Benny Lewis - The Irish Polyglot

We recently published an article about Sir Richard F. Burton, where we were comparing him to some modern bloggers. One of our references was Benny Lewis who’s also known as the Irish Polyglot from the blog Fluent In 3 months.

  • Story Alex
  • Photos Benny Lewis
  • Soundtrack of the report
  • 7 seconds
  • Youssou N'Dour

Benny’s specialty is learning languages quickly using his very own language hacking techniques and having a positive attitude focused on success. He’s currently fluent in 8 languages and has learned a total of 11 through what he calls “missions” to learn a new language in 3 months while staying in the country. He was nice enough to answer our questions.

Since I’ve discovered his blog, I’ve been fascinated by Benny personality and what he’s aiming to do. His blog is not an excuse to brag about how many languages he speaks, but rather to show the world that learning foreign languages can be easy and being fluent in more than one is certainly not impossible. I think this a remarkable purpose and I wish to do something that’s inspiring for people. And that’s why we are very happy to help spread the message!

On Fluent In 3 months, you’ll find lots of techniques that will help you improve the way you learn foreign languages. There is a lot of tips for the languages that Benny has learn but also, and that’s what I liked the most, general tips for your daily life that will show you the positive mindset to use what you’ve learned more efficiently. All this knowledge has been compiled in his ebook, the Language Hacking Guide.

But the blog goes beyond the language hacking and features plenty of posts about general subjects and travel related tips. For instance, do you know how to carry 40kg on low cost carriers? Sounds impossible right ? Well, check this post and see how Benny actually managed to do that. Honestly I don’t know if I would dare to do it and that’s exactly why I’m so impressed with Benny. His outgoing personality and positive way of thinking has become a model for me. You can find more on his philosophy through the category “Positive mentality” on his blog.

Discover Benny and his impressive language skills in the video below and then his answers to our questions.

Benny in Paris Benny learning Benny drinking Benny in Budapest

1. Why is travel appealing to you? What do you get from it?

I can reinvent myself every 3 months and live an entirely different life. New friends and new routines and cultures let me experience entirely new lives.

2. What is your favourite memory of travel that you usually keep to yourself?

If I usually keep it to myself, why would I change that from a question like this? :P

3. Which language did you find the hardest to learn so far? Why ?

Spanish, because it was the first one and I had a very bad approach and reminded myself how stupid I was. The approach and attitude rather than the language made it hard. Hungarian, German etc. have been a cinch in comparison.

4. What would be your ideal mode of transport, real or invented?

Star Trek's teleporter. I don't like travelling; I like being in different places, but the actual to & fro is frustrating. Cut that out and I'll be happy!

5. Who would you like to travel with?

A nymphomaniac Brazilian supermodel who uses Linux, isn't religious or superstitious and who is very logical and interesting to talk to, while being girly, wearing pink and is afraid of spiders. I know you didn't ask me to give my ideal woman, but hell, that's who I'd most like to travel with :)

6. Which language sounds the best to you or/and that you like to speak the most ?

Portuguese. It sounds so musical when spoken and I just have so many positive associations with the culture from an amazing 9 months I spent there.

7. Any cultural practices you’ve learned in travel you use in your own life?

Yes! I picked up siestas in Spain and apply them every day in my life.

I also learned from southern Italians to not be a slave to technology. I never answer my phone immediately when it rings; I finish the sentence I was saying if with someone, let it sink in, casually look at who is calling and then maybe answer if it isn't rude. Before this, I was like too many people and gave a piece of electronics preference over someone in my company right now. Southern Italians taught me that (it involved some serious deprogramming!)

8. Where would be the best place to stay and learn Esperanto ?

Esperanto doesn't belong to any one country; that's kind of the point! But most of the meetings take place in central and Eastern Europe. The best thing to do is to look up where the many week-long events take place and to attend! During the summer you can attend various ones and theoretically spend two months or more just in the company of Esperanto speakers!

9. Have you been always so outgoing or is it a specific mindset to learn quicker ?

I was very shy growing up and still quite reserved when I started travelling. Learning to be more outgoing was actually the result of travelling alone and forcing myself to be more social because of that, rather than part of a strategy. It was born out of necessity and has helped my life in many ways, especially for learning quicker thanks to help from others.

10. Question borrowed from the Pivot questionnaire : what is your favorite curse word (in any language)?

Tabarnak!!! From Quebecois French.

11. Any valuable language hacking tips that you learn from other people ?

Most of my language hacking tips are based on seeing how others have successfully learned a language, combined with my own experimentation. You need to speak from day one (if your goal is to speak the language, rathre than pass exams or read well), you need to be confident and optimistic about your objective and you need constant exposure. Buying software and books won't make the difference, it's how serious you are about reaching the goal that will.

12. What are your current and future projects ? Next mission?

I will wrap up my time in Colombia, go home for Christmas and then spend New Year's partying with some Esperanto speakers in Germany. Then on January 4th I fly to my next destination for the next language mission, which will be described on the blog ;)