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Behind the scenes in the EU’s 24 official languages

The European Union is the world’s most multilingual organisation. All 503 million citizens of 28 member states have the right to communicate with the EU in their own language, and to receive information in their own language too. In the European Parliament, all 751 MEPs also have the right to speak in their own language, and to receive a live …

Language learning never stops, and that’s why I’ve stopped (for now)

I remember I came home one day in Yaroslavl, after another idyllic day spent eating cabbage pies in the mid-April snow, to find my flatmate at the kitchen table buried in a pile of grammar books with sheets of vocabulary written out all around her. I asked her what on earth she was doing – the test wasn’t until Monday. …

What is a polyglot?

I took a little break over the summer, so I haven’t been updating this site regularly. Although I have been posting to the RawLangs Blog Facebook page and Twitter, I thought it was time to start blogging again. I’m going to start off by addressing a question that has been on my mind for a while. What is a polyglot? If you …

The key to success in learning languages

It’s a question that gets asked a lot: “What’s your secret?” “How do you do it?” “What methods do you use?” However it’s phrased, when it comes to learning languages people are all after one thing: how to go from being mono- to multilingual, and how do it in as short a space of time as possible. The fact that …

Give us our language back!

I find it difficult to describe the true level of horror and dismay that I felt when I came across a news article about a recent proposal to make English the sole official language of the European Union. I find it even more difficult to come to terms with the fact that this has not come from the British – the famed …

YouTube video: techniques for learning vocabulary

I’ve made a new YouTube video in which I talk about three different techniques for learning vocabulary: contextual, visual and associative. I’ve been using these techniques for learning Hungarian, which I’m trying to do in time for the polyglot conference in Budapest next month. Vocab learning is something that I get asked about a lot, and it’s a very difficult …

Who can learn languages?

One of the most important roles of a language learning blog is myth-busting. Language learning unfortunately seems to be a subject eternally shrouded in the mists of rumour and unfounded generalisations. The news that someone can speak a language is greeted with great surprise, admiration and even envy by others, and this contributes to the idea that there is a …

How do languages change the way you think?

Nearly everyone who is multilingual talks about languages changing the way they think. My great aunt, well into her nineties, speaks five languages completely fluently (although she now tends to speak all of them at the same time), and once said to me with great conviction “Chaque langue est une autre personalité” – each language is another personality. This stuck …

Multilingualism and literature: 10 authors who write in other languages

Is writing an internationally acclaimed, bestseller novel in a foreign language a mark of fluency? Following on from my recent post, I thought it would be interesting to list some of the many multilingual writers and novelists who write in other languages. What particularly interests me, is that many of these write in their second or third languages, of which …