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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 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 …

[VIDEO] Speaking Hungarian after 9 months in Budapest

Nine months have passed since I first moved to Budapest, and formally started learning Hungarian. Since then a lot of things have happened. I’ve discovered first hand just how hard it is to keep focus on your languages while also trying to work, pay bills, and sleep. I’ve experienced some of the complicated emotions that people have when learning a …

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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 …

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Why I’m mixing up Hungarian with Hebrew

Mixing up languages is a question that comes up quite a lot. Many people are concerned about how to seperate languages in their heads, how to avoid embarassingly speaking one instead of the other, and how to reassure themselves that they can actually speak lots of different languages at the same time, rather than just their native tongue plus whatever’s …

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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 …

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Life after University

It’s been nearly eight months since my last post. In that time I haven’t learnt any new languages (although I’ve acquired a number of new books for my collection), but nonetheless I have been very busy! Instead I have been working very hard on my German, Russian and Yiddish, I finished my degree, and gave two talks at the Polyglot …