Benny, Videos And Showing Off

Benny has recently brought up an interesting issue in one of his posts which is the question whether recording language videos of oneself and uploading them amounts to showing off. I cannot comment on his blog because I am banned there and since I suspect that many Lingqers would enjoy to discuss this topic I open this new thread here.

I can only speak for myself but videos of humble and unpretentious polyglots speaking different languages inspire me. The first time I saw this bald Englishman (forgot his name) speaking flawless Spanish, German, French I was just blown away. Susanna also impressed me bid time as did our friend Robert. Those people all love what they are doing and they do it extremely well. Would we say that Elton John, Anne Sophie Mutter or Michael Jackson show off when they are on stage? No, they are of course performing their art to entertain and inspire their audience.

The one thing about these language videos we need to understand though, especially if they are monologues is that they often say little about the individuals comprehension level, and also most of them stay firmly within their comfort zone, which is language learning. I have to say the only setting that really convinces me is an unscripted interview setting where that person needs to engage with natives on a variety of different topics.

I agree with Benny and Steve that the ordinary language learner should not be put to the test. Having said that, the fact that people promoting their learning method such as Benny and others receive special scrutiny is only natural. People want to know how effective their method is. After all these people make bold claims about their approaches. Benny has relatively few interview type videos posted that I am aware of, for example after his German exam I have seen only one short interview with him, so I feel that cricism leveled at him has some validity.

I must admit that I am still not very comfortable with me posting videos on youtube. This may also be one of the reasons why I have not posted any new videos lately. I don’t want people to think that I am some sort of a guru who knows the answers to all questions relating to the language learning process. I can only talk about what I have been doing myself and how I learn from others. The main reason behind my “Internet presence” is that I had been benefiting so much from other people’s videos and their pieces of advice that I felt it would be just fair to offer some suggestions as well. I would have never even thought about that if I had not been asked numerous times by people to tell them how I study languages. So, I honestly had the impression that people are curious about how other people study languages. By mentioning that I work as an interpreter and translator I wanted to show people that you can actually make a living out of your passion. I still remember that my teachers at school told me that the only option I had to earn some money with language studies was to become a teacher myself and that that option would not even be a realistic one (at that time teachers had to wait for years to get a job). I was totally disillusioned and was about to resign myself to a life as a bookkeeper ( I had attended a commercial school). Not that there is anything wrong with bookkeeping but it just was not what I had seen myself doing for the rest of my life. I’m extremely grateful to my parents who told me to at least have a try at studying languages. I can honestly say that I have never regretted my decision. So, maybe some of my videos can help people motivate to go for their dreams.

If I were to evaluate a certain method of language learning I would most likely choose the way Friedemann suggested. Having a conversation with a person in a natural environment is one of the best ways to find out how comfortable he or she feels speaking that language. I don’t need to see any diplomas or other certificates. If somebody can talk to me about his favourite book and tell me why he likes it so much or if he understands when I talk about why I am against nuclear power plants, then I guess I would be very interested in knowing more about how that person learns languages.

Friedemann, I’ll attempt to engage in this as you’ve requested, and hopefully certain commenters won’t come in here to turn it back into a witch hunt against me personally. I’ve already told you that I’ll lift the block on you on my site if you promise to stay on topic in future. I’ve also told Steve this.

Here is what I said in the previous thread relevant to this: “I will make videos in all my languages for a purpose, and to show off to LingQ is NOT that purpose. I love speaking in other languages TO NATIVES to share something interesting with them. I hate speaking other languages to English speakers who aggressively call me a fake. When many people see polyglot videos, they’ll get “inspired”, but also feel like they are watching a genius performing something out of reach. I prefer to focus on convincing them that THEY can be inspirational rather than put myself on a pedestal.”

I’ve made over a hundred videos and each one had a very particular purpose. While everyone here keeps saying that “just reading” makes the video entirely useless, I say that they were documentaries and preparing what you’ll say is the style of professional documentaries. I take my videos very seriously and make them as professional as possible. I don’t see many language learners online taking the preparation, scenery, planning and editing of their videos as seriously as myself and Stujay (who has also made some excellently edited videos). All I see is people talking to their webcams. A lot of people appreciate this style and I don’t. This doesn’t mean my videos are better than theirs, it just means that I personally find them to be unnatural uses of languages.

My videos have been used by natives for the purposes I intended. One of my videos was shown on Italian National Geographic for example. Did they interview me to prove to the world that I speak Italian? No. Did Italian natives see my video and learn something (about the Burning Man festival in Nevada). Yes. That’s the point. My video of hiking up mount Teide was showcased by the Canary Islands tourism board to promote non-beach activities, and my videos explaining what RSS is constantly get comments from natives thanking me for finally making it clear. Almost none of them discuss my accent, because that’s not the point. They speak to me as they would to a native who had explained them something.

I really feel we are on completely different pages here. Can you at least understand my motivation for making videos the way I do and why making a video just for the purpose of showing off to non natives conflicts with this?

If people think I’m simply “making up” speaking my languages fluently, then there’s not much to say. But my feeling is that a video of someone giving a soliloquy in dozens of languages may be excellent material for Youtube hits and likes, but it doesn’t use the languages in what I would feel would be a natural use of them. Disagree with this all you like, but hopefully this makes people attempt to appreciate why I don’t like such videos.

I don’t mind that you haven’t posted “hard evidence” of your language abilities. I can understand why people do, but to be honest I don’t really care. Not beyond simple curiosity to know what you sound like, your range of vocabulary etc. etc. but it is really just that, simple curiosity. Others no doubt find it necessary to backing up your site and so on, and that’s fine too. I personally don’t really care; such videos would likely only serve to create the kinds of furious nit-picking that almost (if not) inevitably occurs when people post videos of themselves speaking languages.

The only point in your post above that I’d contend is the notion that speaking into your webcam, ie. presenting a monologue, is an unnatural use of languages. To me this is no more unnatural than, say, writing a memoir or giving a lecture. I don’t think a language must always be spoken among people; of course the joy for many, perhaps most, is speaking a language with other people but there are many, many, very legitimate and very natural uses of language that go beyond everyday communication. A monologue, whether it is in front of a webcam, writing a memoir, or giving a lecture, is such an example.

Thanks Chris, but I still disagree. You write a memoir or give a lecture in one language to an audience that will understand that language. That’s natural use. My documentaries are also “soliloquy” format of sorts, so it’s not just the talking to the webcam I don’t like: if I didn’t like lecture format I’d never be able to watch TED talks! But to me flicking between languages when addressing a monolingual audience is not natural use of the languages. It’s to show off, or to prove a point, or to impress or inspire people, or because you were requested to, or because you enjoy it etc. Some of these can be very noble goals, but I don’t see it as natural use of languages.

Even reading, which I clearly don’t appreciate as much as many of you, is communication between the author and the reader. In polyglot videos “communication” is to demonstrate something, and the actual words used are irrelevant become they become meaningless to people who don’t understand. This isn’t communication as I see it. It’s wearing a language as a medal.

For example, when people request that in person I say something to prove that I speak French or whatever, I might complain in that language about how unimaginative they are. They are always happy to hear me, since the accent sounds authentic etc. but I’ve communicated nothing and not used the language as it should be used. Even if subtitles are provided, it’s the subtitles doing the communication, not the language itself.


if you don’t like that particular format (speaking into the camera), that is your personal taste and is of course perfectly ok. Again, I don’t find that other Youtube polyglots are necessarily showing off, as I said above, a lot of them I found rather inspirational, and that also includes your Spanish radio interview. As a documentary your videos are certainly of value (but I have only watched a couple of those).

There are other benefits too. You can get feedback from native speakers, and you can keep it as a snapshot of your progress at a given date (and hopefully compare it to a much higher level in the future!).

Recording yourself expressing your thoughts in another language can be very difficult, as you may be worried about making mistakes, that people won’t understand you etc. Not to mention the fact that it is publicly accessible! I think it can be a good exercise (for those who are so inclined, and for those who don’t have many people to practice with) as you are forcing yourself to produce the language.

Yes, as I’ve said, it’s my taste, and I’m certainly not saying that many polyglot videos are not inspirational. But hopefully reading my comments here will make it clear why I don’t like doing them.


I don’t like the seven languages in eight minutes drill either, neither watching it nor recording myself. What I do enjoy though is watching interviews each in one different language and one that I understand. I also like discussions on a broader range of topics, not only language learning.

I’ll be interviewing natives of other languages about non-language topics over the summer and have several in mind already with people whose thoughts I want to share with my readers. This is practical use of a language to me and complies with what I said above.

But I was under the impression this thread was about polyglot videos. An interesting discussion in any language about NON language related topics is not the kind of thing I see youtube polyglots produce frequently.

  1. People are welcome to stray from the subject here at LingQ’s forums, and regularly do. It is not for me to tell people where the boundaries of a discussion should be. I will not commit to stay within Benny’s definition of the “subject” in order to be unblocked at his site, something that really does not interest me that much. I was just curious to know why I was blocked there, and now have Benny’s explanation, I strayed from the subject.

  2. Benny does not like making live videos, looking into the camera, of himself speaking his languages in a conversation or monologue. The videos I have seen of him speaking other languages mostly feature him reading or speaking in the background. No problem. His choice. As other more natural videos become available I am sure many of his followers would like to see them. Links to those videos mentioned here would be helpful. But the choice is Benny’s and we should respect that.

  3. To call other people who make videos of themselves speaking one or several foreign languages “monkeys, egotistical attention-getters, tricksters” or whatever it was, is simply disrespectful and unwarranted. Not everyone who does things that we do not like to do has bad motives or deserves to be insulted. Such videos are rarely the cause of nitpicking, Chris. I see the occasional nit-picking troll on these youtube sites, but most commenters are positive and supportive.

I appreciate Benny commenting here, but I will respond to comments that I disagree with, just as I would with anyone else commenting here. I do not even mind Benny’s aggressive tone, that is his style. However, he should not be surprised if that tone attracts a similar tone in response from some others, or at least some posts that challenge some of his most outlandish statements.


we have had epic 10 pages threads here that changed topics many times and that is the nice thing about a forum as opposed to a blog. Once your forum is up and running I might drop by.

Keep those interviews coming.

Edwin alerted me to the fact that Benny just made a blog post on “the dancing monkey” reason to learn a language. I suggest people on this thread have a read.

I am astounded that someone would think this way, and what is even more astounding is that 16 people “liked” this post. I am of a different generation obviously.

Whatever motivates people to learn a language is valid, in my view. Once people have achieved a certain level of confidence in a language, some want to show others what they have achieved. This can range from near beginners in one language to the polyglot youtubers, Lucca, the Englishman whose name escapes me, Moses, Stuart Jay Ray, and the many others, including women speaking fluent Cantonese or other more “exotic” videos. These videos are enjoyed by many and usually attract high approval ratings at youtube, and very few uncharitable or critical comments. It is not a competition from what I can see.

You could just as easily argue that the whole “look at me” nature of Benny’s blog is pure exhibitionism. However, whatever motivates people to learn languages is positive, and this varies with the individual. There is no doubt in my mind that Benny motivates people to learn languages.

I think if somebody wants to inspire others into speaking foreign languages, then there is really no better way that creating videos. I don’t like videos where the person reads text into a camera, but videos such as interviews, or even “hey, let’s look round my house” are great.

If the person however posts a video, “Hey look I speak 2,000 languages, and have a better German accent than Pan. X”, then I’d get annoyed and not bother watching anymore. This to me is bragging, however I have yet to see anyone post something like this.

I like Steve’s videos, and Benny’s, and find them inspirational and encouraging. I infact wish both would make more :slight_smile:

While on the subject of making language videos, I would add the following.

  1. It is not strange nor is it showing off for an English speaker to offer a monologue in another language. It is the same as for a non-English speaker to offer a monologue in English. It is just a matter of reaching an audience.

  2. I will not hide the fact that, with my blog and videos, I hope to attract people to LingQ, and in both cases these activities do generate traffic. I also know that there has to be some substance or meaningful content in at least some of these videos or I will not achieve my goal. The multilanguage videos, which are relatively rare, serve the same purpose.

  3. What I have learned from making these videos is that they are very good for language learning. They often have to be redone, and as you look at yourself speaking, you become aware of gaps and problems, and as you work to improve the video you are also improving your language skills. They are also a record of your improvement, as in the case of my Russian videos, which started after 6 months of learning. Regardless of my mistakes or level, these videos have always attracted nothing but encouraging comments from native speakers and others.

Correct me if I wrong , but Benny is a joke.

steve is the king of languages ​​and can not be compared to a con man like Benny.

Honestly, I easily get fed up with seeing another ‘polyglot video’ posted. We all see weird stuff like some guy “showing off” speaking 52 languages, etc.

But once I get into these videos, sometimes I find more purposes behind making the videos beside “showing off” . Some are good and some are bad of course.

I think the key here is that we cannot over-generalize all the ‘polyglot videos’ to be of certain types, or have certain purposes.

Feeling people “showing off” and getting ‘annoyed’ are personal reactions, and of course Benny’s post is a personal rant and he is not making any bold claim. His use of strong languages, again, is his style, and in my own opinion, he has probably offended some people, including his business partners.

My issue here is that, didn’t Benny himself made some ‘polyglot videos’, too? Like the one he uses to promote his guide, or the one that he showed his flat. According to his own post, can these be classified as ‘Monkey Dance’ videos?

Friedemann, see what I mean about threads going out of control when I’m mentioned? I am pretty sure I said nothing offensive in this post; I’m just explaining my view. Yet once again I’m a “con man” and my blog is being referenced out of context.

I don’t think polyglots who upload videos are dancing monkeys, but of course nobody cares about what I actually think, NOR DO YOU ASK IT. Presumptions are king. With a quick skim of my blog, I have no doubts you can quote something out of context; (go on Edwin, I dare you! It’s your trademark! Great job on “alerting” Steve by the way!) but I didn’t say anything of the sort.

I really do think there is no hope with this forum letting me express my views simply without attacking me.

In exasperation I will say once more that simply not contributing to this madness is best. I can only hope in my absence that some people bring some sense to these “discussions”.


Edwin “alerted” me only in the sense that he mentioned your latest blog post on another thread here at LingQ. This is bad? I posted the link to your blog post in this thread so that people could read the whole post. Don’t you want people to read what you say on your blog? Are they then not allowed to comment here?

The comments here range in tone and in what they have to say, some supportive of you and some critical. As I have said before this is a free podium. Everyone is responsible for their own views and tone.

Maybe you and Edwin had been married in an earlier life and gone through a bad divorce, I don’t know. I tend to ignore posts when I feel that nothing good will come out of posting a reply.

I would have liked to hear more from you on comprehension and vocabulary building in your approach. I had elaborated on that in the “Friedemann’s questions” thread, but I hope we can discuss more of that another time or maybe take it offline. Maybe you can touch on that with Steve or write about it on your blog.