Skype Me Baby and Benny Lewis

I know it is old news, but I just saw the “Skype Me Baby” video today with our very own Steve making an appearance, along with a bunch of other polyglots.

Polyglots as celebrities is a new concept for me, but I have decided since Benny Lewis is swinging by my neck of the woods, I’m going to go see him. Links to Skype Me Baby and Benny’s tour in my blog post.

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Benny Lewis - > Expert in marketing himself and selling strategies that don’t work. A1-A2 in mandarin after 2 and a half years. Faked a video to “demonstrate” he was B1 after 6 months. Claimed he could have been B2 if he had just stayed at home, and didn’t waste a lot of money on immersion and travelling in Taiwan and China. Even worse results for other languagess etc. Only languages he is ok at, he has spent a lot of time immersed in, and used techniques that are no different to most other average learners. Some polyglots, as celebrities in their own mind, is not a new concept to many here.


My two cents’ worth. He’s harmless…at least he’s out there having a “go”. I thought it was great when Steve put aside his differences and collaborated with Benny for the video. I really like the Skype Me Baby video!

Interestingly, I’ve noticed some previously antagonistic YouTube people (even professional linguists!) now putting aside their differences (with reservation) and keeping more of an open mind to other polyglots eg. subscribe to, “like”, and comment fairly on polyglot channels they previously opposed publicly.

I think it was great, too, when Prof Arguelles introduced Moses and put in a good word for him on HTLAL a few years back. He didn’t laugh him out of the water.

Unfortunately I’ve been guilty of poking fun at others, too, until I realised they had the same struggles and heartaches as everyone else. Many have mannerisms & poor choice of words et cetera that aren’t exactly my cup of tea, but nevertheless they have something interesting to offer. Even Clugston turned out to be a nice bloke when I Skyped with him. It would be a dull world without Benny, Clugston, Moses, Luca, Arguelles, Mansaray (and the rest I subscribe to, ha!) Personally I don’t think they’re trying to rip anyone off. That’s not what they’re about, imo.

I’d have 'em 'round for a backyard barbie if I could - even Benny and Clugston :slight_smile:

Edit: @iang- not implying you’re poking fun at anyone, just in case:)



I always suspected that Mr Clugston is nicer in person than he is in his videos.

(The opposite thing may also sadly be true, I guess? There might be some guys who are nice and fluffy in front of the camera, but who are total A-holes in real life?)

I met Benny both at the polyglot conference last year in Budapest and at this year’s polyglot gathering in Berlin. I’ve never followed his blog very attentively but I have found him to be a very open and friendly person whenever I talked to him. I know that some people had quite upleasant discussions with him and that he made a few comments on his site which I probably would not have made.

On the other hand, he has not only been heavily criticized for his approach but also personally attacked. It is totally fine to disagree, but insulting people is a completely different matter. I don’t know who started these things and, honestly, I don’t really care.

I think Benny has done A LOT to get people to study languages. He probably has managed to reach and motivate more people than many others within the language learning community. Of course, not everybody is out there to “convince” others of the benefits of language learning, some simply enjoy doing their own thing.

I am at a conference right now and I know what it takes to use languages at a professional level. I don’t think the people following Benny’s site and/or buying his products think they will be able to use the languages they have studied for a few months in a highly specific professional setting.

I think people know the difference between Benny’s definition of fluency and the kind of proficiency you need to survive in a more demanding environment.

As far as I’m concerned, I have never been confused in this context by anything Benny said. He clearly states what he understands by “fluency” and he has also repeatedly stated that it takes time and a lot of effort to maintain a certain level you have reached. In Budapest in particular he said that he is not the “typical polyglot” because he does not maintain his level of proficiency in all languages he studies. He studies languages as some sort of preparation for his trips and I am very much convinced that you can learn enough within 3 months to reach “functional fluency”, meaning you can get by in a language without completely butchering it.

I don’t get all worked up because of his use of the term “fluency”. I have bought two copies of his book. One for me and one for a good young friend of mine. I have not found anything new in that book but it certainly makes for some entertaining reading and it is an excellent way of introducing people to the wonderful world of language learning.

As for his linguistic skills, his Spanish and German are at a very high level. By the way, I’m not counting every single mistake he makes when I talk to him. We all make mistakes, we all have different aims and our own way of trying to achieve them.

Benny offers certain services and products people can buy but he also provides a lot of free advice.

I have never read or heard anything that would suggest that he tries to sell a “concept” or product that would allow people to use a language in a professional environment after having studied it for three months only. He is not suggesting you’ll be “bilingual” following his approach.

You can get a good grasp of the basics of a language when you focus on it for three months and this could be the start of a wonderful journey. If Benny manages to motivate more people to make use of their linguistic potential, then this is a good thing in my opinion.


“I met Benny both at the polyglot conference last year in Budapest and at this year’s polyglot gathering in Berlin.”

Leider habe ich zu lange damit gezögert, mir eine “Eintrittskarte” für die Konferenz zu kaufen und wenn ich das hier lese könnte ich mir dafür echt in den Allerwertesten beissen…
Wäre echt cool gewesen, dich, Benny (&Co) kennenzulernen. Naja, beim nächsten Mal.^^

“You can get a good grasp of the basics of a language when you focus on it for three months and this could be the start of a wonderful journey. If Benny manages to motivate more people to make use of their linguistic potential, then this is a good thing in my opinion.”

That´s exactly what happened to me, by the way. Two years ago, I read Benny´s blog and decided to start my own “French mission”. I didn´t reach flueny (obviously), but it made me realize that I can learn a language on my own.


(BTW: in my last post I wasn’t in any way implying that Benny is an A-hole - I really have no reason to think that he is. I was just making a completely general observation about how books may be, so to speak, different from their covers…)

I did not mean to stir up any controversy. I do not know the personalities, conflicts, or philosophies of various polyglots. I just shared the video because it was fun.

I am not endorsing anyone.

I am completely unknowledgeable about learning a language. I am that novice who doesn’t know if I can learn a language. Maybe some can be criticized for not offering anything new. But I have never heard these things before. It is new to me. It gives me hope that if I work at it, maybe some day I could get to a level where I could travel to a foreign country and order meals, take a taxi, register at a hotel, go sightseeing, and maybe even chit chat with some locals.

That may be goals that seem trivial to “serious” language learners. To me, it would be a miracle.

So I will study, in earnest if inefficient and scattered ways. I will gather information. I will read books. I will educate myself about learning and linguistics and polyglots and software that teaches Korean and websites.

For me, just to be able to say complete sentences would be a start.

I have no urge to learn a language in 6 months. I am not competing with anyone. I am just meeting people and experiencing the joys of language learning for the first time.

So I will go see a person I saw give a TED Talk and enjoyed listening to. No offense to anyone who dislikes this person or thinks he isn’t the best polyglot out there. To me, the concept that he is a polyglot after professing to failing to learn language in school. that makes him someone I want to meet. I am not sure I have ever met someone in person who can speak more than 2 languages. Certainly, I have never spoken to a person face to face about languages.

So indulge me, the novice learner. Be supportive that I am curious. Warn me if I am about to walk into danger, of course, but if I am just harmlessly stumbling along trying to learn, then pat me on the head like the toddler-language-learner that I am and wish me luck.

You can be my language family - parent, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, etc. I appreciate your sage advice and am glad to have joined this community.

jreidy (…) Maybe some can be criticized for not offering anything new. (…)

When I wrote that I had not found anything new in Benny’s book I was by no means trying to criticize him. He did not write the book to please me personally or answer any of the questions I might have in connection with language learning. He has a wide audience out there and as far as I know his book has turned out to be very successful and I think this success is due to his hard work.

I’m very glad I bought his book. I even asked him to sign the copies I bought. I certainly would not have done that if I did not appreciate what he does.

This does not mean I always agree with him, but I don’t think disagreement is always something negative. It can actually be the starting point for something new we might not have thought of in the first place.

You seem to be very enthusiastic about Korean and that is an excellent base to build on.

Just don’t forget to enjoy the learning process. Personally, I’m only really good at things I enjoy.

By the way, I’m sure you are not half as “unknowledgable” as you think.