teaching the importance of identifying your “why” in language learning to a workshop group in London.

We’ve All Been There

What makes you so special that, language learning is so much more difficult for you than anyone else?

Here’s the truth: we’ve all been there.

We’ve all started from zero, staring up at a mountain that looks so insanely high that we think we’ll never reach the top, and felt the motivation slip away.

But, guess what?

If you can foster a passion for the language you’re learning, if you can make it so important to you that it becomes your single defining purpose, if you can get clear on what it will mean to you to one day wake up and know that you’re fluent in the language…

…let me tell you – there is nothing that will stop you reaching that goal.

But it starts with motivation. And motivation starts with passion.

What Does It Mean To You?

I recently asked the following question in my Fluency Mastermind Facebook group (it’s free to join, by the way!) and got some really interesting responses, so I’m asking you right now.

Close your eyes. You wake up, and you realise the hard work’s paid off. You’re now fluent in that language you’ve been working on for so long. Words roll off your tongue, you understand what everyone’s saying. You belong. How does it feel? What does it mean to you to have achieved this?

If you can get this clear for you, it has the power to transform your whole language learning journey.

So what does it mean to you? Let me know in a comment below right now. 

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Olly's Top Resources For Learning:
  • For me, a new language means being able to truly learn about all the incredible people around me. To be able to connect, to discover their stories, their hopes and the little things that make them tick. This is what motivates me on the days where it feels like I’m just not getting ahead at all. Because before I leave this incredible country I am in, I want to be able to say that not only did I see the country, but I got to know the people as well.


    • Hi Beth, what a great summary. What you wrote here really resonated with me, because I share the same motivations, especially at those times when I’m actually living in the country whose language I’m trying to learn.

      I think, here, you touch on something profound. You say: “To be able to connect, to discover their stories, their hopes and the little things that make them tick.” Ultimately, why should we care about the language itself? That is, most of us aren’t learning the language for the language’s sake. Any language exists fundamentally in order to be able to communicate, to understand, to belong to a community, and that’s why having a motivation such as yours – to belong – can be the strongest of all.

      If you’ve got that, and you let that be your guiding purpose, I find that those tricks our mind plays on us, saying “why aren’t you making much progress?” just stop becoming so relevant. Take a walk outside, talk to some people, learn something about them, take a genuine interest… you’ll find the words you need to express yourself somehow.

  • Kevin Johnsrude

    “To have another language is to possess a second soul.”

    • I like that one, Kevin! I’ve often thought I have a different personality in other languages. But a soul? Maybe!

      • Ahmet Alattas

        I strongly agree. My personality changes when I speak Japanese, and Japanese people tell me that I turn to be more rude when I use English with them.

  • Kevin Richardson

    When I go scuba diving,I feel so fortunate at getting a short glimpse of another world. My heart yearns to stay down there. Becoming fluent in a language is like being able to breath underwater. I’m listening to the Emiliana Torrini song “Sea People”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIkLS6WRBc4

  • Melanie Murrish

    Delicious! I also think it will help me be my authentic self-nobody knows me in that foreign language/country so I don’t have to fake anything! Deep, I know, but that’s how I feel.

    • Melanie, I’ve had that feeling before – in a way you have the opportunity to “start over” in a new language. In the early stages especially it can be great because you just discover new words and different psyches to express yourself with. However, I’ve also found that the better I get in a language, the more I start to revert to my true personality! Boring old me… 🙂

      • Melanie Murrish

        Damn! Well, I better enjoy it while it lasts.

        • That’s just me, though!! I hope you will prove me wrong! 😉

  • Meelike Eenpuu-Villup

    I live in Holland and although Dutch people are friendly, it is really difficult to get to know them better if you don´t speak the language. You are basically judged by how well you speak Dutch (not how good person you are). If you don´t speak Dutch not at all then you can be someone they know but that is it. You never can be a really close friend with them. And it is an issue for me. Because I like to socialize and I need lot of close friends around me (because I have moved a lot and all good friends are somewhere else) but I rarely have such friends in Holland. Because my Dutch still sucks and I prefer English to be able express myself.

    • Hi Meelike. It’s interesting because a lot of people make the same complaint about English people when they move to England 🙂 I’m like you, I think. I need people around me to interact with in order to be motivated to learn. Sometimes that “spark” can come from just one person though, so it’s worth persisting! 🙂

  • Mostafa

    Thank you Sir, for the real and practical advice.

  • Okay, first let me tell you this, you are a very inspirational person, when i give up learning i always read language blogs. I especially like to learn phrases in that language. People make jokes in their language and when i start to understand them, it is the most beautiful thing in the world, i can get even the word tricks, also make few of them. And i am from Turkey, even in my country every part speaks in different dialects and learning them is also enjoyable. It is a long enyojable journey and you have fun while you are on the way!

    • Hi Sena and thanks for the compliment! I appreciate your passion for languages!

  • Andrea Ljutic

    Thank you for this one, it’s just what I need it, because after 3 years
    of learning I found myself stuck with my turkish and really really
    frustrated…but just imagining what it could be like, being fluent
    wooow thank you :)))

    • Hi Andrea, that’s great to hear you found some inspiration. It all starts there – we just need the energy to carry on!

  • Linda Hjarnø Petersen

    I really want to learn Korean.
    I think it’s such a beautiful language and the culture is absolutely amazing. I love everything about South Korea.

    • There are two South Koreans sitting next to me as I read your comment 🙂

  • me

    Very very well! I love learning new languages, it’s such a wonderful thing! Now I can fluent speak chinese and italian, and at school I’m learning french and gernany too. My english is not perfect, I’m improving it, but I haven’t so much time, as school is starting. But I’m very very motivated, and I’m sure in the few future I will start learning another beautiful language, maybe completely different from mine, but I don’t know yet! Love englishh

  • rory ogorman

    I found my passion for learning foreign languages to be my exit route from a severe stammer/stutter which I endured into my late 30s…To have a speech impediment is perhaps the most debilitating and excruciating social handicap one can have, trust me !!…Yet when I was studying Russian at school in London as a boy, I realised that I spoke fluently and without interruption..

    Wow!, what a marvellous surprise. I found my true self through the Russian language and loved it !!…Eventually I studied in Russia and obtained a degree in the language – all due to my true passion for this beautiful language. Now I study Arabic and see no end to diving in and enjoying the richness of speech and expression!…Thank you Olly for your inspirational articles. They mean a great deal.

    • Hi Rory. What a wonderful story! I love hearing how learning languages can impact on so many areas of our lives, often in the most unexpected ways. It’s also fascinating what you say about finding your true self in Russian – I wonder, did you find that you had a very different personality in Russian (as opposed to your mother tongue)?

  • Nate

    it has already been worth it and i am only halfway there. thanks for the great article!

    • Good luck for the second half, Nate! It only gets easier from here!

  • For me, language learning is all about growing in empathy and love for people, and I like the quote Kevin gave. I have heard another really good one “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela

  • Afnan Linjawi

    The most motivated of men I met in my life always start their stories with, “My girlfriend dumped me, so instead I went on to do this great thing!”. Interesting!
    I personally learn languages so I never have anyone think I am not an intelligent person because I suck at maths! That’s my initial motivation!

    • That’s nice and original, Afnan – I like it! 🙂

  • Lou Gallo

    I have definitely felt this moment of listening and talking with people without realizing I did it in another language : ten years ago with English in Australia, and a few years ago with Arabic. And it happens a lot that I pick up a book, in one language or the other, read it and put it down, but not being able to remember afterwards exactly in what language I read it in. This is when I really feel I’ve reached my “fluency” goal. And this is what makes me think it’s doable in all of these other languages I want to learn, and accept all the hard work (even if mst of the time it’s just fun) that comes with it.
    It’s like having a superpower but it became so natural that you forgot you had it.

    • I love that description, Lou… it’s what we’re all aiming for! One of my favourite quotes is: “You don’t learn a language, you get used to it” and what you’ve described is exactly that!

    • Deb Dabb Lander

      This is where I want to be!!

  • Jo Ruiz

    Wow! I reaaly admire your high level of motivation and passion for learning languages and love for adventure. I can imagine how exciting is knowing other languages, places and cultures.
    It’s important to keep it up, no matter how hard could be sometimes.
    I wish I could have a strong motivation and passion while learning languages but they go on and off.
    I admire you, Olly. I hope you never give up to this wonderful passion for languages and adventure.

    • Thanks Jo, I’ll keep it up as long as I can! 🙂

  • AdeNike

    It means utmost freedom in communication. No restraint whatsoever.

  • Emily Oliveira

    “Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eigenen.”
    ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    By reading this very convenient article I realized that maybe I’m not alone neither “special”, that even if my motivation also began out of spite like in your story, is was mostly so I could prove to myself that I could overcome this huge mountain that is learning German as an adult. And for a benefit that I had not predicted, I am getting to learn about a completely different culture and being able to really appreciate all the idiosyncrasies of my Brazilian origins.

    • That’s wonderful. Isn’t it great how we constantly discover new things about ourselves when we’re learning a new language?

  • I couldn’t agree more! You HAVE to have an answer to the “why” of learning a language that is personalized.

    And I’d add that the best thing you can do for yourself along the way is to learn to recognize and celebrate moments when you can see your progress – the little points at which the “what would it mean to you…?” have become, in some small way, “What does it mean to you?”

    • Yes… I love this! Personally, I’m increasingly trying to get smaller, achievable goals for myself, specifically so I can revel in those moments of actually achieving them!

  • Kelison Araújo

    I doesn’t mean money, good job to me. It’s beyond. I stated now, and I really want to be a polyglot, because it’s something that I love so much. I want it to be part of my life, my history. I know that my english is not so good, but I hope you got it right.

  • Victor Saavedra

    For me, be fluent in English means that I’ve finally completed a long, very long career studies, one of my biggest pending issues. Furthermore, it also means access to one great part of human culture, something that I would very much like.

    • You’ll get there soon, Victor…. your English is already very good!

  • Deb Dabb Lander

    To wake up fluent in Spanish will be “the titties”! I’ve been trying for at least 4 years to get fluent enough to have a spontaneous conversation and I just can’t seem to get over the hump. I need to learn to think in Spanish instead of constantly translating, but that light has yet to go on.

    • That, and lots of practice! Are you having regular conversations with native speakers, Deb?

      • Deb Dabb Lander

        Sí. Estoy en México ahora y estamos asistir clases de español. I’m still struggling with all of the information I’m receiving and how to make it make sense.

        • In your classes, do you “learn/study”, or do you spend lots of time speaking? What I’m getting at is that it’s important to balance out your study time with time spent actually speaking (chatting) with real people. Conversation partners can be great for that!

  • Lau Rel

    It means finally feeling like a a whole Canadian instead of just the Anglo Canadian I was before. It means achieving more than I nor anyone else who knew me ever thought that I could attain. It means the possibility to learn another language. It means a strong future as a teacher in my own country.

    • Hi Lau, I love what you say about achieving more than other people thought you could. That motivates me too!

  • Dian Williams

    In my head I’m already there! I think about what I would be doing at any certain time of day or activity. I imagine the conversations. More and more I have words in Mandarin in those conversations. I started learning myself about 6 months ago, and can understand by reading the best. However I have started talking now and that helps a lot. My plan is to go to live in China for at least a year. My target move is the end of 2015! To stay motivated I read about different communities and websites for shareing language for a room. This gives me ideas about what different people are like and how individuals live. So I get more of life to imagine. Thanks for sharing your experience with me. Dian

    • Hi Dian… what a great goal! Let us know when you finally make it to China!

  • Hajar Mekaoui

    Learning a new language with motivation and passion,it really make you doing things that you’ll can’t believe it;however,motivation and passion play a large role in Learning a language.If you have both motivation and passion,you’ll get the language that you want quickly.

  • Jan

    I would feel that I had achieved a skill that would widen my horizons and open the gate to other languages. After all I did it once so I could do it again – right?

    • Absolutely! The first foreign language is always the hardest! 🙂

  • Br. Paul M. Nguyen, OMV

    You’re so right about identifying that passion that will motivate language-learning. For me, it broadens my horizons to embrace other people by first coming into contact with other cultures through language. My comprehension of another person’s language allows me to express myself, but more importantly, to make the other person comfortable to share the deep meanings and desires of the heart, knowing that what is shared will be received and honored. In a word, communion!

    • I love this… broadening our own horizons… connecting with people… it’s what it’s all about! 🙂

  • Wagner Rodrigues

    Eu me sinto muito animado e feliz em aprender inglês, sei que é difícil mas eu vou conseguir. Thanks Olly.

    • Legal… eu tambem sei que voce vai ter muito sucesso!

  • Nina

    It means speaking with my distant cousins, connecting with them on a deeper level, then discovering a little bit of France, and ultimately, making it a part of what I do for living.

  • Álex Luna Cortés

    My native language is Spanish and I’ve been learning English for one year and I understood your post :D, I’m motivated for learn English but I don’t have passion for another language, first, I want to master English later… portuguese (maybe), anyway English is awesome and maybe I’ll start another language soon, but I’m not sure which language.

    To sum up I’d like to ask you what was your third language and what was your motivation for learn it?

    Take care

    • Hi Alex, my third language was Italian. My motivation to learn it was the people I met in the cafe in London. I made friends with them and really wanted to visit them in Italy!

  • Cirkeline

    I like that idea:

    I close my eyes and I see myself waking up in the morning, speaking fluent Arabic.
    I walk out in the streets and I stop at a street vendor to buy a snack

    and a drink without needing any hand movements or pointing, I just casually, as anyone else in the line, order what I want, exchange a few pleasantries with the seller before I pay and continue on my walk…
    I will greet the people passing in the street without being nervous that they will start a conversation, I will be glad if they do 🙂
    I will end this happy day by meeting with my friends at the local cafeteria and
    discuss politics and the world around us without being dependent on them to
    stop in the heat of the discussion to translate for me… Yes, it is a great idea
    to dream like this, now it is straight back to my language books 🙂 Thank you.

    • What a wonderful account of your ideal state! 🙂 I like the fact you focus on simple daily things… ordering food, chatting with your friends etc. This should give you a clear idea where to focus your studying!

    • Barbara Filgate-Cobham

      Oh my gosh! I think I will begin doing an evening visualization like this. That level of comfort is absolutely what I crave in Korean.

  • Kimberly Baker

    It means I could actually have a conversation with my daughter in laws parents. It also means I could do a better job teaching English to my Chinese students, because I would have the ability to help them understand what I’m teaching in both languages.

    • That’s fantastic! There’s no stronger motivator that to connect with the people around us… especially when they’re family! Best of luck!

  • Kayjulia

    I have decided to live the rest of my life in Mexico it is a commitment. I have to understand the culture and mores of the country and that starts with the language. I have studied, briefly at two schools to improve my spanish and now I’m going to another for a longer period of time to hopefully get to the next level where I can communicate in a natural manner and understand my neighbors better. I am excited to begin class!

    • That’s so cool… best of luck, and remember to enjoy every minute!

  • Annie

    Ahh, becoming fluent in a foreign language means so much to me. I feel sort of trapped by my monolingualism, as if a great part of the world (the non-English speaking part) has been closed off to me. So in that sense, it would mean a greater sense of freedom. It would also mean a greater sense of faith in myself and my ability to succeed when I put my mind to something. I’ve spent a large portion of my (albeit short) life feeling as if I’ll never be able to do things just because I can’t do them now, so by learning a foreign language, in fact, by the progress I’ve made so far, I am proving to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. This mindset is actually paying off in other areas of my life too, and I have language learning to thank for inspiring me.

    • Self-confidence, faith, freedom… it’s no wonder there are so many benefits to learning languages, and why so many people love doing it! I love your passion, and I have no doubt you will achieve everything you set out to!

  • Oleh Sliusar

    I can push myself to studying without special motivation

  • Danny Logan

    I’m very near-sighted – 20/400. Without glasses I couldn’t recognize my best friend from across the room. I have to have my glasses to see the world around me.
    And that’s what languages are to me. They help me to see more, to see farther, and see the world more clearly.

  • Sally A Logan

    Our son lives in Germany with his girlfriend and their two boys, 7 years and 18 months. The 7 year old has been bilingual since he started to talk and the baby will be the same.
    Although they would prefer us to talk to the boys in English, it is so frustrating when we are with the future in-laws and cannot join in the conversations.
    I would so love to be fluent by the time they get married next April, and become a true participant in the proceedings.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sally! Family reasons are always the most pressing and emotive. You can certainly be conversant in German within 9 months! However, it’s a long-term thing, and I always encourage people to enjoy the ride, as there are always ups and downs along the road of becoming truly fluent. Best of luck!

  • Maya Bačić Njegovan

    Its quite a hard question, as I dont know the answer. I guess for me, being one of the young generations, Ive grown up in a fractured world, countries separated, bordered off, wars and ongoing feuds with each other, when once we were all one. However it was even worse a little longer ago, so once I learnt how bad it was previously, I was surprised how it has improved so much, and made me feel very grateful. At a very young age it inspired me to want to connect people again, and rid the unnecessary hate towards each other. In addition to our ever growing technology, it made me think “Well if they did it before, surely we can keep it up” . Raised bilingually in the beautiful multicultural Sydney, learning 3 languages in high school and 3 self teaching at home, I find calm and happiness in being able to hear new worlds, important pieces of culture, roll off my tongue so easily, as a reward from my hard work. Its really hard to explain, but Im sure you understand. Peace, love and happy learning everyone! – Maya

    • Thanks so much for sharing. Hopefully, just being aware of this question and reflecting on it will be useful for us all!

  • Ravo Randria

    When I was at school, I had this very romantic idea of the British culture, so regardless of the not so innovative teaching methods at school, with sufficient motivation (but I didn’t know it at the time), I became fluent in English.
    It was not the case with German, my second language as I didn’t really have any real connection with the country, parat from singing Lider, which I love.
    The next language was Spanish but not for Spain but for South America, first because I wanted to visit Peru, but ultimately I ended with Argentina because of tango which I sing and love singing. So I speak Spanish with the accent of el Rio de la Plata. I went to Buenos Aires several times to play tango and met wonderful musicians there that became friends.
    Sadly, Spanish put a damp on the Italian language which was my first other latin language. Now I can understand an Italian speaking but for speaking myself, it’s

    more like a strange “spanish italian”.
    And now I’m on my way to learn Japanese. I love the culture and I know that I truly learn about a country by reading. Here the challenge is great but as I delve more and more in Japanese traditional culture and I discover its literature, I want so much more to be able to understand without problem all those kanjis and their combination.
    And I have this feeling that the next step will be Chinese because with the Japanese culture, I found out all that the chinese culture brought to its neighbours.
    Olly, I really like the part about your discovery of other countries through your colleagues/friends that worked in the same café. That’s the true richness of life for me : being able to meet so many different people now and be able to relate, exchange ideas and find true friends through another language.

    • Really great to hear all your linguistic adventures! Best of luck with Japanese – I’m sure you’ll adore the language!

  • Vita

    For me it’s freedom in many meaning! More people for communication, more information from the world, more abilities life like new country and new job.And abilities to teach my child something more, something useful like new language.

    • That’s a beautiful gift to give to a child, for sure! Lovely reply, Vita, thanks!

  • Jane C

    I love reading through these comments, so many things said resonate with me.

    I feel as though whenever I make progress in Spanish, I understand a different culture a little bit more, which gives me incredible joy.

    Learning a second language in itself requires risks, so I believe I am more likely to take risks in Spanish rather than English.

    In addition, as described by so many others here, the state of being able to connect to a culture I wouldn’t otherwise be able to is an aspiration I can’t wait to achieve. I will never forget my first evangelical service in the Dominican Republic, how joyful and full of life the people were. I wanted so badly to understand and be able to sing every word of the songs, understand the sermon, understand the amazing people around me with whom I would soon become close friends. I’m returning this July, and that is one of my biggest daily motivations.

    • I find that when you don’t quite understand what’s being said yet, you focus more on the humanity of a given situation. Almost like a child sees the world – pure joy. When you understand everything, you begin to find the inevitable impurities!

  • Daniela

    Being able to speak a foreign language is a joy that I cannot compare with anything else in this world. I hope I am not exaggerating when I say that, and surely there are dozens of incredibly satisfying things in life (but I do not have children yet, so I hope I’m somehow excused). It gives me the feeling I’m using this amazing tool we have been given, our brain, in the right way. I feel I am celebrating the immense gift of human intelligence. Expanding (not only metaphorically speaking) the horizons of our knowledge is a unique opportunity we can’t afford to miss.

    • Really glad you said that, Daniela, I agree with you 100%… although children are pretty cool too 🙂

  • Jackie Smith

    To become part of the community in which I live. To laugh with them and understand what makes them tick.

  • Sylvia May

    I grew up with a love of languages that I must have inherited, because my grandma learned Polish from some refugees who lodged with her after the war. They encouraged her to try italian, because, as a musician, she already had some of those words. But quite honestly I just wasn’t very good at them at school. I studied French post-A level, but then life took over. it was 34 years before I came back to French. As a ‘retired’ person, I now teach French and Italian (which I have to an intermediate level), and I am studying Spanish. I don’t know how to describe what language means to me, but I guess I’m just a mad linguist who absolutely loves learning and speaking other languages and love to pass on my own excitement and enthusiam to learners. To know other languages is to feel other cultures in a way you can’t otherwise do.

    • For people like us, who love languages, it’s very hard to convey that feeling to others who don’t share that passion. You’re doing a great job, though, and it’s wonderful that you’re teaching French and Italian.

  • Gavrilo

    Honestly, as motivating as this was (and it truly was!) what it makes me wanna do the most is find a job at a café 😀
    I think interaction with people is what helps the most, it’s both the biggest reason for and the easiest way to learn a language. Sadly we don’t get a whole lot of tourists where I’m from, but the Internet is a huge help. Thanks for your story, genuinely moving, in more ways than one.

    • Thanks Gavrilo, I appreciate your comment!

    • Lyfen Chen

      Yes, you are right! but there are other ways for learning a language, not only at a coffee shop, as being a guide or a leader etc.

  • Zuzka Blúzka

    Olly, similar to my story. When I lived in England,there was a man and I was into him…But one day he said: “You know it wouldn’t work out…..your English…. of course it wasn’t just that, BUT…..I decided to take classes, passed Cambridge exams,taught children in Mexico and now,back home in Slovakia I’m a professional English teacher and I LOVE my job!
    I’m currently learning Spanish and it feels so good……
    But now my motivation is to meet you guys at Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava next year!

    • That would be so cool! You could also come to Iceland (Polyglot Conference) or Montreal (Language Festival)… lots of options! 🙂

  • Mary

    Very many years ago I lived with a family near Paris where no one spoke English. I had only school French so this was a shock! But before long I began not just to speak but to think in French, not translating (which I am doing in Spanish) and although I’ve lost touch with these people I have not lost my understanding and appreciation of the French language.
    I do feel frustrated by my current poor progress in Spanish and your 3 secrets did make so much sense and I’m trying to build these in. I know that I just do not have the ‘feel’ for Spanish that I once had for French but not giving up!

    • Lyfen Chen

      Today in France, especially in Paris, there are a lot of people who speak English, as in many store, super market, mall etc…further more, its second language is English, so almost the young people do it.

    • Hi Mary, thanks for your comment. It really is a question of time and exposure. I don’t believe that children are better language learners than adults, but what children do typically have is large amounts of time to immerse themselves in the language in a way that’s impractical for adults. Keep it up… you’re closer than you think!

  • Riina Udras

    I love stories. In books, in movies, in music, in art, in people. Learning a language is like opening a new book. As you learn, the story begins to unfold. You discover people, dreams, history, landscapes, food, traditions, beautiful, ugly… Like a blossom opening. Sometimes it gets hard, like reading The Game Of Thrones, where you must take notes to remember who everybody are and why they hate each other. But the story is still enthralling!

    • Indeed! Story is so powerful, captures your imagination, and leads you to study further!

  • Lyfen Chen

    I speak several languages, but my best wish is to speak French very well, that’s why I met you online “i will teach you a language” as I search it online for improve my French. but today, I have changed my idea, because I want to learn Japanese. so I think, you are right, for learning a language, we need patient courage and perseverance.

    • Indeed! Have you decided to stick with Japanese now?

      • Lyfen Chen

        No, at the moment, I don’t quite motivate, maybe later, as I am busy and i always travel, i just came back from US, next month i am going to another city as well. so that’s a problem for me. do you speak also Japanese?

        • Luke smith

          “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

          • Lyfen Chen

            I don’t think it’s an easy thing to learn a language, so for me, I have to have time first then, to organize it for having a good studying.

          • That’s where it helps to have some experience – to know when you’re using your time in the best possible way. I hope the blog helps with this!

          • Fen Ly

            Of course, it helps, but I am busy, at the moment, I can’t .that’s why I am regret.

          • Haha I love that!

  • I have always been a curious soul and I got serious about learning another language when I decided to go back to school. I’m majoring in European History and I kept thinking things like “well, it’d be cool if I knew how to speak Greek/Latin/German” so I could read primary resources. That’s when it hit me “why haven’t I learned?” So, languages to me feels like the key to open doors. Both past and present.

    • I love that. I’m excited to think about all the adventures that await you!

  • Patrick Maschka

    My story is not very interesting, let alone poetic or romantic. I have always felt that people who spoke a language other than mine (English) had some kind of secret code. I felt left out. I learned my first Spanish in 3rd grade, and I still remember most of that (ah, to be a child again), but nothing beyond basic vocabulary. Fast forward to my adannced adult age, and it has remained a life goal to learn another language. I have many opportunities in my work to encounter Spanish-speaking people, so I committed in 2016 to dedicate time every day to learn the language until I was fluent. That was 8 months ago and I am still studying every day, which I will continue until Spanish rolls off my tongue with ease.

    • Hi Patrick, thanks for the comment. With that wonderful attitude, there’s no way you can fail!

  • Екатерина

    I love my native Russian language . It’s beautiful! I also want to be fluent in English. But I don’t imagine what will be able to know several languages. I really like Italian.

    • If you keep it up for long enough, you can learn as many languages as you want!

  • Learning another language opens up TWO worlds. I’ve not only spoken Japanese with native speakers, I’ve also used it to communicate with others for whom it is not a native language, but it is the only language we have in common.


    • Yes, interesting! I suppose that’s an experience that’s commonplace for non-native speakers of English, but rarer for native English speakers.

  • Panni Tamás

    Well to me languages mean that I’m complete. My mind and heart doesn’t get along too well but when I speak/learn languages I feel like I’m being put together finally. And yes I think people do change when they talk in another language but not only their personality does but also their voice and way of thinking. Or at least it does in my case.

  • Panni Tamás

    Oh and I also think that the more languages you speak (or at least understand) the more open the world will appear around you

  • Dila

    I close my eyes and I wake up in Sydney and working in a cafe like you 🙂
    Then, I opened my eyes I am in my desk and studying IELTS. But even imagine felt good. Thank you Olly 🙂

  • Kris Wessels-Coles

    I grew up bi-lingual, but find learning a 3rd language in my middle 50’s very hard work. Not so much the reading, it is the listening and understanding that gets me.

  • Prosper Kalu Kalu

    If I just wake and see myself discussing fluently in French myself esteem and confidence will increase dramatically.

  • Dina Angel

    Good working I like your story and that’s make me happy I want to learn English and another laugaug please help me😊

  • Robert Gee

    I find that I understand the people better and have more empathy with them. I have hovered on the edge of both French and German most of my life but I am determined now to become fluent in German as my son lives in Austria and I just love it there 🙂

  • Jane Huff

    It would mean a lot to me Ollie. I am half Italian and half German and would really love to visit those countries one day and be able to speak fluently

    • I’m sure it would mean so much to you! And there’s nothing stopping you! One at a time, though! 🙂

  • Fatin Suraini

    Hey Olly, its an interesting reason for you to learn up languages, most of us (maybe just me) would cry and then moved on without getting any benefits from the event. Haha. But for me, since I am born from a mix cultured family (malay and chinese) I am able to speak at least 3 languages fluently since I was a kid, my circle of friends seems to be broader than my peers. And now that im taking medicine as my degree. I have this urge and craving to want to learn more of other foreign languages so that I’ll be able to connect with those outside my circle even more and perhaps help them in anway I could, I dreamt of going to missions as a medical personnel. I love making new friends and having a common tongue would ease it very much. I cant wait to learn another language, but I dont know whether I should focus only on my studies first as a final year medical student or learn the languages at the same time. Haha. 🙂

  • Luis Felipe Guauque H

    When closing my eyes, visualize and realize that I have obtained the results that I have always hoped for, I will be satisfied to have achieved everything I set out and I will realize that it is time to start helping others to achieve their goals

  • Christine Collins

    I love languages because each one comes with a whole new world, new culture, a different way of life and I love getting to know people, their language and culture.

  • Vanessa Dhanalutchmee Mootyen

    Language is beyond communication for me! It’s a way of knowing people’s culture, understanding how they live etc. Every language is distinguished by its own distinctive flavour. Just analysing the way of greeting in another language is simply interesting. It is also a way to show the difference in us as well as our similarities. I found out that some languages have some words in common.

  • TJB

    Well, I think my goal is a bit too lofty so I have various scenarios playing in my head. I want to learn the languages I’m interested in so I can translate for others. I want to bridge the gap between people. The languages I want to learn have an interestingly intertwined community that relies on the few to break the barrier between them. These languages are Japanese, Korean and Spanish. Mostly I want to focus on translating songs and news to and from all these different languages so as to make an open forum for communication and to provide more opportunities for people. If I can’t get fluent enough to make music more accessible and enjoyable for others, I want to be at least able to express myself spontaneously in the languages I desire to learn so I can easily connect on a deep level with people I may not otherwise have a lot in common with. My fantasies about this are wild, but I just can’t get in the groove to do it.

    • Thanks for the comment. You’ve certainly got some ambitious goals, which I love to see! Perhaps setting some shorter-term targets might help you get into the groove?

      • TJB

        I’ve read that you should try to set your sites on a goal like A2 and then go from there. I’ve also read a lot about how and what to study, but I can’t seem to find the right way to do it. I agree that having small, manageable goals is always the way to go. I just can’t pick any.

  • Hi! For me language is a fun thing to learn. It’s quite amazing to speak other languages

  • Hi! For me language is a fun thing to learn. It’s quite amazing to speak other languages

    • It is amazing indeed! It’s a great feeling to communicate with someone in another language.

  • Sybille Elisabeth Stephenson

    Waking up one morning and realising I’m fluent in Greek would be amazing. Even more amazing would be standing in front of my classroom of teenagers and having them speak German back to me, not just parroting, not just doing the exercises I set them, but actually wanting to speak the language and learning the vocabulary that will enable them to do so. I’ve got all the motivation in the world to get fluent in whatever language I’m learning, but it is so much harder to motivate others to do the same.

  • Katherine Koch

    The first language I became fluent in (other than my birth language of English) was French, the summer I turned 17 and lived with a French family for a summer. It was amazing, like a complex dance, to make my mind work to perceive the world from a different perspective, to feel the mastery of phrases and sentences tripping off my tongue, to connect with French history and culture, and to begin to understand how my host family thought, what they thought about, their ways of being funny and loving. I had also been lucky enough to travel to Italy with my father when I was 14, and to feel the thrill of picking up this beautiful language so fast it startled me. I went on to study it more formally, and to live for months at a time in Italy as an adult, as a painter. Italian always felt like a second home to me, and yes, as people have mentioned, it was as if I picked up a couple of different personalities when I spoke French or Italian. Now I’ve been living in Oaxaca, Mexico, for a year, and it’s been much harder to learn Mexican Spanish! I’m older, I don’t feel the same pull towards the culture (though it’s pretty amazing), I don’t feel the same relaxed sense of being able to swirl around in a big, dreamy ocean of information until things clarify. So, I keep trying different ways of getting better at it…

  • Alex

    What does learning German to fluency mean to me? It means proving to myself I’m worth more than I think I am, capable of more than I give myself credit for, and boosting my self-esteem to finally beat that depression thing that’s been messing me up. Besides, I did it once, so I can do it again, right? And I’m halfway through already!