Who is the face behind the language-learning software company, Mango Languages? That would be Jason Teshuba, our CEO, founder, and self-proclaimed Linguapreneur. He sat down with us (this time, literally) and shared his advice and experience about learning languages and why he decided to start the business.
The makings of a language learner.
Jason began his polyglot journey at a young age, as he grew up speaking English and was exposed to the Hebrew language, because it was spoken in his environment. He also attended a school where he was taught Hebrew. However, he didn’t stop at just two languages. He’s also learned Spanish, Italian, French, Hawaiian, and Russian, and is still pursuing his language goals while taking care of business at Mango Languages.
Actually, his desires are not so much about the quantity of languages but the quality of his language learning. When he learns a language, his goal is to become proficient and to be able to use it in almost any situation. In fact, “The reason for all of Mango Languages existing is because I had such a dream." He wants to speak fluently in each of his languages.
He shared one of the moments where he first developed his fascination for languages. In third grade, he was at a friend’s house who happened to be Russian. He was eating dinner with his friend and his friend’s parents. His friend was able to talk to his parents in Russian, who would be looking at Jason and asking a question in Russian and then Jason’s friend would translate this back into English. “I was just mesmerized,” Jason recounted, “I was in such awe at the magical power he had.” This was the moment where he first discovered his passion for languages.
Falling in love with language.
Jason’s love for languages was evident throughout his childhood as well as adulthood. He took advantage of every moment to learn or practice something. For example, once Jason was on a field trip with his class in third grade. His Russian friend was there as well and Jason was still fascinated by the Russian language. He didn't have any tools or pedagogy with which he could learn Russian, so he decided to ask him to translate certain objects as they drove by. Jason would point to something and his friend would translate that object into Russian. For some reason, the Russian word for truck, грузовая, really stuck in Jason's mind. Just a decade later he would start a company based on his fascination for the magical power of languages.
In college, he originally thought about going into hospitality/business, then switched to Finance, before finally settling on a major in Computer Engineering, the degree with which he graduated. We asked how the subjects he learned as an undergraduate helped him with his present career: "A computer language is obviously different from a human language, but there are some similarities. There is a certain logical process and a system of rules that we call grammar. Once you get your mind around this system of logic, then you can kind of crack the code. Then you realize that every once in a while the language likes to throw you curveballs, just to keep it interesting.” However, grammar has never deterred Jason from continuing with his polyglot aspirations. With certain languages, he even said that he is learning them because of their linguistic qualities. For example, he does not have a practical use for Italian in his life, he just loves speaking the language; the way it rolls off the tongue and how musical the language sounds.
As we saw earlier, Jason’s goal is to become fluent in each of his languages. During his studies, he found a language software that he fell in love with and began using. However, after using it for some time, he realized that it would not help him reach his goal. “I was so deflated and dispirited about it. I thought, 'there’s got to be some way to achieve my goals in these languages'." He developed the Mango Languages methodology based on what would help him be successful with learning languages and to help him to reach fluency. “The hope and the dream of achieving that at some point, the passion and longing to be able to perform the same magic I witnessed as a child,” became the spiritual underpinning for Mango Languages.
Later, when he was first beginning to develop Mango Languages, he enrolled in a Master’s program that was designed for language teachers and talked in depth about language acquisition. One of the biggest things he learned from this program is that the science behind language acquisition is still being discovered. All of the questions that he had before taking the courses only increased. Although he was able to have some of his questions answered, he found that he was left with more questions unanswered than answered.
Striving for fluency.
Some of Jason’s advice for language learning is that “once you have a good foundation, the best way [to continue learning] is to live it.” By it, he’s talking about languages. “There’s things you can do in your daily life to simulate living it.” For example, you can talk to Siri. Did you know that she speaks over 20 languages? She’s definitely living the artificially intelligent polyglot life!
We asked about his tips for surpassing the intermediate plateau, in which he replied, “I wish I knew, I feel like that’s where I hover.” However, he did have some tips to offer from his language-learning experiences: “If you’re learning a language, start doing everything that you would normally do in your native language in your target language.” One of the things he has done to help with his artificial immersion process is to change the language settings on his computer and phone to his target language.
In terms of Jason’s current language projects, he has been listening to plenty of Castilian Spanish, as he will be traveling to Spain soon. He has also been studying Italian by using Mango Live (our new, live, personal tutoring system for corporate clients), reading Italian texts, and listening to podcasts. His next mission is to “touch-up” his knowledge of the languages he’s learned in the past, such as Portuguese and Greek. The only language he won’t really have to worry about is Hebrew, because it’s “always going to be a consistent one for me.” Well, he won’t really have to worry about keeping up his English, right? Of course, there is always more vocab to learn — even in your native language!
From speaking with Jason, his passion for languages is clearly evident. He mentioned that he could talk about the subject all day. If I hadn’t had to go to class, we may have been there all night discussing language, culture, and the birth of Mango. From the sounds of it, Mango Languages is in good hands.
We had to end the interview a bit early due to time constraints, so we’ll be interviewing Jason again in the near future. Keep an eye out for part two!
For now, check out the full podcast interview below and watch the in-person video interview at the top of the page.
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