Introduction: Hailing from Roma, Italia, Luca Lampariello is an electrical engineer by trade, but a language lover by passion. He has spent nearly twenty years studying foreign languages and blogs regularly about his methods for learning languages online. Recently, Luca has been working on his book and attending different conferences such as the Polyglot Conference in Berlin. I think that my favorite take aways from him, outside of the informative study approaches, would be this philosophy in this quote presented on his website, “If anyone every tells you knowing English is enough, tell them, he who learns another language acquires another soul.” For more information about Luca, check out his website here, or visit his YouTube channel here. If you would like to read more interviews with language lovers, linguists, localization professionals and polyglots please click here.
1.) Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you
My name is Luca. I am Italian. I come from Rome. I am 33 years old, and I have a degree in electronic engineering. Basically my passion was and has always been foreign languages. That’s about it!
2.) What languages do you speak and to what capacity?
I speak Italian, which is my native tongue, English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Portuguese, Chinese (Mandarin Chinese), Japanese, and Polish. To address the second issue, to what capacity, it is kind of difficult to really answer this question because I normally let other people judge my language skills, but I would say that I got a certificate (as they call it) or in English TOFL, C2, C2 (French), German C2, and C2 in Spanish, so apart from my native language of Italian I have four C2 certificates. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that I am at the C2 level, but it means that I have a high level and I can work without a problem in these languages, and then the rest, I’d say that I speak fluently apart from Japanese and Polish which are the last two that I’ve learned. In order to answer or say for example fluently, which means to me basically communicating effectively in a wide range of topics. I don’t have time to delve into this, but I would say apart from my native language I speak four languages at a very high level, and the rest, I speak it fluently, then the two other languages that I am learning (Japanese and Polish), which I can communicate with people without a problem, but still I struggle a little bit because I am still in the process of learning.
3.) Define communication. How do you think it applies?
Communication is the capacity of interacting with people. It is bireactional, which means that it is not only important to get the point across, but also to understand what people are telling you. So if your brain applies the capacity of understanding connected speech meaning when people talk to you and you can make yourself understood in a rather comfortable way which doesn’t mean that you don’t make mistakes. Then, this is when you are able to talk with people and commuinicate. So communication is the wonderful thing happening when two human beings are able to get their point across to another human being. They have ideas that they transfer to words, and these words are sounds. They are conveyed by sounds which flow through another person’s brain and they become ideas again. That is actually, I think, the wonderful nature.
4.) How would you define language?
Well as I said before, language is a vector of ideas. Everybody has ideas in their head. It is a wonderful tool to get these ideas across to other people. Obviously a language is not just a communication tool, but it is so much more. It has political connotations. It has a lot of different things, but I would say that the basic language was created because human beings needed to talk to each other.
5.) What is your approach to linguistics?
I have to confess that there has been a lot of fuss about polyglots and linguists. I would say that I have never really studied linguistics in my whole life because as I said before I have a degree in electronic engineering. But I have become more and more interested in linguistics because I think it is really interesting. I don’t really have an approach to tell you the truth. I am just saying that linguistics is a huge field and I’ve been learning some more about it, especially about phonetics, which has to do with my work, but I don’t really have a specific approach to linguistics to tell you the truth.
6.) You claim on your site that you discovered that you have a different method for learning languages. What makes your approach different to other language learning processes out there?
I don’t think that I have ever claimed that I have discovered a different method for learning languages. I would say that I have developed a method that works for me. Let me first tell you that talking about methods. There is no best one best method. There is no fit suit all. I would say that if you discover a method that works for you and you abide by certain principles, which I would say are universal, then I would say that you are going to learn a language for sure.
What makes it different:
To tell you the truth I don’t know about that many language learning processes out there, but I would say that one specific thing that happens when you study or learn a language with my method is that you cover pretty much all areas of language learning. When we learn a language, we take for granted that people, for example native speakers, they can talk, they can write, they can read, they can listen, but this is not granted, especially when you learn a second language. If you think about it, there are a lot of people who can speak but cannot read. Well, not now, but in the beginning of the 20th century that was very evident. There are people who can read, but they cannot speak. Like every second language learner starts just reading, doesn’t talk. They cannot talk, or they can understand the connected speech, but they cannot read. So, if you think about these four areas are a little bit different. It is kind of a paradox, but they are separated, and at the same time they are entangled, especially in native speakers who can do all of this, but not second language learners. And the one thing that my method does is to cover these areas at the same time, obviously at different speeds. Then, once you get the gist of it, I call it the language core, meaning the language core. You develop the capacity of assembling the pieces together, then all these four areas they come together; they help each other mutually.
7.) In this process, which language has been the most exciting for you to learn? Was there one that just came naturally to you?
To me the most exciting ones for me, well the first one is German. When I first decided to tackle German, it was the very first language that I tried to learn on my own. So it was kind of a trial and error process because I didn’t exactly know how. I had a few problems with grammar because I didn’t exactly what to do. I used a very old grammar book from my grandmother’s shelves, but it just didn’t work. It was really exciting because it was the first time that I figured out my Luca method, or just the method that worked for me. That was really exciting. Then I also really like German in general.
Recently, it was really exciting to learn Chinese because it was very different from the other languages, especially as far as tones are concerned, which I had never tried before so it was really exciting the whole aspect of that language.
The last one that I would say, was really a challenge and still is Japanese because it is completely different. So I would say that German, because it was the first language that I tried to learn by myself. Chinese because tackled tones, and Japanese because I have never tackled a language that has such different syntax. Every time that I stumble upon something completely different.
The language that really came naturally to me was Spanish. I don’t know why, probably because it is very similar to Italian, but it really came naturally; I didn’t do anything special. I just tried to learn it through my bidirectional translation, but I didn’t do much of it. It just came naturally by talking to people.
8.) Do you think that there is such a thing as a hard language to learn?
This is a very difficult question to answer. The concept of ‘easy’ and ‘hard’ is very relative. I would say in general that, I would talk about complex. Hard is a relative thing, it really depends on your native tongue. For example, if you ask a Chinese what a hard language is he would probably say Italian or Spanish because it is completely different. But to us, if you ask an Italian what a hard language is: I would say that a hard language is one that is very different from your own on so many levels and aspects. Japanese is difficult. It is a hard language for us because the syntax is completely different and the mentality. Every language conveys a culture. The Japanese mentality is very different from ours. Other languages such as Hungarian also the syntax, but also the general structure is completely different. Languages like Slavic languages have cases, where we are not used to that. It also depends on our possibility. It is kind of difficult to say if there is really such a thing as a hard language. I would say that every language can be hard or easier depending on a number of factors as I said before. In general, yes. There are some languages that are completely different from our own native tongue and that can obviously pose some difficulties.
9.) Is having the ability to speak other languages a hobby for you or is it something that you use professionally? Maybe both?
I hold a degree in Electronic Engineering so that basically had nothing to do with languages, but four years ago my life changed. Before four years ago and up to four or five years ago, it was still a hobby. Now I use it professionally. I work as a language teacher; as a language coach actually. A language coach online, and I basically speak languages all day long. I give special classes. I don’t teach languages. I teach how to learn languages, but even when I teach how to learn it also encompasses conversations developing fluency. I provide a lot of services. It is not just about talking to people. So it has become a full-time job.
10.) How has being able to communicate in other languages influenced your life?
It has changed it dramatically, I would say, in a good sense because being able to talk to people can literally change your life in so many aspects. Making a lot of friends, being able to travel without a problem, even meeting the girl of your dreams, or the person of your dreams in general. Everything has become incredibly easy. Now for people to say, for example, that speaking English opens all of the doors. I wouldn’t say that is true because tell that to a person who moves to France. They will see that a lot of people speak French and most people hardly speaking English, and they don’t like people imposing English on them. If you don’t speak French in France then you will miss out on a lot of chances of understanding the culture as well as meeting interesting people while talking in your own native tongue. So I would say that it has literally revolutionized my life.
11.) Which language would you really like to speak, but do not currently? If you were to begin learning that language today, how would you start?
I would say that Hungarian is a language that I would like to speak. I was in Hungary three or four times l think, last one was for the conference that happened or occurred in Budapest. I have to say that I am really fascinated by the sound of it and the structure of it because it is completely different.
I would start by using Assimil, as I always say; it is a course that I always use. What I would do differently from the past, is to find a language partner, a person that I trust and a person that I liked. I would like to have these training sessions or just have conversation about anything that interests me and concerns my life. I have tried that. It is a very interesting approach. If you talk about something that really concerns your life, you are more than willing to get your point across to the other person by doing so you will also learn a lot because your brain will retain a lot of that information much better than say if you are in class and people are just talking about grammar rules or just boring things.
12.) Is there a topic in linguistics that fascinates you most? If so, which is it?
I would say phonetics and phonology, which is not the same thing. Basically the sounds, how different languages use different sounds to convey meaning. It really is fascinating.
Two or three years ago, I was repeatedly asked how to get native like pronunciation, or there is a lot of people interested in getting a native accent or generally how to get a very good pronunciation. In trying to answer these issues, I started reading some books that were really fascinating, and fascinating to read, and try to delve into this topic. I still think that in some parts, a lot of these books offer a very theoretical overview of how we produce sounds and how we can get native like pronunciation. My approach is much more pragmatical. So, I am not a linguist as I said before, more like a polyglot, but I am really interested in how to make these things accessible to a wider audience so that people can try to understand how to train, or how to get training in improving their pronunciation. I am one of those people who believes that everyone can get good pronunciation if they want to, with the effort.
13.) What advice do you have for people who want to learn a second language?
My piece of advice would be that first choosing a good book to start with, but what really counts is not the book, but how you use it. A book, many books, contain great information, but we have to retain, we have to learn, we have to figure out a way to absorb the information that finds itself in books this is the first piece of advice. The second piece of advice is once you learn how to use a book or a couple of books, just get out there and talk. One of the fastest ways of learning how to speak a language fluently is very simple, is just talking. I suggest you talking to people, for example on Skype, because you can record your conversations overview them, use words again. Skype is the best. Skype, the internet in general , is an amazing tool to learn languages. You can also go to school to learn languages. I know there is a lot of people in general who want to learn languages at school, they think that is the best way, but if you find a language partner, it is free; it is fast; it is comfortable, and it is extremely effective. So to recap, choose a book to start with to get the basis of the language. Learn how to use it to get a foundation of the language, and then expand it by talking to people because it is human contact that makes the difference in the short and in the long run.
14.) Closing remarks; feel free to add anything you feel is necessary.
I just wanted to add that I think that to motivate people I would say that learning languages can literally change your life. So, it is an investment. It takes some time of course, but it is not as difficult as people make it up to be. It might sound a little bit strange to say that, but a lot of times languages are made difficult. They are not difficult to learn because it is a holistic natural process. We speak our own language very well and we don’t even know how that happened. Learning a language is not just about a mentality; it is also about a lifestyle. I would say first embrace a certain lifestyle because it is going to make things a lot easier. And secondly, you have to remember that it is a huge investment with maybe 30 minutes or 1 hour a day can literally change your life. You don’t know what is going to happen in your life, but remember for example, that me in all the languages that I learned when I thought to myself ‘why am I learning this language?’ for example Dutch, then a few years later it was extremely useful and it changed a lot of things.
About the interview: Luca was interviewed by me. He responded with a voice recording, which I transcribed verbatim. My transcription of his words was approved by him. For more information, please feel free to contact me. If you would like to read more interviews with language lovers, linguists, and polyglots please click here.
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