Interview: Lindie Botes (South Africa)

Let's meet Lindie Botes from South Africa


Could you tell us about yourself, including the languages you know?

I was born in Pretoria, South Africa. Because of my father’s job, I grew up in Paris, Pakistan, Dubai and South Africa. Currently my parents live in Japan. At home I speak Afrikaans. At English schools in various countries I learnt Urdu, Arabic and French as subjects. In 2009 I became interested in Korean and this spread to Japanese, Mandarin, and other Asian languages. 

Why do you think languages are important for you?

Languages have and will always open doors. Because I started learning Korean, I won a ticket to South Korea through a competition and filmed a television show. None of this would have happened without me being interested in Korean in the first place. I study graphic design and I find Japan and other Asian countries to be very strong in this field, hence the reason I want to work in either Japan or Korea upon graduation. Since learning Japanese for a year and a bit, I have managed to settle a few internships in only Japanese and without the language, I would not have had the opportunity to work in Tokyo as I have now. 

Which language are you learning and how do you learn?

At the moment I am learning or exploring Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, French, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Malay, Thai, Tagalog, Mongolian, Arabic and Tibetan.  I can, however only have a comfortable conversation in French, Korean, Japanese, and broken Mandarin. The rest I am aiming to learn to an intermediate level when time allows. 

I find I learn best through immersion of music, television and talking to penpals. I do enjoy grammar and work through textbooks, but I mostly learn new words from talking to people whether it be online, over the phone or in person, or by listening to and translating song lyrics. I also learn a new language through another, for example I am learning Japanese through a Korean textbook. 

Could you tell us which language is the most challenging for you to learn and why?

Thai, Vietnamese and Arabic are challenging for me. Thai has a difficult script (all those characters look so similar!) and is tonal, too. I don’t know why I find Chinese easier than Thai though! Arabic has difficult genders and Vietnamese... I don't even know how I will master the pronunciation. 

Which language is the least challenging for you to learn and why?

At the moment, Korean since I have good access to resources. This means I always have someone to practice with and since I am on an upper intermediate level, I can understand something even if it is being taught to me in Korean. 

What is the next language for you to learn and why?

Hindi! I LOVE Bollywood and my limited knowledge of Urdu might come in handy. 

What is your advice to other language learners?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and take an opportunity if it comes your way. I got a job at a Korean restaurant a few years ago when my Korean was terrible, but it opened many doors (I met people from around the world, got a job, and could practice Korean). If I had been scared to because of my lack of speaking ability, I wouldn't have had all the experiences and opportunities that I do now.

Its easy to get distracted with new languages and new scripts to learn, but try and keep your main language list to a few languages (My main list is French, Korean, Japanese and Mandarin). This means the top four or so languages that you want to be fluent in and find most useful for your future. As much fun as it is to learn many at once, you must manage your time to make sure you keep your main languages at a good level.

If you are a beginning language learner, as in learning your first foreign language, be sure to find a native speaker who can correct you when you make mistakes and teach you as well. When I learnt Korean, I had a Korean penpal who was a soldier at the time and we would send each other about four emails per day. Thanks to that friend, I got more confidence in the language and made a friend for life as well. Don’t struggle on your own, there are many kind people who can help! 


If you have any questions or opinions for Lindie Botes, leave your comments below.

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