Innovative Language is a legend in mobile online language education
Way back in 2006, when Free Language launched, there were not nearly as many language learning projects and bloggers out there.
Fast forward to 2018 and the Internet is overflowing with ways to learn just about any popular language you want, Japanese included.
So overflowing, in fact, as to be overwhelming!
Through all those years, Innovative Language has continued to forge headway in the mobile and online language learning spaces, particularly when it comes to high-quality podcast and video learning presented as educational, entertaining and culturally-relevant shows.
This successful model - which has helped tens of thousands of learners achieve their dream of learning another language - has grown well beyond Japanese and now includes a whopping 34 languages (see list below).
Innovative Language's unique approach to language learning continues to be one of the go-to sources for language learning and inspiration.
I am very happy to be able to give you some behind-the-scenes insight into the founding of this service, its unique approach and what exciting things are to come...
Peter Galante is co-founder and COO of Innovative Language
Peter Galante is the founder of JapanesePod101 and co-founder and COO of Innovative Language, a Japan-based company specializing in language education through podcasting and video.
Peter studied Economics in the USA before heading off to Japan to broaden his horizons by learning Japanese while working there. What he initially thought would be a one-year stint turned into a twenty-years-and-counting stretch during which he has literally lived a life of language.
A native of New York City, Peter is fluent in Japanese and Chinese, speaks great Italian and is enjoys a good level of proficiency in German, Russian and Spanish.
More on Peter and his story is revealed in this podcast episode...
Almost nobody knew what a podcast was!
Innovative Language has been blazing a trail in the online language learning world since its flagship product, JapanesePod101, launched in 2005.
To give some perspective, in 2005 most people didn't even know what a podcast was! In fact, when Peter presented his idea of teaching languages through this medium to the owner of the company he was working for at the time, she said:
Wow, Peter, everything about what you want to do sounds great, but just one thing... What's a podcast?
Luckily, that didn't stop him from giving it a go, and the result over a dozen years later is a major player in online language learning with multimedia products for learning 34 languages (listed below).
The Innovative Language learning system
Innovative Language offers language students a full-fledged, all-in-one learning system that is engaging, fun and culturally relevant.
Lessons are scripted as entertaining audio and video shows focused on interesting and useful topics led by two hosts - a native speaker and a learner with a high level of proficiency.
Each 10-minute lesson is the result of no fewer than five hours (and often much more) of planning, writing and production. Each lesson is accompanied by a full transcript of the show as well as further details and instruction, including the ability to interact directly with the creators for feedback and clarification.
High-value language learning production + a lot of cool tools
In short, this is high-value language learning with a level of attention to detail and production quality you rarely find in any podcast, in or out of the language space.
Add to that a host of helpful tools including apps to access content and track progress, quizzes, games, reading material, flashcards, a dashboard to track overall progress and much more.
Personalized language instruction
The highest tier subscribers also enjoy access to their own personal instructor who guides them through the learning system and provides initial language assessment, personalized learning tracks based on level and need as well as general help tackling the language itself.
Insight from 12+ years creating high-value language learning content
This was really a fascinating interview! Peter has been deeply involved in producing creative language learning materials for over a dozen years. His insight into what it takes to uphold a high standard of both instruction and production with a team of thirty full-time employees plus dozens more spread all over the globe is incredible.
Scaling from Japanese alone to over thirty languages posed numerous challenges which Peter and the Innovative team have managed and persevered as one of the go-to names in mobile and online language learning.
I am happy to be able to share this interview with you and hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed the conversation!
What languages does Innovative Language offer?
Currently, Innovative Language offers courses for the 34 languages listed below, with more in the works!
You can sign-up for a free lifetime account to try out this system. If you like it as much as I do, I've worked out an awesome 35% discount (thanks, Peter!) on premium access for Free Language Podcast fans. Just use the links below and the discount will apply automagically. If you want to try it first and then decide to invest in your language quest, be sure to use the coupon LANGOBOT when you do sign up to get your generous discount :)
Afrikaans, Arabic, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Urdu and Vietnamese
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Transcription of this interview
If you prefer to read, I've got you covered here (though my fingers get a bit numb from typing these out and my head remains in slow motion for a while from listening to it slow enough for me to type!). Just keep in mind it's a transcription and doesn't always read well. I have left out some unnecessary things to clean it up a bit. Please consider listening as so many nuances come through in the recording that cannot be transcribed. That said, here you go!
Chapman: Alright, I am here today with Peter Galante of Innovative Language, very excited to have him on the show, I've been following them for quite a long time and they've got over 32 languages available in the quiver there.
How are you doing there today Peter?
Peter: Hi Chapman, thank you so much for having me on the Free Language Podcast!
Chapman: I really appreciate you taking the time to do this, I know with all you've got going there it's quite a busy schedule, and with three children to watch out for as well, three boys, that adds to the mix a lot.
So thanks for taking the time.
Peter: No, it's absolutely my pleasure and they're actually asleep so 11pm is the perfect time to do this podcast.
Chapman: Cool, yeah, I guess I just wanted to get started a bit about you and kind of your story with language.
How did you initially become interested in languages?
Peter: So, actually, through my parents. During my childhood, a Japanese exchange teacher stayed at our home for about a year and after that a refugee from Bosnia for two years.
So becoming close friends with each piqued my interest in their cultures and language is a natural progression, so I then became interested in language and, in fact, years later, I would actually move to Japan.
Chapman: Wow, and so those people came and stayed in your home and gave you this international perspective. Were you drawn specifically to Japanese for any reason, you know, kind of, why you chose to go to Japan instead of Serbia was it, that the other person was from?
Chapman: Oh, Bosnia, sorry.
Peter: I think at the time the Japanese economy - this was back, oh boy (laughs), in the early 90s when the Japanese economy was heading towards the #1 economy in the world and many people were quite interested in learning more about the Japanese economy. At university I studied Economics, so I kind of thought that I would go to Japan for one year and learn some Japanese and then get a job in a Japanese company in my hometown of New York.
But I stayed more than one year, it's been more than twenty now!
Chapman: Wow, amazing, and how did your interest in language personally transition into, you know, getting into language education?
Peter: So during my many years of language studies, I actually acquired a lot of CDs. So yeah, I guess for some younger listeners out there, CDs, they don't even exist anymore!
So but yeah, little round things you used to put into the CD machine so you could hear audio.
Peter: So basically, I had acquired a lot of these language CDs and then, when I got my first iPod in 2005, the first thing I put on them were my Japanese and Chinese learning CDs.
So when iTunes added podcasting, sorry, when Apple added podcasting to iTunes in 2005, other people started using this medium to teach language. Audio medium to teach a language.
It was very different than what was on these CDs that I had and I thought as I was listening, "This would be a great medium to teach Japanese". So we started making podcasts in December 2005 and within the first few weeks, someone at Apple added our podcast to Best Podcasts and we went from 150 downloads a day to one million a month.
The servers came to a screeching halt!
Chapman: Oh, no! I guess that's a good problem (laughs).
Peter: It was a very very good problem.
Chapman: Nice. That's great. I remember, you know, coming across JapanesePod101 when I was also starting Free Language which was back in 2006, so that's interesting, it was right around the same time and I know that initially you launched with the one language and since then you've added quite a few more, I think there's something like 32 in total now. Is that right?
Peter: I believe we're up to 34 languages now.
Chapman: Okay, alright. 34! And so what, you know, when you said you started it as a podcast for Japanese, how did that evolve and then turn into opening up to other languages given that you were in Japan? How did that evolve?
Peter: So, just first let me jump back quick and just kind of talk about how this kind of JapanesePod came to be because it's kind of a funny story, an interesting story.
What I was speaking about before how I was using the iPod to learn languages with audio material, I kind of thought that this would be a great tool for learning Japanese and I was working with some bilingual people - because I think it's interesting like, I will ask you in a minute, Chapman, how your podcast came to be - and I had never done anything in audio and I'm listening to people do these lessons everyday and I am thinking, you know how people think, "I can do that, too". But I didn't have the resources.
So I asked the owner of a company I was working at doing some translation and interpretation if I could make this Japanese podcast.
This is back in 2005, and she's a little bit of an old woman and she looked at me and said: "Wow, Peter, everything about what you want to do sounds great, but just one thing... What's a podcast?"
Chapman: Oh no!
Peter: I get the whole concept to teach Japanese but I don't understand what this podcast thing is!
Chapman: You were in at the beginning!
Peter: It's so interesting, but you know, much like yourself, I'd love to hear how you started your podcast because I am sure there's a lot of people listening and how something starts and basically in my case it basically started with the idea that I could do it, an audio recorded and access to a little bit of space and a bilingual resource.
I think I was fortunate because those things each individually are hard to get your hands on but I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and a lot of luck came into it.
That's basically how I got started in this.
How did you start your podcast?
Chapman: Well, I guess, that's a good question! I was traveling a whole lot and reading and researching a lot online to publish articles on Free Language about basically the best places, I've always been focused on kind of scanning around and finding what's available for a given language and there's nearly 100 languages on the site at this point.
And so I would just, you know, scan around and find things and at a certain point I just felt lonely and I realized that, "Hey, all these people are out there and they're real people, why don't I try to get in a conversation with them and I'm sure I'll learn so much more and be able to share so much more with my audience.
I thought it would be a good challenge, too, because you can probably tell from my first few, and even still today, I get nervous and it's something just like languages, you're always progressing and always learning and you kind of have these plateaus and sometimes you feel like you get worse and you get better again.
So yeah, it was a desire to really connect with the projects that I'd be researching and been recommending to people and watching and stuff, and just to give it a real human side.
Peter: That's a great story and it's a great resource you provide.
Chapman: Well, thank you! Yeah, so alright, you've got the podcast, you launched Japanese and how did it go? You went from there to, what was the next language you added?
Peter: The next language was actually Korean. At the time, there was not a very good Korean resource on, well, to the best of my knowledge, I am always careful with these definitive statements, which again isn't very wide or deep, at the time there weren't very many free Korean audio resources on the Internet.
When we first started we built up one of the top Korean language learning resources on the Internet.
So Korean was our second language and then, after that, we would try to identify a potential candidate through our communities that could be a potential host and driver of a language.
And that's how we were able to grow the languages.
Chapman: Okay, and I did want to ask about the team and whether or not they're all located in Japan or is the team spread around the world?
Peter: So, I think, maybe we could shift that question to just a little bit later, if we don't progress in a certain order, I will be jumping all over the checkerboard!
Chapman: Okay, okay! So you guys have the robust podcasts, in other words they've been going for years and years and years and so there's hundreds and hundreds, some of them thousand or more episodes… the podcast, I think most listeners understand the concept of podcasts and listening through learning. But you also have apps available.
In what way do the apps fit in with the podcasts and learning system?
Peter: So that's a great question. First, if I could just touch on real quick why I think the things we make are a little bit unique than other language learning products.
Peter: So, I kind of thought about this question a lot because there's so many different products out there and so many products are so well likely by so many people and I think what we do that is a little bit different than what other people do is that we make content that teaches.
So, for example, we have real teachers that appear in the content as hosts and the way a typical lesson works, they're based around the conversation. But each lesson really gives you much more, the host, again, we usually have a native speaking teacher, so if you're learning Spanish you'll have a native Spanish speaking teacher and a target language learner, someone who has been learning Spanish and usually speaks at a very high level.
The two, this team, will break down the conversation so you not only learn the vocabulary and the grammar, you understand context and the importance of using certain phrases. And in addition, they'll give you advice and walk you through the conversation which opens the door to cultural tidbits and insight into why certain things are used and certain cultural things you may not find in a textbook.
Next, I think, Chapman, you'll really appreciate this. I think one of the things that's very unique about what we do is there's tremendous value in our audio and video lessons because of the production quality. For example, each ten minute audio lessons takes well over five hours to produce and that's pre-production and post-production.
Peter: I knew you'd get this one!
Chapman: Oh yeah, given that I love to do music as well and things, I do know how long it takes to get just a ten second good piece of audio, so yeah.
Peter: For example, we have the scripts that need to go through several levels of quality control. The we have the actual recording. Then we have the audio engineers go through the recordings, make sure the audio sounds crisp, add effects to give the conversation real life value.
When it comes to video now, we have the motion graphics that go into it.
Why this is so important is we live in a really busy world and we're competing against like Netflix and some really amazing things out there and that's a kind of competition for learner's time. So by providing a high-value product, a highly-produced products, learners are maximizing their learning time when using our products. They can know that if they're gonna spend ten minutes with us, that it's really truly ten or five to ten hours that we put into that, in researching the content, in putting the scripts together, in recording it, in presenting it.
And I think that's important because you probably know, Chapman, you have all these different resources, high-value, high-quality is very important, right?
Peter: So I think that's the thing we really provide.
And I think another thing that really separates us is that we keep making original content.
This year alone we are going to add over 1,000 new lessons to our websites.
Chapman: I don't want to do the math on how long that's gonna take!
Peter: Oh dear, you might have just caught me!
Chapman: That's awesome to hear because I know that it's culturally relevant, the content there, which is another question I can come back to in a bit, about that kind of creating this ongoing, culturally-relevant stuff but first I'll kind of go back to the question of how those apps fit in with the podcasts given they are super high production and quality, how does the app serve to dovetail with that?
Peter: So the app is an extension of our website, it allows the user to, of course, do the most important thing, access their content, anywhere, anytime. They can also track their progress and at this point we kinda kept it a bit of a lightweight version of the site. It doesn't have all the robust features of the site, it's primarily an extension of the site.
However, when we first started, we were very audio-centric. This works extremely well for people who are kind of multitasking, if you're listening on a commute, on a train or driving, we really have an ideal solution for you. But as time went on, we were able to really do a lot to build a comprehensive solution and the app is really important part of this because now when you listen to the audio you can follow along, you can read the lessons notes, you can use tools such as the line-by-line to really go back over things you didn't understand.
So this year, though, as the site has evolved since the beginning, it's really become much more comprehensive. The app is really important because now you can watch videos on it, you can track your progress, you can also do something very important - we have a level called Premium Plus, it's a bit more expensive than the Premium level.
This gives you the ability to interact with your own personal teacher. And that teacher will give you feedback on questions on writing and speaking. So really, there's so much you can do with the app and not just for listening and speaking, but this tool allows you to actually write, do speaking and get a more comprehensive solution to your language studies.
Chapman: That's really cool. You can now see video on there as well. I guess the students obviously are an integral part because of the way that, like you said before, this is two presenters and they present a show and they go deep into what's going on and then the students actually have the ability to interact with those teachers through the platform to ask any questions that they may have or address any difficulties, clarify points, etc.
And I'm really curious, I generally ask this, in what way has feedback from the Innovative Language students contributed to the evolution of the product?
Peter: I'll give you two clear series, this is my favorite and whenever I start a new language, I always start with this series, it's called the Top 25 Questions You Need to Know". In it, we go over different questions that native speakers will always ask you.
"Can you eat Japanese food?" or whatever language you're studying.
And these were based on the actual questions that people repeatedly asked, "Hey, can you help me - I always get asked this question."
So this series will help you take an initial conversation with a native language speaker and allow you to continue for maybe up to several minutes.
"Where are you from?"
Chapman: And that works wonders, I know that one of the biggest fears, I am working on the 13th podcast episode which is the next one which is going to be the first solocast and I am going to address this question of fear and one of the issue that continually come up amongst the people that write me is not knowing what to say or forgetting what to say right at the moment that they actually start conversing with somebody.
It sounds like if you've got these 25 questions and you've tackled them and you've studied them and these days you can even have your phone there with a little note you can refer to quickly if you have a total brain blank, then that sounds like a great way to overcome what I've consistently found to be one of the biggest fears people have.
Peter: Yeah. And especially if you know the answers to the questions, then you can also ask them.
Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
Chapman: Right, and then it becomes a dialogue, so instead of them pegging you with questions and you answering, you get to kind of say, "Wait a minute! Let me put the stress on your for a second to answer something."
Chapman: I'm gonna have to get a list of those or link to those, we're gonna have to figure it out for the show notes.
So moving on, 34 languages and counting, thousand and some odd episodes coming out, that's just an absolutely amazing amount of content to product, I am incredibly humbled in the sense of knowing what it takes to produce content in quality. That must take an enormous amount of effort.
I am interested to know how you guys approach this creation of such culturally up-to-date learning material for students.
Peter: That's a great question. I think you can appreciate this part, too, Chapman, it's a fine balance. It's not easy to balance creativity with producing such a large quantity of content, right? I mean, when you scale things, by nature there's a lot of repetitive work.
So when we work with people and people interview, we're pretty upfront. We tell them, "Look, there's a lot of repetitive work due to the nature of having 34 sites." And we have to keep the lights on. So basically, 80% you're gonna have a lot of heavy lifting on the scaling side but it's important to find things that interest you to work on, too. So we give them a percentage of their time to work on creative things because really creativity and interesting content is so important especially as so many interesting people can add video and audio content for everyone to consume.
So what we do is we try to find certain points or certain talking points or certain topics that are global in a way. And then we try and scale those to all the different languages.
So there's certain things when you tackle language, you know, body parts or 80-90% of the food types are global, right?
Peter: And of course you have local things, for example Czech or Japanese only foods. So there's this mix and that's what we try and do, too. We have these creators and when we find something that does very well on social media or one of our different channels such as YouTube, etc, or on our website or through a survey, then we do our best to scale that to all the languages we can.
And then we spend a lot of time doing local research inside of different languages, like Japanese and Korean, to find content that the more intimate user would also find more interesting.
That's why it's quite a challenge to be good in all the languages. So right now our strength is geared a little more toward the popular languages but we are always striving to put out interesting content on all of the languages.
Chapman: Okay, and the team, I am curious about the team, how many people are involved with it and their distribution around the globe. Is it local there in Japan or do you have people that you're working with all over?
Peter: We have thirty full-time people here in Japan and they're from sixteen different countries. So in the office on any given day, there are sixteen to twenty languages being spoken on a daily basis.
Although, the main working language is English. So when everyone gets together and talks, it's always in the English working language.
Chapman: Well, I'd love to be a fly on the wall to see all those languages going around!
Peter: You know that's the wonderful thing about languages, along with the language is the culture. The culture is something that everyone can really appreciate. So many different holidays, so many interesting things to be shared and stories.
One of my favorite stories that we did was scary monsters across all the languages. That one we were able to scale as I was speaking about before, we scaled it to all and to see the scary monsters in Korea and Denmark, it is so fascinating as the world gets closer and closer, as globalization progresses.
Chapman: No kidding. These days just to get people's attention and keep it, I think things like that, I'd love to know, now I am curious about the scary monsters, I'm gonna have to go find that out!
So given that so many people come to the language learning experience and they are at different points in the journey, some people are just completely starting from nothing and they want to…
Peter: Sorry, Chapman, just to finish, jumping back real quick. Thirty full-time people here in Japan. Between the voice actors and videos there are about eighty people that come through our office. And we have more people in the US, we have people working in Russian, India, Philippines, so in addition to many different hosts working throughout the world. So it's quite a large operation. The people here in Japan are the ones who really manage, do a lot of the managing, the people here in Japan and the US and the UK.
Actually, Mexico, of course we have a very core team of people who have been trained here in Japan and then, one of the beautiful things about our organization and the way it's structured and the world we live in, is if someone has worked here in Japan with us and they decide to leave, we can keep them working with us.
So we have some very very strong relationships with people in the UK, Canada, Mexico, US, that have spent time here working with us and then have decided to go back to Mexico.
Chapman: Wow, that's cool. It is as I kind of imagined it would be, it's all around the globe and people are tapping in but it's interesting to hear that the management focus is in Japan as well as the US, that is kind of the backbone of the company. I think, perhaps for another entire podcast is the Business of Language, if you know what I mean, which I am also very fascinated with but perhaps I'll have to have you on to another show for that as well and dive in because it's another thing I am very curious about, the business aspect of how people launch a successful language business like Innovative Language, it's a combination of entrepreneurship, of discipline, you have to have a love for it. So perhaps for another podcast…
Just given that so many people obviously have different reasons for learning, I think one of the biggest things that I notice in my working with people is that everybody's coming from a different place when they start or when they're either starting to learn a language or they have a language that they had some experience with in the past and they want to rekindle… so people come at it from the total beginner, newbie stage, some people maybe they spoke it well ten years ago and they've forgotten a lot of it. So there's a lot of different levels. How do you recommend the first-time total newbies vs people who have had a little bit of experience with the language approach the Innovative program?
Peter: That's a really good question. I think there's two interesting components to that. The first competent is the quantity of content. We've been doing this for quite some time so our much more mature sites have a tremendous amount of content, Japanese alone has 2,500 to probably approaching 3,000 lessons, audio and video lessons.
Peter: So how do you find what you're looking for? There are two ways, if you join our subscription at a higher level, then we actually give you a test and that test is looked at and based on the results of the test we recommend a level for you.
The other way to join us now, we are working hard on our on-boarding, on improving the on-boarding process because where to start is very important. After you find the position to start, the best way to learn with us is to jump right in by listening or watching one of our lessons. While you're learning, repeat or try to repeat the language that you're learning whenever you hear it. It's important for our approach to try to interact with that content as much as you can and, later on, circle back and use the notes and follow up. But it's important to start with the content.
Now, finding where you need to be, for higher subscriptions that's a little easier because someone will guide you through it when you're doing the self study. For now, we recommend the level and set you down a path and one of the things that we're working on this year is a much-improved on-boarding process to help you find not only where you'll start but the reason why you're studying because I think, as you said Chapman, it is very important for someone's motivation for the content they are consuming to be tightly integrated into their motivation and why they're learning.
So that's one of the big things coming this year for us.
Chapman: Cool! And the, yeah, speaking of motivation, and especially in the case of self-motivated learners, which I imagine most of the students are, one of the big sticky points that I keep coming across is a lot of people, without an ability to track their progress, to really be able to see that they've made progress, some people get frustrated and they lose motivation and it's not visible to them that they actually have achieved something and I know this personally in my own learning that there are some days when my Czech just feels worse than it was a year ago and it just has to do with the day and the mood and everything, but for me I can always go back to my notes and look from a year ago and say, "Okay, alright, yeah, I definitely know a lot more than I did a year ago, I'm just having a bad day here!"
So how does Innovative address this issue of tracking progress for learners?
Peter: Wow, I like that, that's very impressive that you keep a notebook. That's something I do, too. It's a great study tool. You should probably do a podcast about that, I think that's a great study tool.
Chapman: That's a great idea.
Peter: For us, what we do is we have a dashboard, and on the dashboard you can track how far you've progressed in a path. So we've created pathways that we set you down and each lesson you complete you progress along and can visually see the progress. This is quite important.
On the flashcard component of things on our website, the progress is tracked automatically. So as you progress, you can visually see how you're progressing and these visual queues really do help motivation and keeping people engaged.
So the dashboard component of our site is another area that we plan to really upgrade this year.
Chapman: Cool, and that brings me into one of the questions I am most curious about, and you've mentioned it a bit, but anything that you can mention publicly that's on the horizon for Innovative Language.
Peter: So, Chapman, are you familiar with extensive reading?
Peter: So it's a really cool way to learn, I've seen some people use it and basically you start with a text, I am sure you're familiar once I explain it, you start with the text in only the target language, so in your case it'd be Czech. So you get some kind of reading material with only Czech and you start reading that and even if you don't understand everything you just keep going through it. And then, once you're through everything, then you may go back and read some vocabulary words and try to understand it completely. But the point is, you start with this extensive reading piece of text and you just try to get through it.
Peter: This year we're adding more and more short books to our websites. So if you wanted to learn Czech, basically there would be books on the site, about ten pages each, that you can just start reading and they'd have visual queues to help you guess what the book is about.
So between the visual queue and the text itself, the passage, you should be able to understand different components of the text. We are very excited about adding this this year to the website.
In addition to all the other lessons that we have coming, we are going to improve our mobile application.
So we have a lot of things coming this year.
Chapman: I'll say! I will have to check back in down the line and see. I just can't imagine. The life you live is really what I would call A Life of Language, and I think this gives you a very unique, singular perspective on the discipline of language learning, especially given that you're actually running a company, you're not just involved in the teaching but you're looking at it at a meta level and creating resources, figuring out the best way for both teachers and students, as you mentioned that the teachers need to be interested in the content so you give them some free time to explore things that they're interested in…
All this just adds up to an enormous amount of experience. Out of that, if any advice that you could share with aspiring language learners about how to succeed?
Peter: On our site, we have a product called Inner Circle. So each year, I study a language for better or worse and (laughs) I talk about the different approaches and different techniques and things I use to try to learn a language over a year.
For me, by far the clearest and most important tool in any learning process - and what I like about learning languages, if you're disciplined enough to learn a language, chances are what you learn here is applicable to other areas in your life - I think that the most important thing across the board is setting small and definitive goals.
So that's the #1 thing. We sought many times when you meet someone, and Chapman I think you can definitely related to this, what's your goal? The common answer is, "I wanna be fluent!"
But define fluent! I don't know if two people's definitely of fluent is, you know, I speak fluent English but I cannot be a lawyer, that's a whole different area. So the definition of fluent can be anything, so we always tell people to try and set small, definitive goals.
For example: This month in January, I want to learn one hundred words or my goal is usually to speak one minute of language. So in January, my goal is usually to speak one minute of the language I choose. Then the next month, I will try to increase that to two minutes.
So I think that the small, definitive that you write down and put on your desk is the most important thing.
Just one more thing, I think this goes hand in hand with that, is that you have to set a routine and it won't be easy but you have to take the first week to find the time in the day when you can actually do the studying or do the reading or whether it's a gym workout, do the gym workout. You have to find the time and, for example, a lot of people who commute, and they want to find the time, the next most important this is to measure how much time it is. So if it's a ten minute commute, don't give yourself thirty minutes of work because, guess what, you're never gonna do it.
If you have a ten-minute commute, do a ten minute audio lesson. If you have a thirty-minute commute, do a ten minute audio lesson and then read the lesson notes.
By matching the time with the tool, you can find the best medium for you to learn. But only you know what's best for your routine.
For me, for example, I will give you my last month January was a minute in French and to study fifteen minutes every night at 10 o'clock because my kids go to sleep at 9 o'clock, I have an hour to get everything ready, and then that's my time. And right now the medium I am currently using is Alexa on the Amazon Show and our content is on there, it's called the Daily Dose App by Innovative Language, so I can now open our audio lessons. So I sit at the table and I use the Amazon Show, Alexa opens up the lessons, I listen along and then I check off that I did it for the day.
And that simple routine has helped me get to my goal for January and way beyond it because I am doing fifteen minutes everyday, guaranteed.
Chapman: That's really interesting to hear because I think a lot of people would say, "Wow, fifteen minutes, it doesn't seem like enough!" But the truth is, the consistency is really what I have found to matter, Obviously if you spend five hours a day everyday and had all the time in the world that would be great, but like you say, you have to find a way to make that amount of time that you have work the most for you while you have that.
That's really good advice there. There are so many reasons that people approach learning a language, it could be for travel, it could be for work, it could be just out of curiosity, so I think there's no real answer to why someone wants to learn a language but I think that as far as, once you decide to do it, consistency on a daily basis has also proven to be the most likely way to achieve and also to not overload yourself with a goal that you can't actually achieve at the end of the day.
Like saying too much time, or having too lofty of a goal, so I like the way that you say just something you can achieve and that also will motivate because when you achieve that, you're like, "Hey, I did it! What's the next one?"
Peter: I agree 100%.
Chapman: And that made me wonder, when you're talking about tackling a new language every year, and given what you were just saying about fluency, and not asking are you fluent in so many languages, how many languages have you studied of the years that you've got some level of proficiency with?
Peter: That's a great question and maybe for a different podcast or if you're interested, there's more information about how I approach learning a language on our websites, but one thing I can talk about is anchor points.
An anchor point is something that ties something to your motivation. For example, my native language is English so I will check that one off.
I have lived in Japan for twenty years so my Japanese is very high level but I have a very high, the reason, my reason for learning Japanese is very high, I live in the country, so these anchor points, that's the reason why I needed it and my proficiency is quite high.
My wife is actually Chinese, so my Chinese is probably at an intermediate level, but again, I need to speak to my in-laws when I go to China, so again very high interest. I created many anchor points, for example, speaking with people in China, listening to Chinese music, watching Chinese dramas. Because of all these anchor points and all these reasons why I was studying everyday, chatting with Chinese family members in a group family chat, I am able to maintain an intermediate level.
In Italian, this is just a personal interest so I am not as good at Italian because my reason for studying isn't like the other two, living in the country or having a family member. So I have to work harder at studying Italian to keep motivated, I try to create lots of Italian friends and take interest in constantly watching things on YouTube in Italian or just using our website, ItalianPod101.
So those are the four languages that I have, I would say, a high proficiency in. I could chat with someone for probably over thirty minutes inside the target language. That's kind of, I would say, a high level of proficiency.
And then I can read Cyrillic, I studied Russian once upon a time and Spanish, my listening comprehension is quite good but these others, Spanish, German, Russian, I wouldn't say I have any proficiency but they are kind of languages I studied once long ago but they are in a state of dormancy (laughs).
Chapman: Oh yeah, there's only so much time in the day and there are a lot more languages out there than I have time to dive into so I definitely understand that.
Peter: So I give four as my answer.
Chapman: Alright, that's an honest answer there!
Well, I know that it's getting late there and you've got a big day tomorrow as well, so I want to round out a bit here with a chance to share anything with listeners and also to let them know how to connect with you and with Innovative Language.
Peter: I think learning a language is a journey. it's one with rewards. Remember language is a tool that you use to build bridges, friendships, learn about culture, interact, travel and it's a journey that's well worth the reward.
So no matter what tool you are using, learning language is a great thing. Find what works for you.
I think we have a very interesting offering in the form of audio and video lessons. We would love for you to try out our product to see if it's a good fit for you. You can find out more information at our website, InnovativeLanguage.com, or you can find our application in the iOS app store or the Google Play store by searching "Innovative Language 101".
So that's about it, best of luck with your language learning journey, remember to stick with it, the reward is worth it. The friends and relationships and memories I've made and I am sure you can relate with this, Chapman, that we've made, that language learners make along the way, it becomes a part of your fiber, the "Quilt of the Soul", when you knit the thing together.
It's well worth it, stick with it, if you're hearing this, maybe it's time to rekindle that dormant language, time well spent.
Chapman: Cool, Peter, I really appreciate that. And I love to analogy of the journey because it reminds me of the idea a lot of people say about travel, "It's the journey, not the destination." I really think the same is completely true for language because like you said just a second ago, there are friends that we have that we would have never had, there are people that we've connected with who we would have never been able to connect with, and all of that was along the road to some nebulous goal of "learning a language" and we find that in the journey itself you realize that's really what it's all about. There's never a day, like you mentioned before, I will never be a lawyer in English and even though it's my native language it's just not language I am familiar with but that doesn't preclude me being able to use whatever level of language I have at a given time to connect with people along the journey.
I really appreciate you taking the time, Peter, to share with us today and I really look forward to continuing to watch Innovative Language grow and enjoy the products as well myself.
So thank you very much and we will let you get some rest now because we know you need it!
Peter: Chapman, thank you very much, again, for having me on the Free Language Podcast. And again, if anyone wants to contact me personally, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you again for having me!
Chapman: Thank you Peter, take care.