Profitable Nomad Couple

70. The Power of Language Learning | David Giles

December 06, 2023 Austin and Monica Mangelson
Profitable Nomad Couple
70. The Power of Language Learning | David Giles
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with our good friend David Giles, an English teacher and language specialist, to discuss language learning and the potency it has in connecting us with other people across the globe.

Many of us have felt the fear of miscommunication in a foreign language. In this episode, we face head-on the hurdles that often trip us up when learning a new language. Drawing from personal experiences, David breaks down how fear and rigid educational systems contribute to these challenges.

David shares some hilarious stories and offers valuable insights into focusing on successful communication rather than worrying about grammatical correctness. We also tap into some practical language learning techniques that you aren't gonna want to miss!

Learn more from David on Instagram @crystalcompasscoaching or on his website www.CrystalCompasCoaching.com.

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Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to the profitable Nomad Couple podcast. This is a show where we share all of our secrets about building a sustainable location independent lifestyle.

Speaker 2:

We're Austin and Monica. We're a digital Nomad couple here to help you develop an entrepreneurial mindset, ignite your passions and develop a purpose-driven online business.

Speaker 1:

Get ready for weekly insights and inspiring stories to empower you to live life on your own terms.

Speaker 2:

So are you ready to unlock the Nomad mindset and embrace a life of limitless possibilities? Let's dive in.

Speaker 1:

Welcome back, you guys, to another episode. Today we are super excited because we have our Instagram friend turned real life friend, david, here with us to share some of his story and to help us learn languages as we travel. So welcome to the podcast, david. We're super excited to have you, hey guys.

Speaker 3:

I'm super excited to be here as well and talking about languages. There's basically nothing I love doing more, so getting to do it at other people Ah, what a dream.

Speaker 2:

Love it yeah, we so. First of all, like you, are probably the most energetic, exciting person to talk to, and so so this is like a great foundation to build this conversation off of. Monica and I have been super, super interested in talking to somebody about language for a long time. We're really glad that we found you to talk to you about it. It's one of those things that we loved.

Speaker 2:

So one of our pillars when it comes to our business, when it comes to our life and traveling, is we just love understanding other cultures, and I feel like language is a really good doorway into understanding other people, the things that they prioritize, the things they value, the things they believe. And then also, we've learned in our travels if you can pick up even on a little bit of the language that somebody else speaks, you become instant friends with them. They love it when you, when you make even a little bit of effort to learn their language. So it's been something that we've been interested for a long time, and so we are going to. We want to dive into all all the language learning stuff, but we want to first let you introduce yourself, share with us a little bit about your story, things like where you're from, what you do and how you got into what you do.

Speaker 3:

Alrighty, alright, what I do is a big question. So I'll start with where I'm from, and we had a little conversation about this because nobody knows it, even people from near where I'm from. So I'm originally from a tiny town called Grimsby in Northeast Lincolnshire, I think, kind of middle of England. Go east and stop before you fall in the sea, but don't get close enough so you can go to the beach and you're pretty much in that area Like hit leaves and keep going east. From there.

Speaker 3:

I moved down to Cambridge for university Important difference, not to Cambridge University, there's another one for normies like me, hi there. So I was studying at university there I did media and drama, got to the end of that and realized that although I love doing those things, it wasn't something that I wanted to do to make my living and was kind of casting around for what that was going to be, really trying to identify what passion would also fill my pocket and kind of fund my lifestyle. And it was actually a conversation with my mother that helped me with that, because she said well, you love languages, why don't you teach language? And I was like, oh yeah, I do love languages, but I don't speak any language as well enough to teach them, and she looked at me for a second and said your English is pretty good. I was like, oh yeah, you can do that. So that was really where the journey of language teaching started.

Speaker 3:

But languages have been a part of my life to some extent since I was a kid, because my mum was a French teacher, and so that's where the languages really began. I kind of planted that seed very early, and we would go over to France quite regularly, and I think that that's really where my strength in languages comes from not the fact that I was exposed to languages from a very early age which super helps for sure but the fact that I was exposed to using the language to get stuff done. Yeah, like we went to France. So if I was going to speak French, it was to like ask for the bill or to order something, and so French was a way of like getting something that I wanted and also kind of showing off, because I was a kid and I was like I speak French, hi. So yeah, that was a big part of how my passion was born, because I've never really formally studied languages and I've met a lot of people that have, who kind of despise them. So I think that's a big part of it.

Speaker 1:

That's so cool. Sorry, I first of all. Mums are the best. I love that she was able to just point you in the right direction and kind of give you that good foundation for language learning. Tell me a little bit more about how your interest in travel started as well.

Speaker 3:

Well, that actually comes from my childhood as well, I guess, really because I'm half Australian and so we would regularly go out to Australia. So I spent I was about to say I spent a large amount of my childhood on planes that would be a massive lie and I went on planes a fair bit. But we used to go over to Australia for Christmas and I loved that feeling of like getting on the plane going to other countries. We used to stop over in Singapore and back then you didn't usually have the kind of weird runway that hooks you up to the airport, you just went out of the plane on the steps and I remember really vividly, even to this day, the feeling of walking out into the plane, into just this wall of hot air, like it was like walking hot dry jelly and that just kind of pointed me in the direction of I want to see what other dry jellies there are out there.

Speaker 3:

I want to see what it's like stepping off the plane into other countries, and language very early on became a part of that for me, because travelling to other countries meant also other languages, and now I find that any excuse to learn a new language is good enough. So travelling to a new country. I'm like, yeah, new language. So I had a stopover on the way back from China, because I used to live in China and I had a stopover in Vienna, and so because of that, I spent the two months beforehand learning German for my stopover in Vienna, despite the fact that my stopover was 12 hours.

Speaker 1:

Wow, that's so impressive.

Speaker 3:

Well, this is the important thing that I would really love to kind of dispel a little bit, which is that it isn't impressive. It is, in a way, because people say, oh, I do like you can speak other languages and that's great and it's something to be celebrated, but it's something that really pretty much anyone can do. And I mean, I'm sure we'll move on to this a little bit later but one of the biggest obstacles to language learning is the heartfelt belief that people have that they cannot do it.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, but they can, you can listen up.

Speaker 2:

Definitely something I want to get into, because I'm really curious about that and I think for me I don't know if anyone else feels this way but a big barrier that I've come up against to learning more languages is I have this belief that my brain is not going to be able to fit it all. Like I already speak one Spanish See it's already.

Speaker 3:

I'm already messed up. I was like one Spanish. Please, I speak one.

Speaker 2:

Spanish. I speak one language other than English. I speak English and Spanish fluently and I'm extremely interested in learning more. But I, whenever I start, I'm always worried about you know, all these languages getting muddled in my head and I think, oh, my brain is not going to be able to hold on to all these languages. So I'm not going to start because I don't want to get so confused with all of them. So I don't know if that's something that other people experienced, but maybe it's just jump into that since it's come out.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, sure.

Speaker 2:

What are I mean, what are the other big reasons that hold people back from learning languages? Do you think?

Speaker 3:

Oh, that's a fantastic question. I mean, fear is a massive one of them and this idea of not being able to is for sure a big part of it. But a lot of people have communication and kind of performance anxiety in general, and language is often quite performative. It feels artificial because we're not communicating, often in the way we would normally would, or maybe even the way that we want to. But the big thing that generates this fear is and I'm really sorry education, but school. Now I'm not saying that I want to like burn all the schools down. I think schools are great, they are wonderful places and teachers do an incredible job.

Speaker 3:

The thing to be aware of is that the system and in some ways necessarily is so fixated on assessment what is good, what is bad, what is right, what is wrong and you kind of get why when you're dealing with systems that broad and expansive, where they need to show a way of saying, like this guy's doing well, that guy's not doing so well, these guys, they're all right.

Speaker 3:

The issue is that it teaches us that there is a right and a wrong, and the thing is, with language that's not really the case. There is a successful communication, a negotiated communication and an unsuccessful communication. Successful would be I say something, you say something, the other person understands what we wanted them to understand and we get the outcome we desired. Negotiated is going to be that. I give it a go. It doesn't work first time, and so we do something between us to get to that final communication that we wanted. For me, those are the best ones because they're always the ones that end up being really funny stories, a perfect example of which I warned you I was going to get distracted.

Speaker 3:

This is going to love embarrassing language stories.

Speaker 3:

Excellent.

Speaker 3:

Well, this is embarrassing. So good. When I was living in China, I had just got out there and I actually moved to China because I had been learning some Mandarin as opposed to learning Mandarin because I was moving to China. So I was determined, I went into a supermarket and back then I used to smoke I don't anymore because I'm a very good boy, but I used to smoke. So I was determined to go into the supermarket, get myself a pack of cigarettes. But no gestures, no body language. I was just going to be like a statue and Chinese at this person, or Mandarin at this person, if we're going to be a little bit more correct. So I had a go and I said to them I want 20 cigarettes, because at that stage I hadn't learned how to say pack it off. And this woman looked at me absolutely baffled.

Speaker 3:

But I had read and this is very, very true in a lot of situations that in a country like China, where the language is not so commonly learnt, the first time you say something, even if you actually say it very well, the person will not be expecting you to be speaking their language. So they're almost not quite tuned in. Like, if they're expecting you to speak English, then they might actually just be like well, your English sounds really weird. And this has happened to me before where I've been speaking to someone, for example, in Spanish. They switched to English and I say sorry, I didn't understand that. And they say, really, because it was in English, I was like, ah, ok, I thought you just said a Spanish word. I didn't know because I was still in that channel. Yeah, sure. So I was like, ok, no worries, I'll say it again Second time, still absolutely baffled, although at this point the guy who was mopping the floor of the supermarket stopped like pumped his tin on the other side of the water, like ready for a show.

Speaker 3:

Huge grin. Well, this is what I thought I was like OK. So he just thinks it's funny because there's a random white dude speaking Mandarin in the supermarket. And so I try a third time, like, very clearly, I want 20 cigarettes please. And this woman looks at me and goes, eh. And I'm like, oh, that is not what I expected to happen. And so I think about it for a hot minute and I realize that what I have been saying is not Yan, which is cigarettes, but Yang, which is goats 20 goats.

Speaker 1:

Asking for 20 goats in the supermarket.

Speaker 3:

Very, very clearly, very confidently, three times where the goats are. But the great thing is, I never then forgot how to say either goats or cigarettes, and it's one of my favorites. I kind of got my cigarettes.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think I would have loved this story more if she got, if she had gone in the back and come back to you in the front of the store with 20 goats in hands.

Speaker 3:

Dude, I was in like the outskirts of Shanghai Super possible, that's hilarious.

Speaker 1:

That's so funny, man.

Speaker 2:

OK, I think maybe we should do an episode someday about just funny language stories.

Speaker 2:

Maybe, but like talking about, I think a large part of what you said was kind of perceptions or expectations when it comes to how people are going to sound or what they're going to say. This is more Monica's story, but I'll share it when you know. No, it's when you were in Peru and you said that you would talk to people on the phone when she was living in Peru, and she talked to people on the phone in Spanish and they would understand everything she said. She'd have a great conversation. Everyone understood what's going on. And then she shows up in person to the same person and speaks in Spanish, but now that they can see she's a white person, all of a sudden they don't know what she's trying to say.

Speaker 1:

They look me, they literally look me up and down and be like I don't understand, Like I think you do.

Speaker 2:

Let me just come on my hair and try that again.

Speaker 1:

I think you'll get it.

Speaker 2:

So interesting.

Speaker 3:

No, it is great, and I mean it is so important for language learners to know this, because there's a real tendency to give it a go one time and then, if the other person doesn't understand, or if the other person responds in your language to interpret it. As I have failed, I will stop. Let the shame begin, like if someone has one of those bells from Game of Thrones. I'll be walking down the street. Shame.

Speaker 1:

Shame.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I agree, I think, because when you learn a new language, you're going to be making mistakes, right? I think that's inevitable. You're going to be saying the wrong thing, you're going to be saying the wrong words, people are going to, people are going to giggle at you, and I just think there's no way around it. But I think, like I do agree, that we've kind of been ingrained to shy away from things that make us feel embarrassed or, you know, from doing the wrong thing, and I think a big part of language learning is just doing your best to embrace those mistakes and then keep chugging along anyway.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely, and you can do that with a really delicate but powerful perception shift. Ok, and this is linked actually very much to what I work on in other areas of coaching, which is all about what you want. It's your why, and the why is hugely important. Now we can look at the overarching why of why are you learning a language later? But in that individual interaction, let's say I go into the supermarket to buy a pack of cigarettes, which of course I would never do now but my aim in that interaction on a basic level is to get some cigarettes. So if I come out of that supermarket and like nobody's dead and I have some cigarettes, I probably did OK.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, very high standards. It's not goats.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I've got cigarettes zero goats, zero fatalities.

Speaker 3:

And this is the thing that people often lose sight of, because they might come out of there with their cigarettes, having spoken only Mandarin. But they know that they didn't quite say it. And here people you can't see this, but I'm making big air quotes Incorrect thing. But there is no incorrect thing really, because if we look at what is correct, it has been decided by some people what the correct thing to say is. But actually if you go to loads of different countries around the world where their first language is English, they will say things in completely different ways. A perfect example is a teacher that I used to work with was from Ireland and she would say I'm to go to the shops. And now in England I would say I'm about to go to the shops or I'm going to go to the shops. Now is that wrong? Because it's not what I would say. Leave that one floating in the air for you. That's a really interesting perception shift, because even in the States.

Speaker 2:

There's so many different dialects, if you want to call it, in others. There's California accents, there's Pacific Northwest, there's New Yorker, there's Southern, there's Texan, there's all sorts of different kinds and they're going to say things differently, but it's all English, absolutely.

Speaker 3:

And often people get hung up on accent, so just kind of like, oh well, they say that word differently. It's like, yeah, for sure, that's part of it and that is a big thing when we're talking to particularly like language learners about what the correct pronunciation is, but even grammatically, like there are structural things that are not particularly like, there are structural things that we do differently around the world all as native speakers. And, to be honest, when we forget about that and just think, ok, what do I want to achieve, then we win. And if your main aim is to have spoken that language particularly early on, then you're just always going to win.

Speaker 3:

Like if I went into that supermarket and what I said to the woman on the till was like I'd like to shave your grandfather's buttocks with a samurai sword, but my aim had been to speak Mandarin. Well, boom, I win. I might get slapped in the face, but I still achieved my objective. And when you can approach language with this feeling of joy, playfulness and always looking for the win, what was it in that interaction, what was it in that phrase I just said, that I nailed.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

And carry that forward.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's awesome.

Speaker 2:

So I want to try and sum up what you said, because I think it's really really good and two like main principles come to mind. So tell me if I'm summarizing this correctly for you, monica, and I tell people all the time to have a why behind what they do. It's like when you're going into business, like why are you starting this business? Why do you want this life of freedom? So you're saying to have that.

Speaker 2:

But narrow down, don't be so broad about it. Like why am I learning a language? But in every interaction that you have, why am I going into this conversation? Why am I going into the store and then have that be your meter of whether or not it was successful? Yeah, absolutely. And then the other thing was another thing we tell people all the time and I think this is great is you have this really big objective of, okay, I want to learn Mandarin, but instead of, okay, I'm here not speaking Mandarin at all and I want to be here speaking Mandarin fluently? That's a huge gap. You're going to break it down into smaller steps? Okay?

Speaker 2:

maybe I'm not going to speak Mandarin fluently today, like someone who was born in China, but I can successfully ask for cigarettes. I can successfully ask for goats, whatever it is. Break it down into a smaller step and that makes the whole language learning thing more manageable.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely, Because it's so easy to be overwhelmed by our objectives and that doesn't mean we don't need them. It's really great to have a direction I want to go in, but knowing why I'm going in that direction helps both with that motivation, but also helps you to break it down into those smaller steps. Because, like you mentioned, if I want to become fluent in Mandarin and to speak like a native speaker and also those two things are not the same in many ways. Why am I doing that? Do I want to speak fluent Mandarin just because I've heard that that's a really good thing? Or do I want to live in China and be able to have conversations with people and live my daily life in Chinese? Well, you can do that with B2. You don't need to be like native speaker level for that. So this can also help you realize, okay. Well, actually my goal is actually even more obtainable than I realized when I think about what I'm doing it for.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's good. So I'm curious what's the difference between a, between fluency in a language and being a native speaker?

Speaker 3:

Oh, that's a big question, and no matter what I say next, there will be lots of people that disagree because it's very, that's how you know it's a good answer.

Speaker 3:

I know right, it's very subjective, and I actually had a conversation recently with a girl that I was traveling with. We were on one of these tours around Ninh Binh in Vietnam and she is studying languages at university and, in her opinion, fluent means C2 native speaker, okay. However, as a polyglot myself and someone who follows a lot of polyglots, the definition that you'll often hear from someone who is fluent in lots of languages would be actually about B2. Because, at B2 level and for anyone not super familiar with, like these weird letters, and numbers yeah, you're kind of thinking of like four out of six.

Speaker 3:

If six is a native speaker, one is hello, then B2 is kind of like your four out of six, okay, and at that stage you are able to communicate what you want and also start to decide how you want to communicate it, and then your personality is starting to shine through and, realistically, there's nothing that you can't do Doesn't mean you won't make mistakes, doesn't mean that people will always understand you first time, but you're not going to find yourself in a situation where you're like I can't do this. So for a lot of polyglots and language learners, that would be what we would describe as fluency in a language. So fluency, particularly in terms of language schools and academic environments, is often described more as you are native, like Interesting.

Speaker 2:

I have so many questions going through my head I don't know which one to ask right now. Okay, so I want to get into more language learning tips because I think that's something that's really interesting If you have more suggestions on how people can do this. But would you say that it's like, when it comes to learning new things, seems like there's a really fast uptake and how you learn it and then it levels out in plateaus for a long time. So would you say that that B2 level is kind of that plateau like? Do you feel like people plateau at that level between fluency and that B2 level all the way to like complete proficiency and almost native language level?

Speaker 3:

It is very common for around those kind of middly levels, like your B1, b2 or your kind of three and four assets, you feel like a plateau. And I say feel like for a very important reason, because there will come a point where you have, in particular, covered pretty much all of the grammar. Because when you learn a language, like everybody gets obsessed with grammar and I love grammar, like I am a massive grammar nerd, and so when developing my method for teaching people how to learn languages, it was very odd for me because I developed a system that does not look at learning loads of grammar rules, because I know that most people don't like it. But this feeling of plateauing usually comes around the point where you've kind of seen all of like the big players in terms of grammatical structures and people start to feel like they've stopped making progress. The key thing there is how do you measure your progress? Because if you're measuring it by OK, well, I've learned that new structure and now I can speak in the past and now I can talk about hypothetical situations, and then you kind of can do all that stuff Well, you're almost certainly still improving. But if you're looking at it in terms of new structures, you've learned well? No, because you kind of seen them all, so maybe you're better at using them. But it's not that same kind of quantum leap.

Speaker 3:

So for me the most effective way to measure your learning is I can, I can't, and then you break it down into how comfortably you can do something. So, for example, let's say I reach my B2 level and I'm pretty off a with most of the grammatical structures that I would be needing to use. So I can talk in all the past, present, future, I can talk about hypothetical situations, I've got verb conjugation coming out my ears, but I've never talked about philosophy, I've never philosophised in that language. That's the perfect moment to say at the moment I am not comfortable or confident speaking about philosophical subjects. And then you dive in some philosophy, you read some books on that, you have some deep conversations.

Speaker 3:

So then a month later you like do, I can do philosophy in Spanish. What's up? Because that is a massive leap and that is also tied in with what we want from a language. I don't care if you can use, like the present perfect continuous, if you don't need to, but if you can use the present perfect continuous and make me feel it that I'm going to notice. I would rather you throw a string of broken words my way, but I feel it.

Speaker 2:

That's so good. That's so good Like you can ask people like native English speakers about grammar and past participles and whatnot and they would have no clue what you're talking about. Oh no, that's so good that like it's more as so much more about the human connection and the emotion behind what you're saying than the complete accuracy, grammatical vocabulary, accuracy of what you're saying. I love that.

Speaker 3:

Well, studies have shown, is this guy, vin Zhang, who I absolutely love. He's a communication expert and keynote speaker and he mentions a study that they did which basically found that the actual words that we use account for roughly 7% of what the other person is taking in. Wow, 7%.

Speaker 2:

What's the rest? Do you remember?

Speaker 3:

body language, the way you're using your voice. So, talking about things like intonation, we're talking about speed, because, by the same token, I can say Yesterday I do went to the park and it was good, and people are like, okay, I pretty much know what you're talking about. Where's my? Yesterday I do went to the park and guys, it was good, yeah, and you just stop caring about the grammatical errors because you feel it. I mean, I got goosebumps thinking about moments where I've seen this transformation in students, where they stop caring about the words they're using and start caring about what they are communicating, and that helps.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that was such a good example. I like felt that, which I know is the goal, but that was really good and I'm like man, like I have gone about learning Spanish all the wrong way, but I love it it's a great thing you haven't.

Speaker 3:

You've gone about it exactly the right way, but you also have an opportunity to find another way that may work even better for you.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, definitely. I am so excited to dive into your I don't remember the word to use, but just your tips for learning languages.

Speaker 3:

It's not about the words, one I know I know, just make me feel it.

Speaker 1:

I'm really excited to learn about how you learn languages. But before we dive into that, I really want to know why. Why should we even care about learning languages?

Speaker 3:

Ah, such a good question. You get 10 points and a gold star, nice Boom. So the reason we should care is because they do the person that you are talking to is that you speak their language and they will feel it on like an existential level, and I've noticed this. I mean, I speak a lot of languages and I always learn, at least like numbers. Please, thank you. You're welcome. How much is it? This is delicious, learned. This is delicious and hello, and that's good. You're good.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think the like, the physiological change I see in people when I say something in their language, particularly when they're not expecting it, is profound, because we are human beings, we are social creatures. We live and survive and thrive based on the connections that we make, and a language is the way we do it and it doesn't actually matter what you're saying, that's the fact that you're saying it. Perfect example is some of the experiences that I have had because I speak a foreign language and they haven't been dictated by the level to which I can do it, just the fact that I did it. So I mean, a picking one from the, from the menu, would be tricky, but I'm going to go for when I was in Laos because I spoke practically no Laotian. Like we're talking, as I said before, numbers, ordering something from a menu. Please, thank you and again, the key.

Speaker 2:

This is delicious.

Speaker 3:

And so I was staying in Rime, provence, and I went out of my hostel and I just started strolling down the street looking at the temple, soaking up the nature as you do, and there's a driveway on the left hand side, in front of a house, which is realistically where driveways often are. But on this driveway there were a couple of little tables and some cutlery, and this glorious old lady had set up this kind of mini restaurant on her driveway. And so I go in and think, yes, this is what I'm after, and I order my food and after I finished I say to her in Laotian this is delicious. I will admit I do not remember how to say this is delicious in Laotian anymore, but that was probably close to 10 years ago.

Speaker 2:

Well, let us slide.

Speaker 3:

Thank you, you're too kind. She was absolutely delighted to the extent that she called her son because he spoke some English and she was adamant that this lovely boy who speaks Laotian should talk to her grandson, actually, I say. And so I ended up chatting with him, arranged to meet with him for a drink later in that day and, like again did a couple of little bits of Laotian here and there, just kind of like numbers, and he found it hilarious and this is a really key one People laughing at you is a good thing because they're not laughing at you. Sometimes it's surprise, sometimes it's joy. Remember, laughter is what we do when we are happy, like you don't watch a sad film and laugh at it. Like, if you're laughing, it is a positive feeling that you are causing in someone else. It doesn't mean that they are judging you. And so he found it really really funny.

Speaker 3:

But the upshot of this was he invited me to his two year old daughter's birthday party and this ended up with me in their house where I had gone for lunch with about 30 Laotian folks eating, drinking, playing, spin the bottle, which is interesting because they don't spin the bottle, they tie some chopsticks together, stick the chopsticks in the bottle and spin the chopsticks, love it, but they were having like karaoke style rap battles, and all of this was an experience that I could never buy, I could never ask for, but I could only be offered. And I was offered that experience because of three words this is delicious, and what that communicated to this woman was recognition I am in your home, you have welcomed me, and I want to show my recognition for that but also vulnerability, and there is no greater courage, no greater gift that we can give to others than our vulnerability. I might say it wrong, it might be embarrassing, but I want to do it, and that is the core of why learning languages is so important, because it will take you to places that you never even knew. You were desperate to go.

Speaker 2:

I don't know if you know how many quote cards we're going to make with everything that you just said. I love that and I like I've experienced that myself when I was living in Paraguay. We'd be walking down the street talking to people in Spanish. People would not want to talk back to us, they would just kind of ignore us, like yeah, what's up, keep going, you know. And then so I'd be walking down the street speaking Spanish, no one caring, and then I would stop and I'd look at a man. I'd say something in Guadani. So I'd say you know, buy la porte, which is literally just what's up, you know how's it going. And all of a sudden he lights up, stands up, invites you in his home. We're sitting down barbecuing with him and his family is giving us drinks, and all I said was what's up, you know? And people, they love like, as soon as. It doesn't matter that the rest of the conversation that we had was in Spanish again. So I said what's up in Guadani? That was the doorway into having a conversation with him.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

So that's so cool. So how has language learning changed you individually as a person?

Speaker 3:

So this is one that I knew you guys were going to ask and I was actually really looking forward to answering, and I'm going to start off with a little bit of interesting theory related to what languages do to us, because our brains are basically these supercomputers and they run on the language that we put into them. So everything we say and hear programs who we are, because, as humans, we are basically a memory. Your memory creates your personality, it creates who you are, and there are other layers to it, particularly if you are spiritual and you believe that there is that, but all of it is informed by this. But the interesting thing is that the language that you speak can actually change the way you perceive reality and behave. There was this fantastic TED talk, actually created by an economist, and he did this study into languages that have a separate future form and languages that don't. So, for example, in Mandarin or in Japanese, if I want to say tomorrow I will go to the shops, I just say tomorrow I go to the shops. So there is no separate way to talk about the future, because in English, obviously, we can say I will go to the shops, or in French, je vais aller. So we have these different structures, and what he found was that languages that don't have a separate future were related to countries where people were much more careful about the future, they invested more in pension funds, they took care of their health better, and the interpretation was that, because there is no separate way of talking about the future, the future is perceived to be now. It's more real, it's more pressing, and this is something that I've noticed in my own life as well.

Speaker 3:

Over the years, I have studied a lot of different languages, and so I've exposed myself to these different words, these different grammatical structures, but also these different ways of thinking, and this has had two profound effects on me. One I imagine that particularly the areas of my brain related to language probably sparkle like a glistening Christmas tree, but also it's meant that I have exposed myself to different ways of perceiving the world. For example, for us as Westerners, time moves from left to right, but in China time moves from top to bottom. Interesting Thanks the writing system. So, for example, if I want to talk about the morning, it will be Shang-Wu, which means like up part of the day, which is just great.

Speaker 3:

So that has definitely had a profound effect on me, but also, the fact that language is so intrinsically linked to culture and identity means I've also connected with people from all over the world, from all sorts of different walks of life, and that has allowed me to relate to them and empathize with them in a way that I wouldn't necessarily have done if there had been more of this linguistic barrier between us. So it really isn't just something you learn, it is something that becomes a part of you and allows you to grow in ways that maybe learning maths wouldn't Learning maths for sure like gonna help. But language is people and, going back to what we were talking about before, like when we speak someone's language, particularly if it is, like you say, like a more minority language which they really strongly identify with, it doesn't matter what we say to them. What it translates as in their ears is I see you, and that's huge. And the great thing is, if you see them, they see you too, and that is something, again, you can't buy. You can only earn it.

Speaker 2:

I love it. When is your TED Talk coming out?

Speaker 3:

What's this face?

Speaker 2:

That was such a good answer to that question. I love it and I could not agree more the amount of empathy that you build and understanding that you build for other people. I love the example that you gave because it shows that the language that we speak is so connected to how we perceive the world and so, when there's differences in how we approach a situation, if you're working with someone or talking to someone whose native language is different even if I think it carries over, like even if now, like in this conversation, you both speak the same language if your native language is different, then, like you said, you're going to have different perceptions of the world of time. The language that they speak just like you said it, influences so much how you perceive everything around you. So I love how you walked us through that example because it really is a doorway into understanding and connecting more with other people.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely yeah. And when we see that the fear just disappears a little bit because we realize, like actually it kind of doesn't matter what I'm saying, it doesn't matter if I use a tense that is not the one that I was planning to use. I can connect with this person regardless.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, david, I am so glad you're here today, because I feel like you just gave us and all of our listeners the key that everyone's been looking for, because nobody goes out to travel the world because they want to stay in their hotel and only speak to people, like talk to people who are also traveling. People go out and travel because they want to connect with people, they want to learn about the world and other cultures, and a lot of times we just don't know how to do it and you literally just handed us all the keys. So thank you, thank you for being here.

Speaker 3:

I am delighted. Thank you so much. That's very kind.

Speaker 1:

So let's dive into like, now that we know it's important to learn a language, and now we know that this is the key to actually having those really deep cultural, personal experiences that we're all craving, how the heck do we start?

Speaker 3:

That is a great question and the key thing is, as we've said, like, know why you're doing it, because that will help you decide what to learn. Because if I'm learning like some survival phrases because I'm going to be somewhere for a week, I don't need to learn like in-depth grammar, I don't need to learn perfect pronunciation, I don't need to learn a lot of things. So, knowing what your aims are is really, really important, but also having a balance, because the thing is, once I know what I want to do, realistically I'm probably going to need to be able to understand when people speak and to be able to speak myself. But writing and reading are often overlooked because people think, well, I only want to be able to speak. The thing is that our brains love multi-sensory information. Now, some people and here is an interesting and controversial one as well some people believe that they will learn best by listening. Some people believe that they will learn best by reading. Some people believe that they will learn best by doing things with their hands, and they're all right, and at the same time, they're not, because a lot of the studies that have been done show that actually, like learning style is kind of a bit of a myth, but the thing is, belief is not. So. If I believe that I will learn best by listening, listening will probably be the most effective way for me to learn, because I programmed myself to take things in that way. So, identifying how you want to learn, absolutely, but don't close the door to others. Read, write, listen and speak.

Speaker 3:

Now, getting right down to a bit more the nitty gritty of, like, I want to learn language, what do I do? I was doing this exercise. It's quite new actually and I'm very excited about it. I was doing this exercise with a friend of mine who wants to learn Hindi. What I was talking to him about is what do you want to do in that language? And so the way you can start, when you're really like right at the beginning, is make a lot of mind map and in the center you have that language.

Speaker 3:

So let's say, you want to learn Swahili. For some reason it's always the example I go to. One day I'll have to learn Swahili. So you want to learn Swahili. And there's like what do you want to do with Swahili? So let's say, what you really want to do is just dive into street food. So you have this little arm coming off your central bubble and it's food. So, okay, what situation are you going to find yourself? Okay, I'm going to find myself talking to a street vendor. Okay, what are you going to say to them? What are they going to say to you? And all of this you're doing in your own language.

Speaker 3:

From there, you find out how to say those things in your target language and you use that as your base, Because the thing is, language learning necessarily is very, very structured. You will learn A before you learn B before you learn C. But if all you really want to do is order some delicious street food, you probably don't need to know how to ask this person when their birthday is. But, for damn sure, you're going to learn that in your language school a lot. So this is the key is inform your learning by what you want to learn how to say so, as I said, link to that why, in terms of actual technique, there are some really, really simple things that you can do to develop, and it's really exciting. One of the things is called brain soaking, which I love because it sounds terrifying.

Speaker 2:

It's very interesting to me.

Speaker 3:

I know it's great. So it's basically just immersing yourself in the language. Now, this is something that people are told a lot like oh, immerse yourself in the language. Immerse yourself in the language. The trick is, what people aren't told is how to do it and what the purpose of that really can be.

Speaker 3:

So if I'm going to immerse myself in the language, I'll be listening to podcasts, I'll be watching TV series, I'll be reading stuff, checking out the music. The key thing to know when you're doing that is your objective is to do it. And if I have just started learning a language and I listened to a TED talk in that language, I'm not going to understand most of it, but that doesn't mean it's not valuable, because, on a passive level, you are picking some of it up. You're noticing rhythm, you're noticing pronunciation patterns. There'll be some words that you recognize, which you are reinforcing. But, above all, the most critical thing with something like that is you are learning not to be afraid, because when you come face to face with someone and you have that massive cortisol rabbit in headlights, fight off like moment where you're like that's because we're afraid, and particularly when someone speaks to us in that language.

Speaker 3:

I didn't understand anything. It's too fast. But if you've trained yourself to be super relaxed while being exposed to fast native speech, then you're knocking down that barrier. Your brain knows, dude, it's okay, Pick up what you can.

Speaker 3:

And this comes down to a mindset change. Which is super, super important for life, but also for language learning, is if I want to cross a river, I have two options I can stare at the water or I can stare at the stepping stones. The stepping stones are the things I know and they're going to help me get where I want to go. Now, the stepping stones aren't a bridge. It's not like I can just walk over without looking. I can still pay attention, but if I start staring at the water, someone's getting wet.

Speaker 3:

So with language learning, it's the same If someone speaks to you, if you want to improve your comprehension from today to tomorrow, change your focus. Everything they've said you didn't understand, ignore, Focus on the words you did understand and then build the puzzle from there. The analogy that I like to give with this and here we're moving on to speaking as well is focus on the big picture, Because if I give you a puzzle piece and on that puzzle piece there's a wheel, and I give you another puzzle piece and there's some orange fur, and I give you another puzzle piece and there's some grass, then you're probably like what the hell is this? Whereas if I give you 10 puzzle pieces and you see some grass, four paws, a tail, orange fur, white fur, some whiskers, some big cat's eyes and a piece that has a wheel on it and a piece that has a window on it, what do you think is on the puzzle?

Speaker 1:

A red panda, but I also love red pandas.

Speaker 3:

Me too. It's my spirit animal. See, it could be a red panda, it could be a tiger, it could be a cat, but we know this is an animal, and the window and the wheel are just mistakes. We don't need to pay attention to them. So the same works with when you're listening as when you're speaking. Get the whole image and the person listening can probably figure out what you're trying to say, regardless of the errors. Now we also want to reduce errors, because the easier we can make it for the person listening to us, the better. And the best way to reduce errors is production, aware, conscious production. Getting correction is brilliant. As long as you see correction as a positive thing, it is a stepping stone to make you even better.

Speaker 3:

Now for learning complex structures. So here we're talking about grabber. There's a really simple way that you can do that, and it's a way that most language schools will strongly discourage, and it is translation. But the trick is translation in the right way. So this is really one of the secrets of how I learned particularly complex languages like Japanese very quickly in terms of the grammar, and I'm going to throw it at you here it comes free.

Speaker 2:

Let's do it.

Speaker 3:

Here we go, super, super simple, like it's embarrassing. So let's say, you made your wonderful MyMap for Swahili and you knew you wanted to go and get some street food and the thing that you wanted to say was could I get a portion of rice please? What you would do is you find how to say that, either from looking on the internet.

Speaker 3:

Maybe you have some learning materials that you're using and you plug that example sentence in your target language into a translator I use Google translate, but that's because I'm addicted to Google unashamedly and you translate it not from your language to the target language, but from the target language back to your language. This, if it's a completely new phrase, will give you an idea of what the meaning is, and just by doing that, you've already skipped around all of that part of learning where people say like this is the name of the grammatical structure, this is how we use it, this is how we form it, because once you translate it to your language, you know how you use it and you know how you use your language. Next, you go through and you separate that target phrase with full stops, you break it down into little chunks. It could be each word, or it could be that every couple of words. Sometimes you have a chunk that's more than one word, but playing around with where to put these full stops and seeing how it affects the translation on the other end is a really good way to actively and passively absorb the structure of a language. Now what you'll find is you get a really weird translation. It's probably going to sound a lot like Shakespeare, particularly if you're translating from something like Spanish, french, german, like. They always sound like Shakespeare when you translate them literally. But this literal translation will help you to absorb the grammatical structure in that foreign language, because it's actually very easy to literally translate individual words. Students do it all the time, which often causes problems because literally translating into your target language can sound really weird. This is how people learning how to say Spanish often accidentally say their pregnancy yes. But if you learn how to translate these words literally by doing it in the order that your target language would do it, you accidentally create the right phrase.

Speaker 3:

There's also some really interesting neurology behind why this works. The brain is fascinating and in many ways, our brains are still kind of animal brains. They're filtering things into three big categories, which is basically like safety. Is there danger around Sustenance? Where am I getting my food and water? From Sex, because we are creatures and, like creatures, often aim towards reproduction. Now, the modern world has way more subtlety and complexity than that, but there's a part of your brain that is still filtering it down into these three areas. Now, mistakes in a language and this is one of my favorite bits mistakes in a language fall into this safety category Because, as we mentioned before, humans are tribal creatures with social creatures, and with that comes rules.

Speaker 3:

There are certain societal norms which, if we break badly enough, could mean us being expelled from the tribe, which, if you are a creature that depends on the tribe for survival, could mean death. So the wonderful thing about this is that when you conjugate a verb incorrectly and you feel bad about it, there is a part of your brain that thinks you're going to die. The great news is you're not going to. And once you realize, that's why you feel embarrassed. When you realize, that's why you feel ashamed and you realize oh no, dude, it's actually fine. Like, no one's going to kick me out of the tribe and I'm not going to get eaten by a lion. Then you can chill.

Speaker 3:

Now the reason this works with this technique is because you've translated your target language into your own language and it's wrong. So your brain sees this sentence and goes whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. That's mental, that doesn't work. So it stands out and this incorrect structure sticks in your memory. The great thing is, this incorrect structure is actually a trail of breadcrumbs that leads you to the correct structure in the foreign language, so you are designed to notice it.

Speaker 3:

It's one of the reasons why, when I correct students, I use positive correction, which is where I will expose them to the correct version and I will ask them to identify which bit I changed to make it correct, the reason being students are usually desperate to know what they did wrong. It's like why do you want to know what you did wrong? It was wrong. Why don't you focus more on what is right and keep doing that? Because we are designed to look for danger and this technique allows you to do that. It will stick this memory in your head and it will lead you to the right answer.

Speaker 2:

That's awesome. Thanks for that very practical tip. I think a lot of people are going to find that super helpful.

Speaker 3:

I mean it's great fun, and also some of the stuff that it translates as is brilliant. I bet.

Speaker 2:

There's this game that we used to play, where we would take a phrase in English, translate it through like 10 languages, then back to English and just to see how messed up it got. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

But I love that you were able to take that like survival function of the brain and say, okay, like we all have this anxiety that we're going to get kicked out and eat, so let's use that to our advantage. That is absolutely brilliant.

Speaker 3:

And it's great once you realize that's what it's doing, because the more we're aware of these things, the more powerful they become, but also the more we are able to influence them. So it reduces our anxiety when we are speaking but, as you said, also harnesses it for when we're learning.

Speaker 2:

Yeah that's good. So I'm really curious can you or do you coach people who want to learn a language that you don't speak?

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. It's not necessary for me to speak the language, for me to coach someone on how to learn it, because the underlying fundamentals of how to learn a language really are applicable across the board. Every language has its own little idiosyncratic differences, but the underlying skills are the same. Because here's the big secret, and it's something that I always flip back to an ad that I used to see all the time on YouTube for one of the language learning platforms, and it's this guy speaking in Spanish. He's like ¿El problema es el inglés se enseña mal? And he's saying like the problem is like English is taught badly.

Speaker 3:

And I remember seeing that. I was like no, it's not, the problem is languages are learned badly. And that is because languages are learned passively. People turn up and wait for someone to pour the knowledge into their head, but the key thing is, if you want to get good at a language, get good at learning. So one of the guys that I absolutely love, one of my heroes, is a guy called Jim Quipp, and he is an accelerated learning and memory expert, also very deep into speed reading, and he always says that the problem with schools is they teach us what to learn and not how to learn it. And so if you really want to get good at a language or anything, find out how to get good at learning it, and the rest will just happen.

Speaker 1:

Amazing. This has been such an eye-opening discussion. I am so excited for this episode to come out. Everyone listen to it. I really think it's going to open a lot of doors for people. I feel like we could be here all day and just like soak in all of the knowledge that you have for us, but I don't want to do that to you. I know it's kind of late where you're at, so why don't you end by telling us what you do now, how people can work with you, how people can get into your world and into your space?

Speaker 3:

Okay, well, I am all sorts of things at the moment. I do all sorts of things. I am about to move to France to manage a language school there, and I will be continuing with my own businesses of language coaching and life coaching. I work in the life coaching sphere, particularly looking at positivity, mindset and productivity, particularly in the realm of life balance, and I predominantly work with educators, but I will work with anyone who is ready to grow.

Speaker 3:

In terms of language coaching, I'm not doing individual language coaching at the moment, but I am working on group programs and online course so people can look out for that in the future and if they want to get hold of me, the coaching network that I have is called Crystal Compass Coaching, and so if you go to Instagram, there, I'm Crystal Compass Coaching and the same for my website, so you can find out what I'm doing through that. But really the key is, whatever people want to do, find out the best way they can learn to do it, either by talking to me, talking to you guys, like some of the stuff that you guys come up with, I absolutely adore, and it's one of the reasons that I think our connection became so strong, because it was like oh, I think this, oh, my God, I think that too. Oh, I just saw this post. I resonate with that so much.

Speaker 3:

So find something that inspires you, find something that excites you, and just do it, because if I do one push-up a day for the next year, I'm going to get a lot stronger than someone who plans to do 100 push-ups a day but never makes it, because, bit by bit, we'll get us there. So, whatever you're doing, there is no right way, there is no wrong way. There are going to be techniques that make it faster. There are going to be things that may frustrate you, but if you're just consistent, that will get you where you want to go.

Speaker 1:

Beautiful. That was the perfect way to end. Thank you so much again for being here. We're really excited to include all those links that you provided in the show notes down below for people to find you and get connected with you.

Speaker 3:

Great and guys, thank you so much. It has been such an honor to be here with you.

Speaker 2:

Thanks so much for joining us here on the Profitable Nomad Couple podcast. We appreciate you listening to us today.

Speaker 1:

If you enjoyed this episode, share it on Instagram and be sure to tag us. At Austin and Monica, together, we can inspire others to embrace a location independent lifestyle.

Speaker 2:

And while you're there, we'd love to connect with you, so make sure you follow us for more tips and inspiration on living your dream location independent lifestyle.

Speaker 1:

Until next week. Remember that you have the power to shape your own path. So stay curious, stay adventures and stay connected.

Language Learning and Travel Experiences
Overcoming Language Barriers and Funny Stories
The Importance of Language Learning
Language's Power in Cultural Connection
Effective Language Learning Techniques
Language Learning Techniques and Coaching Services