New polyglot interview between Luca and Richard

There’s a great new multilingual exchange up on Youtube between language-giant, Richard Simcott, and his friend and fellow polyglot, the Italian dreamboat Luca Lampariello.

In this interview Richard tells us (for the first time, I believe) that he had early exposure as a child to several different languages for family reasons - English, French, Welsh (and some Thai.)

This is interesting, because Steve’s background was kind of the same - having very early exposure to Swedish, English, French, German and Czech.

I have long suspected that this early exposure to several languages may be the outstanding polyglot’s secret ingredient - the yeast, if you will, which makes guys like Steve and Richard rise.

Yes, this worries me quite often : )

Did they get some magic brain change in those early years, setting up the circuits to allow them to hoover up languages later on?

The thing is, Maths, I think anyone can learn one or two foreign languages to a very high level. But when it comes to guys like Richard, there just has to be something a bit special going on there, in my opinion. (I just don’t believe that I could learn 10 or 15 languages…)

Good video, thanks for sharing it with us Rank.

When I was young, I heard around at least 5 languages every day, and at least another dozen often. Sometimes people say I have a gift with language even though I’m monolingual and don’t really understand what they could mean by a ‘gift’. But, I’m only just getting started in languages, so who knows?

I think it’s Richard who says that with the internet it’s really easy to get people to speak with. Wow, I must be connected to the wrong internet. :smiley:

They are so impressive.

I wonder if they use specific methods to convert (the most “important”) passive vocab into active vocab (in the absence of lots of speaking practice) because neither of them seem to use many complicated words in their languages, but they are so fluent!

Would I be jumping to conclusions in saying: the more simple and clear your (active) language use is (e.g. in your native language), the more languages you could (potentially) be fluent it?

And even: The more we rely on expressions or idioms to express ourselves (in our native language), the harder it will be in a foreign language. And the more we (like to) use complicated, creative or specific vocabulary in our native language, the higher we set the bar in the foreign language?

(Sorry if I’ve gone off-topic, Rank)

I would actually think that those people who struggle with their first language are more likely to struggle with another because they don’t have as great an ability to think on the spot about what they are going to say. The more eloquent one is, the more flexible one is. It doesn’t really have to be about using particularly “difficult” words.

I wasn’t referring to those who struggle. What I meant was, if your commucation needs are adequately met in your native language without a using massive vocabulary (I’m sure we all agree that some natives have “large” vocabularies, some don’t), then you are (in my opinion) more likely to find comfort communicating in a foreign language without a massive vocabulary.

Aside from vocabulary, there’s the issue of idioms. Some people communicate to a very large extent through idioms (at least in Australia). So when speaking in a foreign language, they might not be able to relax and be themselves as easily if they can’t do the same (i.e. speak the way they like to speak).

My point was, language that is clear and relatively simple is easier to produce than language that is expressive and complex. But of course, you still need to make that ability active to be fluent, which of course is (one of) the hard part(s).


Are you against all penfriend systems in principle, or have you only come across rubbish ones?

Some years ago the EU set up a penfriend system. The people who I met through it were all professionals and very interesting people, who taught me a lot of German. It doesn’t seem to be running any more, which is a great shame. There were, as I recall, a lot more Dutch speakers looking for English penfriends than vice versa.

If you might be interested I could hunt on Google and see if it still exists in a different form or under another name.

Ah! I found it! It’s still going.

Looks like Dutch people are in short supply though. You might have to wait a few weeks to get one to suit you :frowning:

And there’s no Yiddish speakers at all right now. Suggest you get on the waiting list for the next one who registers?

Have a look at the stats page:

Peter, it’s probably an issue for linguists to look at. To me, there’s a great deal of patience needed for language learning, so I’m guessing that that becomes part of the mindset.

Ssyblueteapot, No, I’m very much for any exchange/penfriend sites. For some reason, I’ve not found any good ones or haven’t found the right people.

I’ve been working on it though. I do remember seeing that site once but I could work it out.

Imyirtseshem, I’m really busy now, so I don’t actually have time to speak on Skype. I’m sorry for that. Also, I don’t really understand how it’s possible you have not yet found anyone who’s willing to converse with you in Dutch. On different exchange websites and social network sites I have found a lot of people with whom I spoke in Russian. I really can’t imagine there are no Dutch people interested in talking to you. Have you tried Livemocha (or some similar website) to find language partners?

Tried them all. But, this is for another thread.

Luca didn’t start learning foreign languages until he was 14. That’s earlier than an adult of course, but much later than that “magic period” in adolescence where the gift of language is supposed to appear. Luca has a blog “” in which he details his language learning method as well as his accent acquisition method. His language learning method works very well with LingQ. He listens to audio and reads the accompanying texts many times throughout a period of days, then when he is rather familiar with them he translates them into his native language, and then for the next few days translates them back to the target language. He feels this translation back to the target language is the key part of making the vocabulary and “core” structure of the language stick in the mind. I imagine it helps his output tremendously. His method for acquiring native like pronunciation is also fascinating, I plan on testing it out for myself sometime in the near future.

Translating back to the target language can be done quite easily at LingQ. I am starting to save more phrases for Czech now at LingQ. I will accept any translation that Google translate gives for the phrase, and then go through these phrases on the Vocab page, (phrases only view), improving the English. Then I flash card the phrases with the English on the front and have to translate back to Czech.

His explanation of how to achieve native like pronunciation is a little complicated for me. I think that if we do a lot of repetitive listening and train ourselves to notice sounds and intonation, both within words and within phrases, we can improve. After a while we should also listen, record ourselves and compare.

One thing I’ve noticed about these guys - they travel quite a bit too. That seems to be a big secret in all of this. Motivation, time spent with the language, etc, yeah most of us language nuts have that bit sorted. It’s about practising the language with real speakers.

That is an advantage but not a condition. You work on your language, improve your potential, and one day you get the chance to go there.

I believe it still takes a considerable amount of effort even with Luca’s pronunciation method to get to a "native"m pronunciation level, and I’d agree that if native pronunciation is not one of your goals, then your time is spent better in other activities. My life plan is to learn a specific 4 foreign languages to fluency, but I only care about a convincing native like pronunciation in one of them. The others I will be happy just to be understood without any strain.

With regards to LingQ and Luca, he is actually the reason I discovered LingQ. He put a Facebook post up advertising LingQ, and 2 hours later I was a paying member.

That was very nice of him. Your Italian is at a stage that if you wanted to get closer to native pronunciation you could probably do so. My advice, for what it is worth is the following.

Find some recording that you really like, where you like the voice, the intonation etc. It should be lively and fun and what you like to sound like. 10 to 30 minutes long. Just listen to this over and over, passively.

Every so often, once a week, or even once a month, listen to portions of it and record yourself and compare. Train yourself to see where you differ. Don’t expect to be able to correct the differences right away, just notice them. Don’t put pressure on yourself.

Go back to listening to the model.

I used comic dialogues for Chinese, where the tones are exaggerated, in order to get a better sense of the tones, and it really helped my pronunciation. I listened over and over to the same dialogues, even when I did not understand them all.

Steve, travel is the way I worded it, but it’s ultimately contact with speakers of the language which counts. Face-to-face is just the best form of it. Having access to speakers, in whichever form, is absolutely a condition for being able to speak beyond a sort of formulaic type of expression. I can say things to myself, but it lacks the creativity of spontaneous discussion. My Dutch doesn’t live and breath yet, even though I understand it very well.

These guys obviously have had a lot of opportunities to speak and their languages show it. They are very living. (Though neither of them spoke Dutch as impressively as their other languages, from what I heard.)


Er sagt zwar, er sei 14 Jahre alt gewesen, als er angefangen habe, Fremdsprachen zu lernen. Aber ich bin mir – ehrlich gesagt - eher skeptisch, ob dies auch so stimmt?

His accent in (US) English is much more ‘real’ and authentic sounding than that of any other Italian speaker of English whom I have ever met (and I’ve met a fair few of ‘em, actually…)

Ich frage mich also, ob er die Sprache vielleicht doch nicht bereits als Kind gehört hat? Vielleicht deshalb, weil seine Mutter Amerikanerin ist? Oder weil die Familie während seiner Kindheit ein paar Jahren in den USA verbracht hat?
(Wenn nicht, dann hat er einfach Riesentalent!)

Either way, he’s a very accomplished polyglot and a seems like a nice guy.

Eigentlich sollte er Dressmann oder Singer sein – with those Sinatra blue eyes!

So etwas darf ich (als durchaus heterosexueller Mann) wohl sagen, oder!? :-0