Jonty Yamisha is a language activist, an “accidental polyglot” in his own words, a “third-generation Circassian refugee,” and the founder of OptiLingo, an audio-based language app that uses “guided immersion” to help people reach fluency in foreign languages more quickly.

Topics Discussed

In the interview, we discuss:

  • Jonty’s Circassian family tree and why he considers himself a “third-generation refugee” and a “minority within a minority within a minority.”
  • Jonty’s foreign language origin story, why he committed himself to mastering Circassian (and raising his kids to speak it), and how he became an “accidental polyglot.”
  • Why Jonty and I both hate it when people call languages “difficult” (there are simply languages more or less similar to your own, those that are more or less important to you, and those you are willing to spend more or less time learning).
  • How and why Jonty and his wife are raising their children bilingually in English and Circassian.
  • The importance of habits and identity in language learning.
  • How Jonty reached fluency in Circassian, how his methods evolved, and how he now learns new languages.
  • The importance of extensive listening and reading, but the potential downside of doing too much reading and not enough speaking.
  • Why language is a never ending journey.
  • How Jonty “steals back” time for language learning amid his busy work and family schedule.
  • Why Jonty developed OptiLingo.
  • The power of tying specific languages (or language resources/skills) to specific locations and times.
  • The importance of learning useful chunks, phrases, collocations, and high-frequency words.
  • Why Jonty cannot visualize imagery in his head.
  • Why confidence and a willingness to make mistakes is essential in language learning.
  • Jonty’s favorite language learning tools and resources.
  • Why no single language learning tool is enough on its own.
  • The power of compound interest in language acquisition.
  • Why each new language allows you to live a new life.

Concepts, Places, People & Resources Mentioned

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