Podcast Spanish

How Real Fast Spanish Founder Andrew Barr Went From a Monolingual Aussie to a Budding Polyglot

May 12, 2023

Despite doing well in other school subjects, Andrew Barr failed French in secondary school. Upon hearing this news, his supportive father assured him:

"The Barrs don't do languages. We do maths and sciences. You will never have to speak of a word of French again!"

It turns out that this prediction was a bit off the mark. Today, Andrew speaks multiple languages and has built a successful business teaching languages at Real Fast Spanish.

Topics Discussed

In this deep dive into Andrew's language learning journey and philosophy, you will learn:

  • How a multilingual climb up Mount Kilimanjaro inspired him to learn languages (and led to befriending a French actress).
  • The importance of high-quality language input (high-yield listening and reading content).
  • The power of learning with other people (teachers, tutors, and exchange partners) and why you need to avoid the input-only trap.
  • Why motivation, consistency, and discipline are the essential 3 essential ingredients of successful language learning.
  • Why Andrew decided to start learning Polish (his first non-Romance language) and the surprising origins of his family name.
  • The ideal order of operations for learning a new language from scratch and why you should master sounds first.
  • The 24-hour rule for new vocabulary and the simple $5 language-learning tool you should carry with you everywhere you go.
  • The language-learning advice Andrew would give to his younger self to break through his earlier stories and self-limiting beliefs.
  • Why learning a language is akin to learning to play the guitar (you have to learn by doing, not watching).
  • Why your feelings about a language-learning method are more important than the method itself.
  • Why pursuing pleasure in language learning is not always the answer and why Andrew studies flashcards in Anki even though he doesn't enjoy it.
  • The most common mistakes that native English speakers make in Spanish (and how to sound less like a "gringo" by changing just one sound).
  • Why correctly pronouncing vowels is more important in Spanish than getting consonants right.
  • The critical difference between "accent" and "pronunciation" and why the latter matter much more.
  • Andrew's 2 essential language-learning principles: 1) readiness to learn, and 2) high-quality practice.
  • How to build early confidence by setting the bar low and having specific goals in each conversation.

“One of the things that I really changed was I went from learning by myself to learning with other people. So rather than myself and a book and a podcast in my room at home, I started attending a local Spanish school, and I started doing meetups and language exchanges. And over the next 6 to 9 months, I went from that very awkward beginner type to very conversationally comfortable. And from that point, I really felt Spanish opened up to me and became really enjoyable.”

Concepts, Methods & Resources Mentioned

People, Places & Names Mentioned