The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #15 May / June 2015
Who Are You To Learn A Language?
by Jimmy Mello
May / June 2015 | 

Before getting into the article, let me propose some scenarios:

Studying languages nowadays is a very popular thing, we have lots of free or paid programs and apps, from the famous ones like free Duolingo to the controversial and expensive Rosetta Stone. Do they really work? If so, will they always work no matter what and who uses them?

We have also a new scenario: polyglots from all over the world are appearing and showing their fabulous skills. If they can learn 5, 10 and 30 languages, the question is can we reproduce their results on other people? If, so how can we do that?

Common people, I mean non-polyglots or language learners, can’t even imagine this Polyglot Scenario. I grew up in huge monolingual country, Brazil. Here we do not need any language other than Portuguese. We have everything in Portuguese, TV, radio, books, the internet; even with the country being surrounded by Spanish speakers, the population doesn’t really care about learning it. English, being an international language, attracts more people’s attention, especially with the “Americanization”. American films and singers are quite popular among us, so this really attracts people’s attention. This scenario is not only in Brazil, but in Russia, Italy, Poland, Spain and others. Those people can’t still really believe that they can learn a new language - a polyglot in Brazil is like a “Mythical Creature”. The issue is: how can we help them to overcome this barrier and misconception? And beyond that, how can we help them to learn a language?

When we decide to learn a language, one of the first things we think about is where and how should we start. This is surely a good question, but not the best question! That's because if you don't know who you are, this can be very difficult. That is, are you only studying languages because it's fashionable, are you a trained polyglot, or a person that believes that you will never learn anything? Do you think you are the kind of committed enough person to study a language by yourself or do you need a teacher and a language school?

These questions can seem silly, but believe me, if you don't know exactly what kind of person you are, you WILL NOT reach your goals. If you are a trained polyglot and decide attending a course with 10-15 students that are learning because of their jobs or because it's fashionable, and if you are doing it in a traditional school full of grammar, and in a long term course, you will inevitable fail. And the same will happen if you are a person who believes in your own “incapacity” and “inability” to learn languages yet decide to buy a book with CDs and try to study alone, you will probably find everything difficult and this will only reinforce your ideas of impossibility.

So, YES, there is a perfect form to learn a language, but this is a subjective issue, and it will depend on how you are supposed to act and how you prefer learning. Maybe you don't know what kind of person you are; maybe you need an external help or point of view!

As a Linguist, Scientist of Education, and NLP Master, I can assure you that if one person can learn 30 languages, you can do the same, following the same patterns, but adapting them to your personal style!

Ok, ok, I guess you are still wanting a definitive answer, aren't you? I will give you a definite answer: there is no magic pill, there are no shortcuts, there is no perfect method, but there is one thing that can take you to your goals, and one thing that can stop you. This only thing is your mind! It can be your best friend and your worst enemy.

Being a polyglot has nothing to do with numbers of languages, not even with A, B or C levels. It is not a competition. For me, it is a way of living. How many languages do you love? How many languages have you tried and failed? In how many languages have you already tried a conversation? For me, the best polyglot is the one who loves languages! The best question is “How many languages should I have in my heart to be a polyglot?”. If you follow this idea, start to get off the “self-running race”, discover your way of learning, and give up the search for the magic pill, you will learn a language.

Jimmy Mello is a neurolinguist and holds two degrees: one in Linguistics and other in Educational Science. He is a polyglot and has been learning and teaching languages for over 20 years. He is fluent in English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, and he can also speak Catalan, French, German, Dutch and Polish at different levels. He has developed a new method suitable for teaching any foreign language. He currently lives in Brazil where he runs his own language school, which he established in 1995. Find him at:,,, and

Parrot Time is always looking for guest writers, so if you are interested in writing for us or donating something you have written for your own blog, please contact us at We look forward to your contributions!

Who Are You To Learn A Language?
Writer: Jimmy Mello
Petey: Landscape (title); Alice; Alice and Caterpillar

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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