Interview of the Week: Matthew Bennett

1) What was the first word you learned in a foreign language and how did you pick it up?
“Mochyn budr” – a Welsh phrase which my great grandmother, who was Welsh, used to call us as children when we came rolling into the house full of mud after playing outside. It means ‘dirty pig”!

2) What are your personal top three tricks and tips when learning languages?
1. Be proactive: learn to criticise and correct yourself; imitate people like an excited parrot until people start complementing you on your pronunciation and writing. Don’t be afraid to make lots of really stupid mistakes, more than once, until you get it right;

2. Persevere & practice: always, at all times, practice, practice and practice some more. Practice the individual bits (word formation, pronunciation of an individual word), the combined parts (sentence formation, pronunciation of sentences, transformation of sentences) and the complex skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening). Practice as much as you can, as often as you can and for as long as you can; when it breaks you, forget about it and take a break for a couple of weeks or a month and then come back to it. Don’t doubt that you will get better if you keep going;

3. Keep notes: or some kind of record of expressions, bits of expressions and words you that you like, as well as questions and doubts you have. You’ll find that the same ones come up again and again so by keeping track of them and revising from time to time, you won’t feel like you’re stuck in the same place.

3) Which word is missing in your language and how would you spell it?
The Spanish word ‘boquerón’ – which is a type of white anchovy served as tapas down here, or mixed in with tomatoes as a salad. I’ve been looking for a good translation for over ten years but haven’t found it yet.

4) In your opinion, what is the sexiest accent and what is the reason for it?
French or Italian of course. Let’s just say that some of the sounds you make in those languages are pretty similar if not identical to some other sounds we make in more intimate moments in life.

5) Which language teaching product / service / method / gadget … has impressed you the most and why?
A pencil and a piece of paper. If language students could only pick up one habit, it should be to learn to note down all of the words, phrases and bits of phrases that they think are interesting for some reason. After that, the Internet, for the wealth of audio and video material it has given us to be able to practice, and the opportunities for real interaction with people in other languages.

About the author:
Matthew Bennett (32) is a translator in Murcia in the south of Spain. Fifteen years ago, he didn’t speak a single word of Spanish. Today, he helps really busy professionals speak better Spanish and English so they can understand and talk to their foreign clients and colleagues, even if they think they have absolutely no time left in their schedules. They also phone him if they need to translate an important document into English or Spanish and be 100% sure it says the same thing in both languages. He has a degree in Modern Languages and Linguistics and blogs at www.matthewbennett.es. Follow him on Twitter @matthewbennett.

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