Benny Lewis

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Brendan Richard "Benny" Lewis is an Irish author, polyglot, and blogger who defines himself as a "technomad language hacker".[1][2][3] He is best known for his website Fluent in 3 Months, on which he documents personal attempts to learn languages within short time periods,[4] typically three months.

Lewis is the author of the book Fluent in 3 Months (2014)[5] as well as a language courses series titled Language Hacking, including Spanish, French, German, and Italian.[6]

Early life[edit]

Born in Ireland, Lewis has described himself mediocre in languages at school,[7] getting a C in German and just managing to pass his Irish language exams.[8] He graduated in electronic engineering from University College Dublin[8] and then spent time struggling to learn Spanish in Spain[9] where it took him over a year to learn the language.[10] His frustration with conventional methods led him to take a different approach to language learning, as described in his book and website Fluent in 3 Months.[5]

Career[edit]

Lewis is the founder and CEO of the website Fluent in 3 Months.[11]

He has given two talks on TEDx.[12][13] In 2013, he was named a "Traveler of the Year" by National Geographic magazine.[14]

He has authored five books, including Fluent in 3 Months (2014),[5] as well as four course books written in collaboration with Teach Yourself: Language Hacking Spanish,[15] Language Hacking French,[16] Language Hacking German,[17] and Language Hacking Italian.[18] He has also coached and given private language lessons by telephone and Skype.[19]

Language Learning Approach[edit]

Lewis claims that anyone can learn a language to fluency in as little as three months.[20][21][22] Lewis understands fluency as "social equivalency", meaning that he "can function in social situations pretty much the same in [his] target language as [he] would in [his] native one".[23] His approach is to start speaking a new language from the very first day, ignoring mistakes and using very basic language like "me want go supermarket."[8]

Lewis explains the name of his business Fluent in 3 Months as follows:

The name of the blog causes a lot of confusion for people when they first arrive on my site. I'm not promising any special time line for people studying a language; doing so would be ridiculous because the amount of work people put in is too varied. Most people take years to learn just the basics of a language because they do it so wrong, so of course a claim of “3 months” would sound arrogant to them.

It's called “Fluent in 3 months” because I move to a new country, usually for about 3 months and I tend to aim to speak the local language fluently. The name of the blog is from my objectives in both travel and language learning. This blog documents my own language learning journeys and shares the ideas that make it all possible. The title of the blog is an objective not a promise of a magic solution for all.[24]

Lewis suggests that American entrepreneurs learn foreign languages[25] and notes that "In Ireland, we grow up hearing a range of Englishes".[26][27]

Language Learning Projects[edit]

To date, Lewis has documented attempts to learn over 20 languages to varying degrees of fluency over short time periods, typically three months.[28] He shares his projects publicly on his website, through a combination of blog posts and YouTube video footage.[8] He publicly shares both successful and unsuccessful attempts. He first started his attempts in 2009, in part, to prove that it was possible to learn a language fluently in three months.[29]

Czech Project (2009)[edit]

On the 1st of June 2009, Lewis launched the Fluent in 3 Months blog with a post announcing he would learn "fluent" Czech within 3 months.[30] After his 3 month mission, he expected to be able to:

have comfortable conversations with locals about a wide range of topics, without a strong accent and with a good enough command of the language for expressing myself clearly in many social situations and understanding as much as possible.

After 3 months, on the 1st of September 2009, Lewis stated that he had studied Czech for "two months" with a "casual part-time commitment" due to an increased workload to pay off a debt. He assessed himself as having reached a "pretty good level" in the language.[31] however, he himself admitted he had failed to achieve his goal of achieving fluency in his 3 months of learning.[32][33]

Brazilian Portuguese Project (2009)[edit]

In September 2009, Lewis announced that his next language mission was to spend three months in Brazil. He explained his aim for this mission as follows: "I want several Brazilians to have believed that not only am I speaking Portuguese as good as a native, but that I actually am a native." Before starting this mission Lewis had 8 months exposure to Portuguese, having lived in Brazil previously.

At the end of this project December 2009, Lewis stated that the mission had been a "partial success" with some Brazilians believing he was a native speaker for periods of up to 30 seconds. At one point he was put in jail for being cheeky to a Brazilian policewoman.[34]

German Project (2010)[edit]

In 2010, Lewis announced that he planned to learn German to the level of "mastery" within a period of three months. He explained the mission as follows:

My mission will be to convince Germans that I'm a Berliner by the end of June, and to sit the Goethe-Zertifikat C2: Zentrale Oberstufenprüfung examination. The level required for this examination goes way beyond fluency; it is for Mastery of a language."[35]

Prior to starting this mission, he had studied German for five years at school. He stated that those years of study had been "wasted", and that after all that time he still could not speak German.

At the end of the three month project, Benny shared the results of the Goethe-Zertifikat C2: Zentrale Oberstufenprüfung examination. He stated that he was "very pleased" with the results adding that he had "passed" four out of the five elements of the exam. He failed the element on listening comprehension.[36]

Chinese Project (2012)[edit]

Lewis made attempts at learning both Japanese and Chinese to levels of fluency in the space of three months. He admitted he found these the most difficult languages he had attempted to learn[7] and only partially achieved the goals he set himself for these languages. That said, he did achieve some success in learning these languages.[37][38][39]

Lewis announced on the 4th of Jan 2012 that he would undertake a project to learn Mandarin to fluency, specifically stating a goal to attain C1 level in the European Language level Framework in the space of three months.[40][41] After endeavouring to learn the language, he was assessed by a Chinese language teacher after 5 months (28 May 2012)[42] who assessed his ability in detail, stating that his spoken ability was "very impressive" at a B1:lower intermediate level and that his listening skills were "very good". However, his reading and writing abilities were assessed to be at a level below B1 and after 5 months, he failed to achieve the level of fluency (c1 Level) he had stated he was aiming for at the start of the "mission".[43]

Japanese Project (2013)[edit]

In 2013 Lewis announced that he would attempt to learn Japanese to the level of fluency (N2 level[44] the second highest level in the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test), in the space of three months. This was met with some skepticism by fellow polyglots/language bloggers[45][46] including fellow polyglot Steve Kaufmann,[47] who said it was not possible to achieve fluency in Japanese in that period of time.[48] After starting the project, Lewis initially pushed the deadline for achieving fluency back by two weeks, then ultimately stopped the project after failing to achieve fluency, achieving a basic level of Japanese.[38][39]

Awards[edit]

Lewis was awarded a "Language Ambassador of the Year" award in 2012.[49] He was named National Geographic Traveler of the Year in 2013.[50]

Publications[edit]

  • Lewis, Benny (2014). Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World (PDF). New York: HarperOne. ISBN 9780062282699.
  • Lewis, Benny (2016). Language Hacking French: A Conversation Course for Beginners. London: John Murray Learning. ISBN 9781473633094.
  • Lewis, Benny (2016). Language Hacking German: A Conversation Course for Beginners. London: John Murray Learning. ISBN 9781473633155.
  • Lewis, Benny (2016). Language Hacking Italian: A Conversation Course for Beginners. London: John Murray Learning. ISBN 9781473633124.
  • Lewis, Benny (2016). Language Hacking Spanish: A Conversation Course for Beginners. London: John Murray Learning. ISBN 9781473633216.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ DuShane, Tony (2014-07-02). "Benny Lewis talks up Skype as new way to learn a language". SFGate. Retrieved 2015-03-21. Via Skype, you set up a time and can immerse yourself in the language of your choosing
  2. ^ Purves, Libby (2014-03-19). "Midweek – BBC Radio 4: Professor John Carey, Benny Lewis, Eduardo Niebla, Lynn Ruth Miller". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 2015-03-21.
  3. ^ Gendreau, Samuel (12 September 2013). "Traveling the World for 10 Years: An Interview with Polyglot Benny Lewis". lingholic. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  4. ^ Lewis, Benny. "All The Missions". Fluent in 3 Months. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Lewis, Benny (2014). Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World (PDF). New York: HarperOne. ISBN 9780062282699.
  6. ^ "Language Hacking". Teach Yourself. Hodder & Stoughton. 2017.
  7. ^ a b Day, James (2014-03-13). "Benny Lewis: The man who says you can learn a language in three months". Metro. Retrieved 2017-10-14.
  8. ^ a b c d Harrington, Katy (2015-01-26). "Interview: Meet Benny Lewis, the Irish polyglot". Irish Post. Retrieved 2017-10-14.
  9. ^ Lewis, Benny. "Why my destiny was to never speak Spanish and how I did it anyway". Fluent in 3 Months. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  10. ^ Budden, Rob (2015-03-03). "Secrets of learning a language — quickly". BBC. Retrieved 2017-10-14.
  11. ^ Lewis, Benny. "About". Fluent in 3 Months. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  12. ^ Lewis, Benny (2013-01-28). Fluent in Three Months – Rapid Language Hacking. YouTube. Retrieved 2015-03-21.
  13. ^ Lewis, Benny (2013-05-15). "Hacking Language Learning: Benny Lewis at TEDxWarsaw" (Video upload). TEDxWarsaw. Retrieved 2013-09-13.
  14. ^ Stone, George W. (2013-10-04). "Traveler of the Year: Benny Lewis". National Geographic. Retrieved 2015-03-21. Lewis is a self-described 'language hacker'...
  15. ^ Lewis, Benny (2016). Language Hacking Spanish: A Conversation Course for Beginners. London: John Murray Learning. ISBN 9781473633216.
  16. ^ Lewis, Benny (2016). Language Hacking French: A Conversation Course for Beginners. London: John Murray Learning. ISBN 9781473633094.
  17. ^ Lewis, Benny (2016). Language Hacking German: A Conversation Course for Beginners. London: John Murray Learning. ISBN 9781473633155.
  18. ^ Lewis, Benny (2016). Language Hacking Italian: A Conversation Course for Beginners. London: John Murray Learning. ISBN 9781473633124.
  19. ^ Doherty, Niall (2011-02-02). "How to travel the world as a full-time language hacker: An interview with Irish polyglot Benny Lewis". Disrupting the Rabblement. Retrieved 2017-10-14.
  20. ^ Griswold, Alison. "How to Learn a Foreign Language in 3 Months". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  21. ^ Hutchinson, John "Speak like Tarzan don-t embarrassed aim make 200 mistakes day Irish polyglot reveals learn language just three months" Daily Mail March 2015 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3106032/Speak-like-Tarzan-don-t-embarrassed-aim-make-200-mistakes-day-Irish-polyglot-reveals-learn-language-just-three-months.html
  22. ^ Is it possible to be Fluent in 3 months? Fluent in 3 months https://web.archive.org/web/20120508121427/http://www.fluentin3months.com/possible/#more-6693
  23. ^ Lewis, Benny. "Defining Fluency to Achieve Fluency". Fluent in 3 Months. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  24. ^ Lewis, Benny. "Fi3M FAQ". Fluent in 3 Months. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  25. ^ How Learning An Additional Language Could Influence Your Business Cheryl Conner 2014-04-17, Forbes
  26. ^ How to Speak English Like the Irish On Paddy's Day 2014-05-17, Huffington Post
  27. ^ BBC Radio 4
  28. ^ Lewis, Benny. "All the Missions". Fluent in 3 Months.
  29. ^ Lewis, Benny "Hitting A Brick Wall In Your Language Progress" Fluentin 3 months https://web.archive.org/web/20100317162448/http://www.fluentin3months.com:80/hitting-a-brick-wall-in-your-language-progress/
  30. ^ Lewis, Benny. "Is it possible to become fluent in a language in 3 months?". Fluent in 3 Months.
  31. ^ Lewis, Benny (2017). "Why Czech isn't as hard to learn as you think". Retrieved 2017-10-14.
  32. ^ "hitting-a-brick-wall-in-your-language-progress" Fluent in 3 Months https://web.archive.org/web/20100317162448/http://www.fluentin3months.com:80/hitting-a-brick-wall-in-your-language-progress/
  33. ^ Kaufman, Steve "My Review of Fluent in Three Months" The Linguist September 2010 https://blog.thelinguist.com/my-review-of-fluent-in-three-months
  34. ^ Wallace, Arminta (2016-09-17). "More than a cúpla focail: How to learn a language in just three months". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2017-10-14.
  35. ^ Lewis, Benny. "German 3 month mission: Sit C2 exam". Fluent in 3 Months.
  36. ^ Lewis, Benny. "I'm Fluent in German! Exam Results and Analysis". Fluent in 3 Months.
  37. ^ "Did I really Learn to Speak Japanese?" Fluent in 3 months https://www.fluentin3months.com/bennys-mandarin/
  38. ^ a b "Sumo Learn Japanese" Japanese Rule of 7 http://japaneseruleof7.com/sumo-learn-japanese/
  39. ^ a b "Japanese Wrap Up" https://www.fluentin3months.com/japanese-wrap-up/
  40. ^ "Mandarin Mission" Fluent in 3 months https://www.fluentin3months.com/mandarin-mission/
  41. ^ Linge, Olle "Benny Lewis Fluent in Mandarin in 3 Months" http://www.hackingchinese.com/benny-lewis-fluent-mandarin-in-3-months/ Jan 8 2012
  42. ^ "benny-lewis-fluent-in-3-months" Live the Language http://www.livethelanguage.cn/benny-lewis-fluent-in-3-months/
  43. ^ "Did I really Learn to Speak Chinese?" Fluent in 3 months https://www.fluentin3months.com/bennys-mandarin/
  44. ^ "Japanese Mission" Fluent in Three Months – Benny Lewis https://www.fluentin3months.com/japanese-mission/ Accessed 14/9
  45. ^ "Benny Lewis Fluent Mandarin in 3 Months" www.hackingchinese.com http://www.hackingchinese.com/benny-lewis-fluent-mandarin-in-3-months/
  46. ^ "no-you-cant-learn-fluent-japanese-in-3-months" http://arashu.com/no-you-cant-learn-fluent-japanese-in-3-months/Attempting
  47. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiOZpJ-N_qE
  48. ^ "Can you really master a language in 3 months exclusive interview with Benny Lewis""can-you-really-master-a-language-in-3-months" https://www.hungarianpod101.com/lesson/news-72-can-you-really-master-a-language-in-3-months-exclusive-interview-with-benny-lewis/
  49. ^ European Language Label
  50. ^ "Traveler of the Year: Benny Lewis". National Geographic.

External links[edit]