Chris Broholm reached 2nd (!) place with his blog Actual Fluency, we had an interview with him to give you the opportunity to get to know him a little better.
Languages: Three, being Danish, English and German.
Location: Denmark, being his home country and spent a year in London.
The blog: Started in February of 2014
1. You’ve attempted quite some languages, French, Dutch, Chinese and now Russian. Why those languages?
French was forced upon me in school, so I started learning it in what I would call a hectic time of my life and also a horrible teaching environment, as most school language learning is. I became interested in Dutch because I developed a crush on a very sweet Dutch girl in high school, but after being turned down I was unable to continue. Chinese was just a week-long stint and was probably more out of boredom back in a summer holiday a few years ago.
I chose Russian because I like the culture associated with it, I’ve also been playing a video game called Dota 2 for a long time, which has a giant Russian following with spectator numbers often surpassing the English. I would love to join that community as a freelance interpreter or similar, so I could travel around the world to the various tournaments.
I also wanted to make sure my first self-taught foreign language would have a radically different script than I was used to. I was certain that if I could teach myself Russian I could teach myself any language.
2. What makes a good blog according to you?
It is a big question, but I think the most important quality about a blog is the personal connection. The posts have to echo who you are and what you stand for. I’ve been following quite a few blogs along the years and the best have always been those who manage to share a large portion of their personal experiences, emotions and problems. The worst have always been shallow, superficial – let me teach you this and that.
Another really important quality is the schedule, it makes sure the readers know what to expect. My schedule has so far been at least one written post and one podcast release in a week. To me that is a good schedule where I’m not forcing the issue either. You don’t want to set up a schedule where you are forced to write nonsense just to meet your own deadlines.
3. You started your blog after being inspired by Benny Lewis, from Fluent in 3 Months, since your increasing popularity, did you get in touch with him, have you ever met him?
Yes, I have communicated with Benny since I started my blog and in June I was fortunate enough to meet him in person in Berlin and really connected with him. It is incredibly exciting to meet one of my idols and discover that they are just as genuine in real life as they present themselves on the Internet. He and his girlfriend also accepted my invitation to sit down for an interview for the Actual Fluency Podcast, which then became episode 17.
4. Who are your favourite language lovers?
The people who inspired me the most when I was searching frantically for more information on learning languages were: Benny Lewis, Richard Simcott, Luca Lampariello, Tim Doner, Alex Rawlings, David Mansaray and many, many more! Since starting the blog and attending PolyglotBerlin I have met hundreds of language lovers and if I could mention them all I would. It’s an incredible community of amazing people and they are all helping to fuel my inspiration towards learning more every day.
5. Why do you think you’ve managed to reach 2nd, with this just being your first time joining the competition?
I have no idea! When I was awoken one Thursday morning with a tweet from no other than Benny Lewis congratulating me on 2nd I could have sworn I was still dreaming, surely this could not be real. Of course one hopes to do good, but with only a few months in the game I never expected to even make the top 10.
I think a few things played out to my advantage though.
Firstly my weekly podcast which has now run 17 weeks and obviously attracts a following beyond that of the blog.
Secondly the Actual Fluency name is the first in the list, for alphabetical reasons so I’m sure a lot of people checked it out because it was first.
I didn’t really advertise the competition much, I only mentioned it once or twice in passing so that couldn’t have been the reason. But of course one likes to think that one writes good stuff frequently, which is at least one advantage I have over blogs written by way more accomplished writers, such as Luca. Either way it is really crazy, and I’m still not sure it’s real.
6. What is the craziest language related experience you’ve ever had?
PolyglotBerlin Gathering June 2014 was easily the craziest I have ever been a part of. It was an incredible experience of being immersed into a society or culture of people who all shared the same values as oneself. Furthermore to meet the people I had seen countless videos of on YouTube, people who had been real sources of inspiration in a time of emotional turmoil for me. Languages are flying everywhere and by the middle of the conference you just want to hurry home and study even more to improve.
One specific instance of “craziness” was when I spoke in Danish with a Norwegian and a Swede. Neither of us were particularly proficient in the other languages, but due to the similarities we still carried out the conversation – which I believe has to be one of the very few language triplets where that is even remotely possible. Then Richard Simcott joined in with Faroese and Icelandic and it really kicked off! Not that we understood much of those languages though.
7. Would you learn a language for the love of your life?
Yes, definitely. If I fall in a love with a woman from a country where I do not speak the language, I would strive towards learning that language. After all, you have your own personal tutor close by!
8. Did any of your language mistakes lead to awkward situations?
Oh plenty. Luckily my brain is incredibly good at sorting out these awkward situations but I do have one that stuck with me. When I was about 16 I was in Germany doing a model united nations, which is essentially “let’s pretend that we are United Nations and do mock treaties, resolutions and what not.” After the official program we were a group of Danes hanging out in a bar and we sang a mock-German drinking song that apparently had a grammar problem. Anyway, we were jolly and everything and then this German group of girls came up to us, corrected us and in doing so killed the mood of the entire bar stone dead. That was incredibly awkward to be part of.
9. Finally, what is the best language learning tip according to you?
Uh, that is a hard one. I think it’s very important to stay focused and not get tempted by shiny object syndrome to learn too many languages at once. Learning a language requires consistent efforts and that is simply not doable if you change your languages every month, likewise I would say that time is the most important resource and you won’t pick up a new language in 3 months if you only manage to put in 15 minutes every day.
So in summary: Put in consistent efforts, stay focused and you will be successful. Remember, it’s not a sprint – it’s a marathon.