About

Alex Rawlings has been fascinated by languages and determined to learn as many as possible for as long as he can remember. He was born in London in 1991, where he grew up speaking English and Greek at home, studied German, French and Spanish at school, picked up Dutch, Afrikaans, Hebrew, Italian and Catalan on the side. He then studied Russian and German at Oxford University, and was named Britain’s Most Multilingual Student in 2012 after being tested for fluency in all those languages in a competition run by Harper Collins.

Since graduating in 2014, he went on to study many more, including tricky ones like Hungarian and Serbian. He has lived in five different countries, including Russia, Hungary, Germany and Spain, where he taught and studied languages, while organising conferences and workshops for language learners worldwide.

Alex returned to the UK in 2016, where he completed his first book “How To Speak Any Language Fluently“, which was published in June 2017. Since April 2017 he has been working as the Language Learner in Residence at UK-based startup Memrise, where he is heavily involved in the ideation of new learning modes and features, as well as editing the Memrise blog and featuring in content marketing videos.

Alex’s has also contributed to online and offline publications by the British Council, the European Commission, the Guardian, and the Evening Standard. He has also appeared in TV and Radio broadcasts around the world.

Alex travels the world speaking and learning new languages with his Hungarian dachshund, Zoli.

  • Tony Modinos

    Hi Alex, I’m really glad to see you have finally made a blog. Like you, I have a half greek mother and an english father. Despite my mum not speaking any greek, I fell in love with the language and the culture so decided to teach myself. I’m currently at a conversational level and use it everyday with my greek housemate whom I live with during university. I sometimes feel more greek cypriot than english.

    I’m currently at university studying law, which despite my efforts, doesn’t leave a great deal of time to study my languages. I have managed to bring my french and spanish to a high level and I’m currently learning Afrikaans and Farsi. These are two languages that I have discovered through friends.

    You’re a real inspiration to me and it’s nice to see someone promoting beautiful languages such as Afrikaans and Greek which are often overlooked.

    Καλα Χριστουγεννα φιλε μου!

    Tony

    • http://rawlangs.wordpress.com Alex Rawlings

      Hi Tony, thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog and getting in touch. Really interesting to hear from you. I don’t think I’ve met anyone else who like me is only a quarter Greek or whatever but has fully embraced that culture and sees themself as bi-cultural. Do you go to Cyprus or Greece often? How do you think people see you there, as a foreigner or as a Greek?

      Also very interested to hear you’re also at uni. It’s a great shame but I have no time to keep my interests going really, I’m taking a module in Yiddish literature next year so have started learning that, but apart from that I don’t get a chance to learn new languages any more. Ek is baie bly dat jy ook Afrikaans leer. Dis ‘n wonderlike taal en ek hoop dat jy daarmee baie pret sal hê.

      Καλά Χριστούγεννα κι επίσης, χρόνια πολλά, κι ελπίζω ν’ ακούσω περισσότερα απο ‘σένα σύντομα, φίλε!

      Alex

      • modinos

        I agree, I am yet to meet another quarter greek/cypriot who has any desire to embrace that part of their heritage. I go to Cyprus during christmas and summer, and then occasionally at easter. When I am there I feel like a complete outsider, as you know greeks are very similar in looks compared to brits, so they are immediately aware that you’re a ‘kseno’, they even have a word in Cyprus for british born cypriots or those like us who are mixed, they say ‘charloui’ for a guy or ‘charloua’ for a girl, which I believe comes from their knowledge of Charlie Chaplin being British. When I’m there I always use greek in shops and restaurants, but often they choose to switch to english.

        I have also experienced a mixed response at university, most Greeks and Cypriots are very shocked when I speak greek to them and are quite intrigued, yet some are very reluctant to acknowledge that part of me that is greek. I completely empathise with the feelings you have had about being somewhat of an outsider.

        Nevertheless, it hasn’t deterred me from learning greek and I have spent the last two years learning it. My close friend Joanna is fully Cypriot, but was born in London. When I first met her 2 years ago I lied to her and said I spoke greek so she would then speak to me in greek. I went from literally hearing the odd word that I understood and somehow managed to derive what was being said, whereas now through years of daily exposure it is our home language and I understand 95% of what is being said and am able to reply.

        I still have many issues with greek, as I have never studied it formally I struggle with certain grammatical rules and thus constructing my own sentances. Also, we tend to speak the cypriot dialect, which differs somewhat from modern greek. How do the greeks at Oxford tend to treat you and have you had any exposure to ‘kipriaka’? Also why did you choose to begin studying Afrikaans?

        Tony

  • Henry

    Alex,
    I started learning German at school a couple of years ago. Within weeks of the course I fell in love with the language and I easily started to pick up French. Both of which I now speak at a high level. Most recently, I started to learn Italian but unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to learn Spanish.
    It is my dream in life to speak as many languages as possible. I’d love to learn Russian and Mandarin.
    Do you think that a language can be mastered simply through CDs and books or is a tutor/teacher important.

    Ich liebe Sprachen / Me encantan los idiomas / Amo le lingue

    Danke
    Henry

    • http://rawlangs.wordpress.com Alex Rawlings

      Hi Henry, thanks for stopping by! Great to hear how much you’re enjoying learning languages. It sounds like you’re on the right track for a lot of them, keep it up! As for tutor vs CD, I think it really depends on the language. The best thing about having a tutor is having someone to practise with, but nowadays with the internet that’s not that difficult to find. Good luck with it all, and I hope you like the blog! Tschüß, Alex

      • Henry

        Thanks for your reply.
        What language do you think is the easiest to learn by CD/books? Spanish? Dutch? I assume that Mandarin and Russian are probably best to learn with a tutor or living in an appropriate country. Also I am planning on studying Russian and Chinese Studies at University – but I am not hoping to get into Oxford; like you.
        After an undergraduate degree, where can I go with postgraduate studying except studying Translating? PhD in Linguistics?
        I just don’t want to learn too many languages from the same family, for example, getting confused between Spanish and Portuguese etc.

        Ich möchte in Deutschland wohen, weil das Kultur verschieden aber interessant ist.

        Ein glückliches neues Jahr!
        Henry

        • http://www.clicksco.com Esther Goldsby

          I speak Bislama and am constantly trying to retain the little grasp of a dying-out Polynesian dialect from 2 tiny islands in the South Pacific. Could do with a bit more time in the day to spend on it! My son is jealous of people who can speak a lot of languages – it’s one of his ambitions to speak more than me (shouldn’t be too difficult!).

          • http://gravatar.com/evloras Eugenia Loras

            Congratulations Alex to you and your parents. And even though we have not met yet, we are somehow very proud of you!
            Συγχαρητήρια!
            Eugenia Loras
            Ευγενία Λώρα

          • montmorency

            Hi Henry,

            I’m not Alex, but I just noticed your question, and while I can’t answer your question, I’d like to point out or remind you that if you want to keep up your German, one can find a great many podcasts on the internet, e.g. at http://www.wdr.de

            http://www.schlaflosinmuenchen.de

            http://www.dradio.de

            & also on deutsche welle.

            One thing I like to do is listen to a German audiobook, while reading it at the same time (book or e-book). One can find these on the web if you look around. Some people listen in the target language while reading a translation in English, but I find that too hard / confusing, but one can play around with these sort of techniques and find what works best for you.

            I was thinking you might try this with Spanish, since there are quite a few Spanish podcasts on the web, quite a few with transcripts. You’d probably want to take a basic formal course first though, like TYS or equivalent. Spanish is nice as it is fairly phonetic, although at first when you hear a native speaker, it is hard to differentiate individual words. The more words you know, the easier it becomes.

            Good luck – buena suerte!

      • http://www.facebook.com/wee.mo123 Maureen F Millward

        Going back to the subject of family links, I am 4th generation Lithuanian. When I discovered that, I started learning the language by using Teach Yourself. I have visited Lithuania twice and I see it as an important part of my heritage now. Lithuanian is quite a unique language. The only similar language is Latvian. However, I notice the verb patterns are very similar to Greek and other Latin languages.
        I did Spanish & Italian at university and went into a career in international finance. Since university, I have done Portuguese to A-Level, intermediate French & Norwegian and basic Arabic, Lithuanian, Dutch and Greek.
        After Easter I am joining an advanced Portuguese class to get it up to the level of my Spanish/Italian and another basic Greek class as I am visiting Greece again this summer.

  • Gökhun

    Hi Alex, can you write a post about rhotacism? Thanks

  • Dmitry

    Привет, Алекс!
    Здорово, что ты полиглот! Respect!
    У меня вопрос. А интересовался ли ты мертвыми языками? Планируешь ли изучение каких-нибудь?
    И еще вопрос. Легко ли даются для тебя языки не с привычными буквами (а, b, c…), а с иероглифами (עברית и др.)?

    Меня зовут Дима (Саратов, Россия)

    • http://rawlangs.wordpress.com Alex Rawlings

      Привет Дима! Спасибо за коментарию. Я в школе изучал латинский и старо-греческий языки. Да, они интересны, но у меня пока нет причины их изучать больше. По академическим целях иногда надо читать старые тексти, а есть обычно хорошие переводы на английском языке, так в том смысле мне повезло)) Иврит имеет собственный альфавит, это не иероглифы. Я один раз изучал немного китайского языка, а мне это было совершенно трудно! Удачи тебе!

  • Diane Owen

    I just tripped over your blog in reading about the Polyglot Conference, which sounds inspiring.

    I see that you are interested in smaller languages. Have you thought about learning Welsh? There’s a free and extremely well-designed all-audio course at http://www.saysomethinginwelsh.com .(SSIW) — imagine Pimsleur or Michel Thomas, but more intense and much much more extensive. I had only intended to learn a little bit of pronunciation when I stumbled across it in mid-2009 . . . and I’ve fallen in love with the language and become more-or-less fluent, and a moderator on the SSIW discussion forum to boot, where there are Welsh learners from across the world. I’m American and live in the US, and still I’ve found lots of ways to use Welsh and participate in Welsh culture.

    As for the language itself, it’s fascinating and beautiful, with some grammatical features that as far as I know are unique or rare outside the Celtic language group — notably mutation (systematic but wildly varied changes to first letters of words depending on grammatical context) and Verb-Subject-Object sentence structure. Did I mention yet that Welsh is beautiful? :-)

  • Pingback: The SECRET to Successfully Learning a Foreign Language | lingholic()

  • shico

    Hi ALEX .i have a question how to find the similarities between the personalities of the languages ?

    • http://www.rawlangs.com/ Alex Rawlings

      Hey :) I’m not sure I know exactly what you mean! Do you mean how to work out the similarities between languages, or how to learn languages that are similar? Both are very big questions!

      • Mila Marjanac

        Hi Alex, I’m fluent in Russian and English, Serbo-Croatian being my mother tongue.

        I had a huge and lasting problem of being fluent in Russian as opposed to English and I think this is mainly because of the similarities with Serbian.

        I had to learn the differences in grammar, structure of sentence etc. It lasted a very long time for me. English seems so easy now. :) I teach Russian and tend to help my student knowing what is going to be misleading etc because of the similarity of languages.. contrastive method I think it is called in methodology..

        Trying to learn Hungarian for a long time passively (Hungarian husband) and planning to master German, Spanish and Swedish. All of which I started but didn’t have time to finish..Chinese also interesting..I’ve found Arabic very interesting and different and hope to study it sometimes :)

        Hope to be you one day and speak so many beautiful languages!

        Best of luck in all your endeavors, Mila.

    • aaronmhamilton

      I’d say a good first thing to look at is the language family, if you look at the wikipedia page for a given language, in the right bar you’ll find various information about it, one of the items will be language family, you’ll see a bulleted list of ancestor languages.

      Work your way up the tree then down, and you’ll find similarities(it’s not exact of course, because some descendents in the same family of languages have more or fewer differences based on specific circumstances. For example, Svenska and Norsk are very similar.

  • shico

    Hi ALEX .i have a question how to find the similarities between the personalities of the languages ?

  • shico

    yeah , how to learn languages that are similar?

  • Shaina

    I’m only about 4 years younger than you (so I obviously have a little catching up to do), mais quand je serai grandie, je voudrai être comme toi. Dans ce moment je ne parle que trois langues, mais c’est mon rêve d’en parler beaucoup plus.

  • http://kieranmaynard.com/ Kieran

    Dear Alex,

    I just watched your video after I saw the article you were quoted in in The Guardian. Your abilities are impressive and truly inspiring; I was surprised that you are even younger than me!

    I speak Japanese and Chinese, on each of which I have spent several years and learned to a high level, but I am impressed that you can learn so many different languages and speak so naturally without spending years on each. I’m trying to do as you and study several new languages on my own, so I have taken up Korean, Spanish, Esperanto, and Hindi.

    Best of luck to you!

    Regards,
    Kieran

    • aaronmhamilton

      私も日本語を勉強してる、ĉu vi povas paroli Esperanton?

      • http://kieranmaynard.com/ Kieran

        日本語、頑張って!^ー^ja, mi povas paroli esperanton, tamen mia esperanto ne bonas…

    • aaronmhamilton

      私も日本語を勉強してる、ĉu vi povas paroli Esperanton?

  • дарко

    Hi Alex
    I like learning languages as well; I speak Spanish well and I’m learning Italian; I also tried to learn German for a couple of years but abandoned it completely.. Whenever I am tempted to start a new one, e.g. Greek – I love the sound of Greek more than any other language – I have to restrain and remind myself that every hour spent in learning a new language could be an hour well-spent in perfecting those that I have already studied and have built a good knowledge base in. I’d rather speak Spanish almost perfectly, as close to a native as possible, then for example, speak both Spanish and Italian relatively well. I think you truly connect to natives only when your skills are really, really advanced; it’s only then when they stop patronizing you, treat you as equal and open up to you. Even when I learn Italian I can’t help but think that I should instead be doing something that has to do with Spanish: watching Andalusian TV online (because I find this dialect of Spanish hard to understand and it’s driving me crazy; it’s one of the last obstacles in Spanish I’d like to surmount) or learning Spanish synonyms or not so known idioms to improve my vocabulary. Basically, I feel guilty for not focusing my energy. You’ve probably heard of the 10,000 hours rule…Speaking/learning so many different languages, do you ever struggle with this concept, having regrets, doubting…? Also, I’m so surprised to see that French is not among the dozen of languages you speak/study – it’s hard to believe that you managed to exclude it from your study of foreign languages completely taking into account how incredibly important and beautiful it is as a global language…
    Anyway, all the best – you’re an inspiration to me.

  • дарко

    Hi Alex
    I like learning languages as well; I speak Spanish well and I’m learning Italian; I also tried to learn German for a couple of years but abandoned it completely.. Whenever I am tempted to start a new one, e.g. Greek – I love the sound of Greek more than any other language – I have to restrain and remind myself that every hour spent in learning a new language could be an hour well-spent in perfecting those that I have already studied and have built a good knowledge base in. I’d rather speak Spanish almost perfectly, as close to a native as possible, then for example, speak both Spanish and Italian relatively well. I think you truly connect to natives only when your skills are really, really advanced; it’s only then when they stop patronizing you, treat you as equal and open up to you. Even when I learn Italian I can’t help but think that I should instead be doing something that has to do with Spanish: watching Andalusian TV online (because I find this dialect of Spanish hard to understand and it’s driving me crazy; it’s one of the last obstacles in Spanish I’d like to surmount) or learning Spanish synonyms or not so known idioms to improve my vocabulary. Basically, I feel guilty for not focusing my energy. You’ve probably heard of the 10,000 hours rule…Speaking/learning so many different languages, do you ever struggle with this concept, having regrets, doubting…? Also, I’m so surprised to see that French is not among the dozen of languages you speak/study – it’s hard to believe that you managed to exclude it from your study of foreign languages completely taking into account how incredibly important and beautiful it is as a global language…
    Anyway, all the best – you’re an inspiration to me.

  • judith

    Hello Alex,

    My name is judith en ik ben 15 jaar oud! net als jij hou ik van talen Ik wil er zo veel mogelijk leren omdat ik het leuk vind om met zo veel mogelijk mensen te kunnen communiceren! But I would also like to learn sign- language, which is a language that many people forget. I would like to learn it because I think that it is important to be able to communicate with everyone, that also means the less fortunate ones. (Zoals je al gemerkt hebt, spreek ik vloeiend nederlands!)

    Op het gymnasium (high school for the ‘smart’ people) leren we nu 5 buitenlands talen. Latin, ancient-greek, french, german and english! Ik hou van het leren van talen maar ik heb moeite met de uitspraak…

    My question now is which learning method did you use to learn the pronunciation?

    voordat ik het vergeet wil ik nog zeggen dat je een echte inspiratiebron bent! ik heb het gevoel van als jij het kan dan kan ik het ook!!

    Vriendelijke groeten Judith

    PS. sorry dat ik 2 jaar nadat je deze artikel hebt gepost reageer.

  • ccc

    Really inspiring! Well done lad :)

  • David Rojas

    Alex, I’m currently learning Greek, and you were a great motivation for it. I even created a blog to track my learning process on my way to fluency. It’s being written in English at the moment, but I will soon begin posting in Greek, too.
    Thank you for the inspiration, man.
    Greetings from Colombia.
    https://becomingpolyglot.wordpress.com/

  • Pie_t

    As jy enige tyd help nodig het met jou Afrikaans, laat weet my.

    Beste groete

    Alan

  • Rafal Jennek

    hi Alex!
    Your skills are really impressive, and so are you!
    And your accents are also amazing (at least in the langauges that I can judge).
    Keep up the good work!

  • Catalina Alexandra

    Hello Alex.

    My name is Catalina. I am so far perfectly fluent in 4 languages (Romanian-mother tongue,English French and Spanish) i can speak fairly well Italian and Brazilian Portuguese. And since i live in Germany i am also speaking German-but not completely fluent yet. My most desired language to speak is Russian,and i was wondering if you could help me learn it,and maybe help me also improve my German. I am genuinely impressed of how clear and perfectly attuned you sound in each language.

    Hope to hear from you.

    Catalina

  • Ruben Danilo Hassán

    Can you tell me how you did it?You have lots of money or what?????How did you travel to those countries supossing you don´t have a lot of money.My son is interested i doing the same.Please some advice!!!!!!

  • Thatshamori

    Hi Alex! Our Canadian/Hungarian family lives in France and my only wish is that I started studying languages sooner. I can tell you, over 40 it is much harder, but you are truly an inspiration.
    I am very impressed at your accent in Hungarian! Well done, probably better than mine, as my parents in Canada sadly haven’t spoken Hungarian since I was little. My kids are starting their fourth language, fluent in two, Hungarian well it is more difficult and our language at home in English, but we do practice and visit Hungary every year on vacation, so we will get there. And now my husband and kids are learning German. I want them to take Spanish living so close to the border, but they are 10 & 12 and all their friends are in the German class. Any advice to my little ones. Thank you for sharing your story, as a mother with multi-language kids, I can see the benefits when I see someone like yourself!

  • Samuel De Araújo Assunção

    Oi Alex, sou Samuel do Brazil. Meus parabéns, pessoas como você nos inspiram a continuar estudando cada vez mais.
    Muita sorte sempre!

    Abraços,

    Sam

  • Monika

    Hi Alex, I can’t wait for your Polish experience 😉 I am Polish, I’ve been living in UK for 6 years and I learn your beloved Greek now. Really impressed by your outstanding talent. Greetings. Monika

  • Driaan Du Plessis

    Alex jy is beslis ‘n inspirasie vir baie. Ek is Afrikaans en het paar jaar terug Nederlands geleer. Almal vra wat wil ek in Suid-Afrika met Nederlands doen. Wel ek het soveel kontakte en familie met wie ek nou gemaklik kan kommunikeer. Ek probeer ook van die ander Afrika tale te praat en net praat al kom dit skeef uit help baie vir selfvertroue. Ek verdien ook so groot respek omdat ek meeste mense in hulle eie taal kan groet.

  • der Vogel istnichtda

    Hi Alex, I just saw you speak German on easy german and was really impressed. Speaking of which, I hope you don’t mind me asking a specific question: In order to achieve a perfect German accent (or perfect enough) is it enough to just listen and speak repeatedly or is that sufficient? Thanks again, and best of luck learning languages :)) p.s. LEARN PERSIAN!!! 😀 It would be awesome! ha ha of course you don’t have to if you don’t want to! Tchüss!

  • Geraldo Costa da Silva

    What a great surprise!!! I was looking for a stone of gold and I found a stone of Diamond!!! this guys is fantastic and I want to leard with him. thanks Alex, and may God bless you. Gerry

  • Geraldo Costa da Silva

    I am studyng eight languages. Is is a real pleasure!!!! it is a style of life. my skype is uncle gerry. Everyone is welcome