Superstars and rockers: people I respect and admire for their language skills

Superstars and rockers: people I respect and admire for their language skills

One day, I hated watering my parents’ garden.  The next day, I liked it a lot, for one simple reason:  on the second day, I was listening to a podcast about Spanish, and it inspired me.  It wasn’t so much the garden-watering that I liked, it was the earphones talking about languages that distracted me from said watering.

I think finding inspiring people and latching on to them is one of the most important parts of learning a language.  I’m lucky to have stumbled across a few superstars.  Here are three of them.

1.  JP Villanueva

JP speaks 27 languages (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration, but he speaks Spanish, French, Tagalog, Mandarin and Italian at the very least, that I know), and is a superb teacher.  Without him, I don’t think I would have been able to learn Spanish, and that isn’t an exaggeration.  He is a former host of the wonderful Spanishpod shows, and podcaster extraordinaire.  I used to listen to him every day for a couple of years, and now I read his blog regularly and am fortunate to have had healthy loads of encouragement from him when I parked my full-time IT career to study linguistics.  JP is one of a handful of people who can make learning languages extremely fun, and explain complex concepts with examples that actually make sense.   (I challenge anyone else to try and break down the pluperfect tense using a crime series.).  I borrowed – read ‘shamelessly stole’ – several of his great techniques when I started teaching beginners’ Spanish.

At the moment, he’s launching his own wave of new podcasts.  I defy anyone to listen to them without learning something fun!

(Note:  Spanishpod was great when JP was there, but I wouldn’t recommend it now.  They’ve stopped producing new content. Feel free to check out some of their old shows – they were excellent – but I wouldn’t recommend a paid subscription.  I’ll leave that in your hands.)

2.  Ben Curtis and Marina Diez

Ben and Marina live in Spain, and are the spectacular hosts and producers of the Notes In Spanish podcasts.  Apart from providing 172 free podcasts (172!) for beginners, intermediate and advanced learners, they are just so positive all the time that it’s contagious.  They also do regular topical podcasts such as “La Crisis”, which was an extremely interesting take on the crisis from a European point of view.

Most importantly, their podcasts allow you to forget that you’re studying.  The topics are so interesting that I would want to listen to them even if they were in English.  One barrier down.  I was also lucky enough to have one minute of fame on their blog one time, even though it was unintentional.  If you’re not sure where to get started with podcasts, I can highly recommend their free and paid audio.  They’re great people with excellent podcasts and an inspiring message.

–> Link to Notes In Spanish (Not an affiliate link, I have zero financial interest other than their success because they’re superb.)

3.  Chris Guillebeau

Chris is a writer, entrepreneur and world traveller with the goal of visiting every country in the world by his 35th birthday.  And I thought I dreamed big!  What a goal to have.  Chris’ outstanding and inspiring site, The Art of Nonconformity is what originally inspired me to start writing.  His optimism is contagious, his advice is inspiring, and his writing is thought-provoking.  Worth a read if you’re looking to travel when you learn your language.


Wrap up

This post wasn’t about a particular technique I’ve used to help me learn faster.  Fact is, without the help of these three people, I might not be be writing about languages or thinking about them as deeply as I do.  If you’re not sure where to start, finding someone you’re inspired by can be a nice way to keep the ball rolling.


Question:  Who’s inspired you?  I’d love to hear in the comments below.


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5 Responses »

  1. Pingback: There goes the summer. « you don't have to read v2.0

  2. Tristan, Thanks for the love! You’re definitely overestimating my language abilities… I think I enjoy learning languages more than I am good at them ;)

    I’m a fan of Ben and Marina as well, and I’ll check out Chris. It seems Chris and I both went to the University of Washington!

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