An Afternoon with Benny Lewis

22 Mar

I’ve just come back from a lovely afternoon at Waterstones Piccadilly. It has been ages (shamefully) since I was in a bricks and mortar bookshop – since leaving Clapham I’ve been without a local indy – but I really enjoyed browsing and picked up Guerra, a book on the Spanish Civil War, which I know practically nothing about.


However, the point of my trip was really to meet one of my favourite bloggers, Benny Lewis of Fluent in Three Months. He has just released a paperback based on his popular website. I stumbled across the blog at the end of his very first ‘mission’ to learn Czech, and stuck around for Benny’s adventures in Brazilian Portugese, Dutch, Mandarin and ASL amongst other languages – even Klingon!

There are many language bloggers out there, but what makes Benny’s approach refreshing is that he pursues language-learning in order to explore and interact with different cultures, rather than just analysing each language as a distinct artefact. His ‘method’ (although he is at pains to say he is not prescribing a set pathway) involves speaking from Day One and letting oneself make inevitable mistakes rather than pursuing book bound study. Although Benny himself has accomplished this by travelling the world, he has recntly begun to emphasise that, with technology, learning can happen anywhere. His down-to-earth technique is matched by his charming and friendly style, both written and spoken – he was a great host this afternoon.

Coming from a background of Classical Languages, I have to confess I still like a little bit of grammar, but I have taken a lot from Benny’s approach. Not only did he inspire me to get stuck into Greek culture, leading to my interest in Greek traditional dancing, which is still one of my main hobbies, but also to try to learn elements of native body language and intonation alongside the actual language. He’s also motivated me to dabble in Dutch, Turkish and Portugese when travelling, which has made my holidays far more interesting!

Benny’s blog also sheds light on a new generation of entrepreneurs living the ‘nomadic’ lifestyle. As Benny says, with a laptop and wifi connection, you can now work anywhere in the world. For those of us stuck at home, the blog lets us  experience this dynamic life vicariously 😉 It also reinforces the idea that lifelong learning is a powerful possibility. Personally I feel like I have learned so much in the (almost) ten years since leaving school, much of it off my own back. In the modern world, there are so many tools at our fingertips – Benny’s story shows how much you can do with just a dash of self motivation.

I’m looking forward to reading the book. Benny and his girlfriend, Lauren, have even created a special website to support it, which is a nice touch given the importance of online tools in his work. I’m also vowing to myself to do a bit more work on my Greek. Είμαι πιο τεμπέλα τώρα – πρέπει να δουλέυω! Ευχαριστώ, Μπέννυ!

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