26-year-old Patrick Khoury is a Lebanese self-taught polyglot who can speak up to 13 languages at varying degrees of fluency.
He is fluent in French, Lebanese-Arabic, Spanish, German, English, Italian, Greek, and Portuguese and can also hold conversations in Romanian, Norwegian, Swedish, Serbian, and Dutch. “I also have a deep knowledge in Mandarin Chinese, Turkish, and Latin,” he told The961.
Like many Lebanese, he grasped French, Arabic, and English growing up in Lebanon. He was able to learn Spanish due to the fact that both his grandmothers were from Spanish-speaking countries, Venezuela and Colombia.
So how did he go about learning a bunch of other languages?
Well, he started learning foreign languages diligently from the age of 14. His first pick was German. “I usually start off with a book,” he said, “preferably an audiobook.”
He listens extensively, repetitively, until his brain starts to get used to the sounds, rhythm, tonality, and complexity of the language, just like babies do, he told us. “Input comes always prior to output.”
“The first stage is all about listening, listening, and listening, all while naturally allowing my brain to soak in the many different aspects of the foreign language at hand.”
“Once I have gathered enough vocabulary to start expressing some thoughts, I start doing some random monologues. It could be literally anywhere, in the shower, or while driving around in my car. Nowadays, I can do it behind my (face) mask without people noticing it, which is awesome!” he said.
“Monologues are a great way to train the muscles of your mouth and neck, and to listen closely to yourself as you speak, and draw awareness to the sounds you are producing. I like to call it ‘Instantaneous Sensory Feedback’,” he said, adding that it helps build confidence before speaking with real people.
Practice, practice, practice!
In parallel to practicing monologues, Patrick looks for people to talk to online, so he can get live feedback on pronunciation and syntax and build upon his previous knowledge.
Additionally, he integrates the language into his life as much as he possibly can, for example, by listening to music in his target language, or by watching foreign language movies on Netflix.
Travel has also helped his language learning journey. Patrick has traveled to more than 20 countries, namely Germany, Greece, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Romania, Bulgaria, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria, Finland, Poland, Serbia, Cyprus, and France.
“The entire experience differs when you speak the local language. Not only will you get around much easier in the place you’re visiting, but you’ll also have a very enjoyable stay, by meeting local people, speaking their language (you don’t have to be fluent by the way), and making a good impression on them.”
He always surprises native people when he speaks their language. They end up very curious about him and wanting to know more.
“I believe that speaking people’s language is a high sign of respect to their culture, their collective identity, and their own self. A language, in my opinion, is a bridge between you and the world, between you and people’s hearts,” he said.
Language is an ocean of discovery
On average, it takes Patrick 1 year to acquire a language with fluency. However, of course, it also depends on the complexity of the language, he told us.
“Learning a language has no end since there is an ocean of things one can learn on a daily basis. In other words, one can never say that he/she is done learning a language. I, myself, believe that I can still learn a ton of things in my own mother tongue.”
Patrick also noted that language learning acquisition is not linear. “There will be a lot of ups and downs, a lot of happiness and frustration.”
“My most important recommendations would be to immerse yourself as much as possible, to focus on comprehensible and relevant input, and to embrace the silliest mistakes you might make. It should be FUN! If you are not having fun, then it’s probably not for you,” he said.
Patrick’s video on YouTube has garnered over 3 million views since he uploaded it in 2017. He has also been featured on several different channels for his talent.
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