This week's inspiration is polyglot, photographer, and author of Yearlyglot Blog Randy Hunt. I met Randy a few months ago on his blog because I was really impressed with his ambition to learn a new language every year not to mention the fact that he ALREADY speaks six languages. Who says that? Not me. I am still struggling with Italian, but not for long. Then again Madeleine Albright learned French to fluency in 5 months. I was able to meet Randy during his tour of Italy after learning Italian to fluency last year. Needless to say, dude was a riot and I thought we'd be kicked out of the restaurant. I was even more excited to learn that he was a budding professional photographer as well. You gotta love creative people. Below is the transcript on an interview I did with him to find out what he has been up to and what lies in the future for him.
1. Who are you and what is the name of your blog?
I am a crazy adventurer and language-lover who answers to the name Randy. But I also answer to "hey you", and I even look around when someone says "motherfucker", in case they're talking about me. My blog is called Yearlyglot.
2. What's the purpose of your blog?
The blog began as a convenient place for me to turn my interest in languages into something that could help my friends. I had several friends emailing me, asking for language tips as they decided to add a foreign language to their New Year's resolutions. I wanted to help them all, but I'm also kind of lazy, so I chose to write my advice once and put it somewhere everyone could see it. The decision to learn a new language every year was mostly just an interesting gimmick, and I knew I could succeed, given that I had just learned to speak Russian in one year — a language that many insisted would take 3-7 years.
3. How many languages do you speak fluently and which language are you learning this year?
I can speak Italian, Russian, and Spanish fluently. At the end of this year, no matter what else happens, I will add Turkish to that list. I'm also trying to fit in some improvement on my German, in hopes of bringing that up to a fluent level.
4. Why do you feel its necessary to learn languages?
There is only one reason to learn a foreign language — to talk to people who speak that language. If you're learning it for any other reason, you're an idiot. But just think, there are so many interesting people in this world, and so many languages that can make those people available to you... why isn't everyone learning a new language?
Here in Chicago, I encounter people (read: hot girls) who speak Spanish, Polish, German, Russian, and Romanian almost every single day... which is not to mention the speakers of Mandarin, Italian, Turkish, French, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, and many others, with whom I am anxious to be flirting on a given day. A person could speak 12 languages here and have the reasonable expectation of using all of them regularly. I'm convinced that the same is true in most cities around the world. Besides, when you're single as I am, every additional language you speak means more hot chicks (or cute boys) with whom you can be flirting!
5. What is your advice on learning a language and do you have any resources for those wishing to embark on the journey of learning a new language?
My single most important piece of advice to anyone who wants to learn a language is simply to use it. Get out and make an effort to use it at every opportunity. 90% of our conversations on any given day consist of small talk, so that means you really don't need to know much! A person could be fluent (in small talk) in the course of just a few weeks, if they just tried. Save all that other difficult stuff like conjugations and grammar for when you need it, or when you're interested in it. I share lots of resources on Twitter as I find them, so follow me there. And even though I'm learning Turkish this year, my web site is written for anyone learning any language. Well, except for Klingon. And Navi. If you're looking for help with those, don't bother with my web site. :)
6. Where countries and states have you traveled to?
Believe it or not, at this time last year, I had never been outside of the United States. At 34 years old, I had visited about 23 states, most of them east of the Mississippi river. Last year, however, I made some big plans. I set out to visit all 50 states (including those to which I'd already been), as well as to finally get something stamped in my passport.
Over the course of less than a year, I managed to set foot in all 48 continental states (though I fell short of 50 by missing Alaska and Hawaii), and I crossed the border into Canada, but that doesn't count because they don't stamp your passport. However I also managed trips to Uzbekistan, Spain, and Italy, and even though I've been to German six times now, they've all been connecting flights, so one of these times I need to get out of the airport and actually see the country.
The nice thing is, when you speak the language, you can make friends abroad before you ever board the plane. I've had friends waiting for me at the airport on several trips now, who are happy to have a visitor and anxious to show me their city. That's way cheaper (and more fun) than hiring a tour guide, and it's also a thousand times better than sitting at a bar, alone.
7. Do you do anything creative as a hobby? What is it?
I do many things creatively as hobby (even language fits this description) but I think I do few other things with the interest and passion that I have with photography. I've been a serious photographer for at least six years now. Last year, a publisher found my photo stream on Flickr and invited me to participate in a collective work called New Erotic Photography --sold on amazon.com--with several of today's big names in photography, so I'm happy to say I'm now published and in good company.