Overcoming personal struggles and reaching new heights in language acquisition is at the heart of your journey to fluency. In a series of interviews with italki partners and polyglots, you will learn about personal stories from these language learning experts and be able to access novel and insightful language learning tips from those who have ventured on this journey.
Tell us about yourself, what do you do?
Hello! I’m Lucy, I’m 23 and I live in Cambridge. I run the YouTube channel ‘English with Lucy’ where I teach anything from grammar, to pronunciation, to British culture! It all started when, aged 19, I found myself suddenly unemployed in Madrid on my university placement year so I moved to Seville to do a TEFL qualification.
I fell in love with teaching, but found myself struggling with teaching grammar. My students would ask me why I use the past simple instead of the present perfect and I struggled to answer them! I had to learn all of the theory from scratch and traditional grammar books didn’t seem to make anything stick in my head. I started watching grammar lessons on YouTube which were much more helpful, but sometimes a bit long and unexciting.
I started ‘English with Lucy’ because I wanted to make learning English a fun and interesting task, and now I get to help millions of students every month! I’m in heaven!
What languages do you speak? What language(s) are you actively learning now?
I speak Spanish fluently (you can see me speaking it here). I started by learning a little bit at school and then, with the money I was earning waitressing at the local pub, I went to Seville for a 1 week residential course. I fell in love with Spain and made loads of friends. Eventually I met a Spaniard and ended up being with him for 4 years which drastically improved my spoken Spanish….and even made me sound a little andalusian! Spanish speakers often laugh at my accent, which I don’t mind - it’s a great conversation starter!
At university I started learning Italian and it’s something that I am actively learning now. I love Italian humour, food, and culture! The language is absolutely beautiful!
How do you motivate yourself when learning a language, and what do you expect to achieve?
When I am learning a language I HAVE to practice with real native speakers. I get such a buzz from doing it. It really boosts my confidence and you can instantly see how much you are improving! When I learn a language, I always aim to achieve fluency before accuracy and perfection. I want to be able to communicate freely before worrying about tiny grammatical errors.
How has language learning changed your life?
‘English with Lucy’ wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t started learning Spanish! Many of my closest friends are Italian and Spanish. I also feel I’ve developed a whole new personality and sense of humour in Spanish, which is awesome. It opens so many doors!
What are your favorite ways of improving your speaking abilities?
Immersion! I love going to a country and immersing myself in the language and culture. In just 1 week you can learn and improve so much, make so many friends and really grow as a person. It’s like a holiday with a real educational purpose!
What is an important learning activity that you absolutely do (daily) to keep yourself going even when times are busy or the willpower to learn is low?
I’m not me if I’m not active. I find that exercise really helps my learning process. I am currently training for a marathon so I run anything between 5km and 21km daily. If i have to get up at 4am to fit it in, then so be it! It prepares my mind for everything, it makes me feel positive and healthy, it shows me how you can improve by being consistent, and it gives me breaks from my computer screen. I’m writing this just after having finished a half marathon around Cambridge. If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be running half marathons for fun, I would have laughed! It’s amazing how the body and mind can improve over time with a little dedication and willpower!
A lot of language learners ask about the importance of pronunciation or accent. What would you say to them?
So pronunciation is the way in which individual words are pronounced, making it very very important - it’s the difference between somebody understanding you or not understanding you! I would say it’s equally as important as grammar. I feel there should be much more of a focus placed on correct pronunciation, especially in schools.
Accents, in my opinion, are a bonus and a bit of fun! Choose one you like and work towards it! I love speaking Spanish with my Sevillian accent, I feel it shows off my language-learning journey! Don’t worry about concealing your accent. Accents are beautiful and are part of who you are and where you’ve been. Nobody should ever feel ashamed of their accent. There’s a big difference between having a strong accent and having bad pronunciation. If you do want to improve your accent and make it clearer, try focusing on connected speech!
What final inspiration would you like to share to our readers?
Don’t wait for others to educate you, educate yourself!
This is something I always say to my students. Don’t understand conditionals? Don’t wait around for someone else to explain it! Go online and find it out yourself! There are loads of YouTube videos with great explanations, and you can use online teacher databases (like italki) if you need to ask some questions. Everything is there for you, so stop waiting and start doing!