Last week, I shared part one of my most recent chat with the inimitable Olly Richards, who first appeared on The Language Mastery Show back in in April 2014. Since that time, he’s gone on to build I Will Teach You a Language (now called StoryLearning®) into one of the top language blogs, launch a slew of excellent language courses, and publish a series of great short story books through Teach Yourself.
In part two of our wide-ranging conversation, we get into his language learning routines and habits, how he tackles reading (especially in Japanese), the importance of getting a wide range of high-quality exposure to your target language, the power of following your interest and curiosity, and Olly’s top tips for launching a successful online language learning empire or just a profitable side hustle to help pay the bills.
Note: This episode contains some adult language.
In part one of our wide-ranging, in-depth conversation, we get into:
- What a typical, ideal, and less than ideal day of language learning look like for Olly these days.
- How Olly reads in a foreign language, especially one like Japanese that uses characters instead of a Latin alphabet.
- Why you should learn in smaller, more frequent bursts instead of less frequent mammoth study sessions.
- Why you should focus on important, high-frequency “unlocking” words and not get caught up in looking up every single unknown word, phrase, or kanji as you read.
- The advantages of aiming for 80 to 90% comprehension and then moving to new content (i.e. maximizing exposure and avoiding the law of diminishing returns).
“The game is played and won in how much quality exposure you get to the language.”
- The advantages of “narrow reading” (reading a variety of articles on the same basic topic).
- Olly’s top tips for launching a successful online language learning empire or just a profitable side hustle to help pay the bills.
“If you do have any ambitions of to make this into a viable business you can live from, the real key thing to understand is that a blog, or a podcast, or a YouTube channel is not a business. It is a media platform. Blogging by itself or having a podcast, there is nothing inherently in that that makes it a business. You may as well stand on Speakers’ Corner and start shouting what you think at people. It’s the same thing on a different scale. The key thing to understand is that a language business solves somebody’s problem. So you have to start to think about it in those terms. And ideally, a problem that somebody is willing to pay to resolve. Then you have the foundations of a business.”
- The importance of defining a “niche within a niche” (e.g. not just “Japanese” but “teaching expat parents in Japan to read Japanese school reports”).
- Why you don’t need a huge audience to make a living, but you do need the right audience.
- Why you should launch a “minimum viable product” (MVP) and improve it based on customer feedback instead of spending years perfecting something nobody actually wants or is willing to pay for.
- Why you should announce a public launch date for any product, course, service, etc. you’re building (especially my fellow perfectionists).
- The balance between giving customers what they want and what you know they need.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” ―Henry Ford
- Faulty thinking and common misconceptions many people have about money, capitalism, inequality, etc., and why reality is much more nuanced than basic ideologies will argue.
“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried.” ―Sir Winston Churchill
- My contrarian view on nutrition and sustainability (Hint: veganism is NOT the answer to save the health of humans or the planet).
- The importance of always asking, “What if the opposite were true?” whether in business, nutrition, or language learning.
- The pros and cons of memory enhancing techniques and mnemonics such as the “Major System.”
- Why mnemonics, flashcards, etc. can be useful “nutritional supplements” but are NOT a replacement for real “immersion meals.”
- The critical importance of focus and the need for regular “reality checks” with a coach, mastermind, etc. when you find yourself overwhelmed with too many ideas, projects, etc.
Concepts, Events, People & Resources Mentioned
- Yomiwa Japanese Dictionary app (iOS & Android)
- The law of diminishing returns (Wikipedia)
- Narrow reading (Blog Post)
- Japan Airlines (日本航空)
- Kanji (Wikipedia)
- Seonaid (Perfect English Grammar)
- Jan van der Aa (polyglot & Langpreneur co-founder)
- Langpreneur (a podcast & event series that will help you turn your passion for languages into a profitable, scalable business)
- Speakers’ Corner (Wikipedia)
- International English Language Testing System (Wikipedia)
- Survivorship bias (Wikipedia)
- I Will Teach You a Language (Olly’s business)
- Benny Lewis (Fluent in 3 Months)
- Starving artist (Wikipedia)
- Master Japanese (my book about how to learn Japanese anywhere in the world)
- Steve Jobs’ “Zone of Genius” (Inc. article)
- Disqualifying the Positive (one of the primary 10 cognitive distortions addressed in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)
- Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker
- Jeremy Corbyn (Wikipedia)
- Boris Johnson (Wikipedia)
- Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America by Scott Adams
- Anthony Metivier (Magnetic Memory Method)
- Mnemonic major system (Wikipedia)
- Remembering the Kanji 1: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters by James Heisig
- World Memory Championships (Wikipedia)
- “Grandmaster of Memory” Mattias Ribbing on how to master your memory & optimize learning (Podcast)
- Why You Need a Balanced Diet of “Declarative” and “Procedural” Memory Tasks (Post)
- FAQ: Should I Use Flashcards to Learn a Language? (Post)
- FAQ: What is Spaced Repetition and Why Should You Use It? (Post)
- Chris Vasselli’s Nihongo Japanese dictionary app (iOS)
Olly’s Short Story Books from Teach Yourself
- Short Stories in Arabic for Intermediate Learners
- Short Stories in Brazilian Portuguese for Beginners
- Short Stories in Dutch for Beginners
- Short Stories in English for Beginners
- Short Stories in English for Intermediate Learners
- Short Stories in French for Beginners
- Short Stories in German for Beginners
- Short Stories in Icelandic for Beginners
- Short Stories in Italian for Beginners
- Short Stories in Italian for Intermediate Learners
- Short Stories in Norwegian for Beginners
- Short Stories in Russian for Beginners
- Short Stories in Spanish for Beginners
- Short Stories in Spanish for Intermediate Learners
- Short Stories in Swedish for Beginners
- Short Stories in Turkish for Beginners
- Uncovered Courses: Beginner story-based courses for French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish that allow learners to naturally learn and uncover vocabulary and grammar in a fun, contextual way.
- Language Learning Foundations: This step-by-step video course shows you the exact techniques and routines Olly used to learn 10 languages. You’ll learn how to start speaking with confidence in months instead of years.
- Grammar Hero: Ditch boring textbooks and learn how to internalize Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Russian, or Spanish grammar the natural, effective way.
- Spanish Experience Summit: This epic online masterclass with the world’s top experts in language acquisition, travel hacking, and expat living is perfect for anyone wanting to live or retire in Spain or Latin America.
Connect with Olly
- Site: IWillTeachYouaLanguage.com
- Podcast: I Will Teach You A Language Podcast
- Facebook: @iwillteachyoualanguage
- Instagram: @iwillteachyoualanguage
- Twitter: @Olly_IWTYAL