—— Mr. Youlden, what do you think about ...Motivation?

Illustration von Sprachwissenschaftler und Sprachlerncoach Matthew Youlden. Er sitzt neben einem Stapel Wörterbücher.


When I was nine years old, my parents shot a video of my brother and me on vacation in Spain. We are lying on the beach and my brother and I are trying to speak a few scraps of Spanish with other kids. Nobody will ever see the video except us, but I still like to talk about it because, for me, it shows that you don’t need as much to learn a language as people always think. My brother and I just wanted to learn a little Spanish so we could play with the other kids and buy ice cream. That was our motivation. Of course, our Spanish wasn’t particularly great at the end of the vacation, but it was enough for what we needed.

Ever since that vacation, I’ve been fascinated by languages. Today I am 37 years old and have learned 25 languages, ten of which I can speak fluently. For me, languages aren’t just a tool for making myself understood. They open a door to completely different worlds. Through language you really learn a lot about how other people see the world and how they talk about it.

I believe that everyone can learn as many languages as I have, and it has very little to do with talent. It’s more about developing your own motivation and experiencing learning as fun rather than a chore.

For instance, when I decide to learn a new language, I almost always do it together with my twin brother Michael. We are both fascinated by languages and have developed our own methodology to learn languages faster and more effectively. We are convinced that the new language must immediately become an integral part of everyday life. So we do virtually everything that can be done in the language—without having mastered it yet. Sometimes we push each other and make a little game out of it to keep each other motivated.

Of course, most people don’t have endless amounts of time to learn a new language. In my experience, however, it’s enough to invest just under thirty minutes a day in active learning. If you are also learning passively, like listening to the radio in the language, watching Netflix series in the original language or reading the newspaper, it’s enough.