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Great TED Talks for Language Learning – Benny Lewis

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TED Talks for Language Learning

If you haven’t heard of TED talks yet you are in for a treat. These lectures are very popular at the moment and there are plenty of them that are directly applicable to those learning French or doing language stays abroad. They are short, 20 minute lectures where experts in various fields discuss a particular topic, with a focus of brevity and accessibility without sacrificing content. There are TED talks on a huge number of topics but today I will be focusing on those about language acquisition. I would like to introduce you to some of the videos I have found particularly useful or interesting and share them with you in the hope they will help you on your French language stay in France.

Benny Lewis is someone I have discussed in previous articles and is a very interesting chap who has a personal underdog story with regard to language learning that inspires, encourages and emboldens language students across the world. One of the most inspiring things about him is that his feelings towards his ability to learn languages were at one point much like many people who really struggle with the process. He discusses how the cruel cocktail of your own lack of confidence and pessimistic rationalisation can make the prospect of learning any new language look impossible to you. He then goes on to describe his dramatic, cocoonal transformation. One that took him from a consistently unsuccessful language student to the creator of a renowned language learning website and lecturing to the world on the subject:

It’s very inspiring story and truly will dig you out of some of those pessimistic holes we sometimes find ourselves in when we take on the challenge of learning French in France.

In another video that Mr. Lewis does at another TED conference he talks more about rapid language learning or language hacking as people like to call it these days. He talks about several obstacles that stood in his way when he made several attempts to learn several languages earlier on in his life. The challenges he lists are very relatable as most people who are not polyglots from a young age will have felt one, some or all of the feelings he describes.

Things like feeling like you just don’t have the natural capacity, maybe you are starting too old, you can’t go to the country for whatever reason etc. These are issues that resonate, loudly, with a lot of people and he goes on to describe his despair as he tried again and again in various different ways to pick up Spanish while he was living in Spain. So, his experience is directly relatable to those of someone doing a French immersion course here in France.

Don’t worry though! He goes on to describe his life changing epiphany that took him from abject defeatism to being a polyglot and a leader in the field within a few years.

He also chips in a bit of history about the development of Latin languages that should encourage you as an English speaker because he discusses the similarities between the languages that are useful to those trying to learn a new one.

Probably the most practically helpful part of the video is where he describes methods to use what you know already in terms of vocabulary to in a more creative free way to give you the power to talk about things outside or what you have actually studied.

So, give these 2 videos a watch, you will find them both practical and encouraging for your work during your French Intensive course in France. Taking an interest in Benny Lewis as an individual is a good idea too as his work in the linguistics field is an inspiration and will have you strutting into your French classes feeling like all is possible.