Insights into Professional Language Learning

April 19, 2016 / by Melanie Moore


This past October, several Mangos were able to attend the third annual Polyglot Conference in New York City. We had a fantastic time hearing all about language from tons of industry greats. We were also able to meet many of the people in real life who we had talked to online and/or follow on social media. This May, specifically the 4th to the 8th, a couple of Mangos will again be journeying to the mutlicultural metropolis of Berlin, Germany for the third annual Polyglot Gathering. We look forward to reconnecting with these talented individuals.

There were several great talks from a range of influencers in the language learning and polyglot communities. In this post, we’ll highlight Benny Lewis' talk on becoming a professional language learner.

Benny Lewis, a polyglot and language learner himself, is a prolific influencer in the polyglot community. He runs the blog fluentin3months and has a book published of the same name. His blog is one of the most, if not the most popular language-learning blog on the Internet. So as you can imagine, the theater was packed with tons of people hoping to see this famous polyglot live.

Earning from your passion.

At past polyglot gatherings, Benny has talked about how he started the blog and how he created the community that he’s built around language learning. This time, Lewis decided to talk a little bit about how he’s been able to make a career out of his passion for learning languages. His talk entitled, “Professional Language Learner: How to Earn from your Passion” was a hit among the attendees of the conference. Lewis shared some of his past job experiences, such as working as a youth hostel receptionist in Spain, a pro-bono translator, and even working at a yoga store. He was not familiar with yoga, so he originally applied because he thought it had something to do with yoghurt.  

At one point in his talk, he reached out to the audience to ask what kind of jobs they have worked where they have used foreign languages. The answers were interesting: one person said that they had been a yoga instructor (not yoghurt) in three different languages. He explained that he wasn’t exactly fluent in each of the languages, but because of the limited vocabulary that the job required, he was able to do it quite easily. Another attendee described that he “kicks people’s butts to get them to learn languages.” That attendee was in fact, Brian Kwong, who runs the Add1Challenge. Another attendee explained that while living in Russia, she had taught singing lessons in Russian. This attendee was actually Ernestine, a former Mango, who is a polyglot and language blogger herself as well.

In essence, Benny Lewis had us consider the possibility that you can use work to help fund your travels, which would ideally be a location-independent job. Anything you can do on a computer, you can make a location-independent job. If you want to use your job as a way to learn languages, you should think about the location you want to live in and change your lifestyle. For example, you could still work at a low-paying job, but move to a place that has a lower cost of living. He explained that the two biggest things that dictate your budget are lifestyle and ‘stuff.’ For Benny, stuff could be the many props and costumes he uses for Star Trek conventions — too bad Mango doesn’t have Klingon!

Would you like to get a head start on learning a language for your next job? Thinking of making a career change? See if your library has access to Mango Languages, where you can choose from over 70 languages, including specialty courses such as Medical and Legal Spanish.

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I hope these insights help on your language-learning journey. Feel free to let us know in the comments and share the post to inspire others to earn from their passion.  

Topics: Language Learning and Culture

Melanie Moore

Written by Melanie Moore

Melanie speaks German, Lithuanian, and Japanese and has dabbled in several others. She is an aspiring polyglot and enjoys sharing her passions for language learning and music with anyone she meets.

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