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.
In today’s feature, italki sits down with Eduardo from E-Dublin! Read on to find out what Ed has to say about learning English.
Tell us about yourself, what do you do?
My name is Ed and I’m the founder of E-Dublin and Global Community Manager at Dropbox. I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and did not speak English until I decided to move to Ireland, in 2008. It was a big move for me - coming to Europe for the first time - with no English, no job; and honestly, not even enough money.
Learning a new language, a new culture, and getting out of my comfort zone has helped make me who I am today.
What languages do you speak? What language(s) are you actively learning now?
I am a native-speaker of Portuguese. I also speak English, Spanish, and very entry-level of German (I’m learning in baby steps).
How do you motivate yourself when learning a language, and what do you expect to achieve?
I often say that being fluent in a language is when you can have a ‘flowing’ conversation, which, to me, defines as fluency. When learning a new language, I want to be able to have a ‘flowing’ conversation with someone. I don’t need to know all the ‘ins and outs’ of the language’s grammar or history in order to hold a conversation.
I try to set small goals as well, so I have a sense of progress. It can be something super simple as today, I’ll try to order coffee in [whatever language I’m trying to learn]. Then I move forward to I’ll try to understand a full paragraph of a book and moving on to things like watching a TV series or listening to podcasts in the language that I’m trying to learn.
How has language learning changed your life?
I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t speak a second language. Moving to Ireland forced me to leave my comfort zone and have to learn fast. Actually, that’s one of the joys of moving abroad. You can’t do mimics forever and expecting to get a job in a multinational [company]. Being able to articulate, and sell myself, landed me into my job and opened several doors for me.
What are your favorite ways of improving your speaking abilities?
Chatting to native speakers in a very noisy environment (pubs for example) helps a lot. But what I caught myself doing lately is listening to audiobooks in 2x the normal speed. In doing so, I save myself twice the amount of time to ‘read’ a book and also practice my listening skills by listening to something twice as fast.
How do you feel people can use their language skills to benefit their community or those around them?
Understanding more languages helps people to connect, relate, and respect different cultural aspects. There’s usually a misunderstanding in ‘translation’ and a person’s language skills can help to overcome such ambiguities.
Michelle Obama gave a great speech a few years ago, about living abroad and that includes learning a new language. She said “...it is so important for more of our young people to live and study in each other’s countries. That’s how, student by student, we develop that habit of cooperation, by immersing yourself in someone else’s culture, by sharing your stories and letting them share theirs, by taking the time to get past the stereotypes and misperceptions that too often divide us”.
Language skills is one of the core things you learn as part of immersing yourself into a cultural and becoming a better human being.
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 a bit biased as I’ve been living abroad for almost a decade now. There’s not a single Brazilian in my office so my daily language is English. When possible, I try to find a Spanish or German native to practice other languages during coffee breaks and so on.
What tips do you have for learning languages that don't have very many learning materials available in English?
For example, Chinese dialects such as Shanghainese and Hokkien, languages that not many English speakers learn. Another example is Serbian (one that I would personally very much like to learn for heritage reasons), and more obscure lingua francas such as Lingala.
Find native speakers who can speak a language you speak (i.e a Serbian who can speak Portuguese or English) and get started there. You can start looking for someone that specific here on italki.
What final inspiration would you like to share to our readers?
Don’t give up learning something. It’s easy to give up when there’s no real need for it, so throw yourself into a real need. Start travelling to non-touristic cities where they can’t understand a word you speak, engage in conversations with native speakers (italki is great for that); read more, listen more, and don’t be afraid to speak. When you least expect it, you’ll be talking fluently to someone.