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The pain of learning languages in immersion

When I was at Oxford, studying was something you did on your own. There were lectures if you wanted or the odd compulsory class, but apart from that it was up to you to force yourself to sit down and work. We had meetings every now and then with our supervisors to see how things were coming along. Especially in …

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How to ‘defrost’ the languages you used to know

“Why are you in Spain?” somebody asked me recently, their face exploding with indignation. “Don’t you already claim to speak Spanish?” Like every question that eventually turns into a blogpost, it was difficult one to answer. Yes, I speak Spanish. I started studying by myself when I was 15, I impressed a teacher at school who let me join her …

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How to choose your next language

One thing that’s fascinating about polyglots is their lists of languages. All of them have one, and each of them is totally unique and tells a very different story. Some seem logical, focusing mainly on Asian or European languages, while others seem to have a bit of everything. But how do polyglots decide which languages to learn, and how do …

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How to really learn 30 languages

Nobody ever taught me how to learn languages, so when I first started, it was slow. I didn’t know what I was doing. We’d only just had the Internet installed at home a few years beforehand, and I didn’t know anybody else who was doing it. Whenever I’d tell people I wanted to learn more languages, they’d ask the same …

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Ten ways to fix your language exchange

Language exchanges are a really popular way to practise your languages. They’re free, they’re fun, and a great way to really get to know someone who shares your passion for learning languages. But sometimes there’s a catch. Although many language exchanges start out strong, they can quickly run into some problems. If you don’t prepare or plan for these, your exchange could come to a very …

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Mental blocks when speaking languages

The other week it happened again. It was a sunny afternoon, one of the first we’ve had this year, so I decided to go to one of my favourite cafés in downtown Budapest and do my work there. It’s a nice, relaxing place with a good vibe, comfortable chairs, good WiFi and nice coffee. I like it so much that …

8 Great Books for Learning Hungarian

When learning a new language like Hungarian, choosing the right materials is a crucial part of the decision making process. You could be the most motivated, passionate and enthused language learner in the world, but if you can’t get your hands on something to channel all that energy into, then you’ll probably quite quickly peter out. When I decided to …

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VIDEO: “Improving Reading and Comprehension” (Polyglot Gathering 2014)

My main talk at this year’s Polyglot Gathering in Berlin was the one that I was most preoccupied with. I thought that delivering it just a week after I’d finished my exams would also provide a good opportunity to reflect on my past four years at Oxford, and the particular language learning skills that my time there had allowed me …

YouTube Video: +1 Japanese Challenge Week 1

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, I’m taking on the challenge of learning a brand new language: Japanese! I’m not doing this alone though, to make sure I stick to my goals and achieve as much as I can with the limited amount of time I have, I’ve joined the +1 Language Challenge, set up by …

Studying languages at university: an essential foundation for life

Oxford University student Aurora Dawson-Hunte responds to Belinda Parmar’s recent claims in the Guardian newspaper that people studying for language degrees are “wasting their time”. Aurora studies French and Russian, and has experience working in the French technology sector and Russian oil industry. She believes all of this is because of her choice of degree. Belinda Parmar is trying to encourage girls to get into …