I was learning Spanish.
Spanish wasn’t my first foreign language. In fact, I had taught myself French and Italian in the years before that.
But despite my experience with languages, there was a problem I couldn’t shake…
I didn’t enjoy the “study”.
Sitting down with textbooks. Memorising verb tables. Cramming vocabulary into my head.
Not only was it boring, but it didn’t really seem to work!
After a lot of effort studying, I would forget most of it when it came time to actually speak to someone! Not only is that deeply frustrating, but it’s embarrassing and demotivating too.
It was 2004, and I was in Iruya - a tiny village in the mountains in the North of Argentina, on the border of Bolivia.
After a fun night with friends, eating steak and drinking Malbec, I woke up at 3am…
Unable to breathe.
As you can imagine, it’s not a nice feeling.
I jumped out of bed and hurried outside, to see if some fresh air might make a difference.
I started to panic, which made the situation even worse.
I was heaving… desperately trying to get some oxygen into my lungs.
“Is this where it all ends?” I remember thinking.
The haunting view of the valley from my balcony is still etched in my mind today...
Eventually, the breathing started to return.
Trembling, I sat down on a nearby chair.
I focused on my breath, like my life depended on it.
Too scared to go back to sleep, I picked up a book I had bought a few weeks earlier. (So far unopened.)
Cronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel Gárcia Márquez.
The book was in Spanish.
I started reading.
I had never read a book in Spanish before.
It was hard, and there was a lot I didn’t understand.
But there was no way I was going back to sleep.
So I kept reading.
[—FLASHFORWARD, NEXT DAY—]
Walking through the village in the midday sun, I felt different.
Sure, I was still a little shaken from the night before…
But my mind was on something else.
There were words in my head that weren’t there before.
Certain words and phrases would pop into my mind as I walked down the street.
Words from the story.
Usually, when I study with a textbook, new words never stick the first time. (If ever!)
But after just one hour spent reading a Spanish story in the Argentine moonlight…
New words had been firmly planted in my brain.
Turns out researchers have known this for some time…
I kept reading the book. Within 10 days, I had finished.
The transformation in my Spanish was as shocking as the feeling of almost dying on a mountaintop.
As my friend Steve Kaufmann has said, reading your first book in a foreign language is a watershed moment.
You see, it wasn’t just new words I had learned.
There was so much more…
But that’s not even the best thing.
The best thing of all?
I transformed my Spanish, and had fun doing it!
The story motivated to keep reading every day because I wanted to find out whodunnit!
And this is why I now believe the simple key to language learning success is to read #AStoryADay.
Every part of this story is true.
Including the rapid transformation in my Spanish.
I went on to learn 8 foreign languages using this approach, and I’m still going strong!
But you might be wondering how to use stories to learn a language yourself.
After all, you can’t just pick up any old book and start reading… it would be far too hard and you’d quickly lose interest.
That’s where I come in.
You see, over the last few years, inspired my experience in Argentina, I’ve been developing a methodology to help people use stories to learn new languages at all levels.
Like I said earlier, this method might not be for you.
But if you say: “Yes” to any of the statements below, you might like to find out more…
(…and without the need for any death-defying antics on Argentine mountaintops!)
If this sounds like your cup of tea, then enter your details in the box below.
I’ll start by teaching you how to use stories to understand native speakers when they talk quickly.
See you on the other side!
How do you know you can trust my advice?
It’s a fair question.
Well, I’ve worked with some of the largest organisations in the world, such as the Open University, the British Council and the European Commission.
I’ve sold 10,000s of copies of my bestselling books.
I’ve been featured in media across the globe.