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 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.

Listen to Part One of our conversation here.

Topics Discussed

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

Olly’s Short Story Books from Teach Yourself

Olly’s Courses

  • 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.

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