Interview of the Week: Vincent Pace

1. What was the first word you learned in a foreign language and how did you pick it up?
I can’t say that I’m completely sure, but a good guess would be “mamma” in Italian, as part of the phrase “Mamma mia!”, which was regularly thrown around in my Italian-American family. Close runners up would have been the numbers from one to ten in Spanish and “Mi casa es su casa” (“My home is your home”, also in Spanish), both courtesy of Sesame Street.

2. What are your personal top three tricks and tips when learning languages?
Without doubt my number one tip is to maximize exposure to the language. Pretty much all my other tips just feed into that. But to get you the three tips the question is seeking, I’d also recommend using an ad hoc spaced-repetition system for learning grammar and free, online tools in a single workflow for reading, listening, writing, and speaking.

3. Which word do you always have trouble spelling?
Definitely “accommodate” in English. I can never remember if it’s two Cs, two Ms, or two of both (and the reason I can never remember is probably because Microsoft Word always fixes my errors for me).

4. Which word is missing in your language and how would you spell it?
A shorter word for “convenience store”, like konbini in Japanese. Japanese also has the longer konbiniensu stoa, a direct transliteration of the English term, but everyone just uses the short form konbini. Likewise, people rarely use “convenience store” in English. “Hey, you wanna go to the convenience store and grab some food?” sounds a little odd to me. Normally we’d say the name of the store: “Hey, you wanna go to 7-11 and grab some food?” The Japanese short form is so convenient that lots of foreigners in Japan use it when speaking English, myself included. Rather than adopt the Japanese term, I’d opt for just shortening they English term, similar to what has been done in Japanese: “conveni” (pronounced con-vee-nee).

5. Which language teaching product / service / method / gadget … has impressed you the most and why?
I would have to say the iPhone (or smartphones generally). With iAnki or another similar program, dictionaries and various other language-learning websites and apps, smartphones can greatly increase your ability to be productive in language learning. With my iPhone always at hand, even a 20-second elevator ride will often mean a number of SRS reviews for me, whereas before that would have just been dead time. And all those little stolen seconds add up!

About the author:
Vincent Pace is the blogger behind Street-Smart Language Learning™ and, together with his wife, Akiko, is writing a book of the same name. Vincent speaks eight languages to varying degrees of fluency, and has dabbled in several more. His blog can be found at and you can follow him on Twitter @ streetsmartlang.

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