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Interview: Amanda Bullington (the United States)

Let's meet Amanda Bullington from the United States

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

I’m an American who has lived in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and India. I received a scholarship from the Taiwanese government to study Mandarin at the National Taiwan Normal University, where I studied up to business proficiency. I read fluent French.  I’ve also dabbled in beginner classes for Urdu, Arabic, Japanese, and Indonesian.

Why do you think languages are important to you?

Ever since high school, I have been surrounded by tons of non-native speakers. I was fortunate enough to attend a high school where 30% of the students were international, so I formed friendships with classmates from Taiwan, Bahrain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and various other countries at a young age.

In university, I set out to understand international affairs and quickly realized that a big part of international communication involves language acquisition. Whether you want to be a gracious traveler, Couchsurfing host, business partner, customer, or diplomat, language learning goes a long way in making others feel comfortable. It also opens your eyes to new ways of thinking that transcend cultural boundaries.

Which language are you learning and how do you learn?

Currently, I’m learning Hindi. I’ve been taking classes on to practice speaking and listening. When I first started, I told my tutors that I wanted to focus on correct pronunciation as there are a lot of sounds in Hindi that are very awkward for non-native speakers.

The Memrise app helps me learn new vocabulary quickly. I also subscribe to the Anil Mahato YouTube channel for fun and entertaining lessons on beginner Hindi.

In my free time, I listen to a lot of Hindi music and watch Bollywood movies, as speaking and understanding are the most important skills for me and I love these aspects of the culture.

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

Although I learned French in high school, I was never that curious about French culture which makes it difficult to practice and maintain. Language learning works best when you can find something you’re interested in. For me, the most fascinating French was literature written about the Maghreb and French hip-hop songs, so that’s what I use to practice.

Which language is the least challenging to learn and why?

Mandarin actually wasn’t as hard as most people expect. The grammar is simple—there are very few tenses and no conjugations. It just takes a bit of patience to acquire vocabulary. Most people are scared by the tones, but I think of them as quite similar to the intonations we use in English.

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

After Hindi, I might start Spanish. After all, Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish, and English are all the top spoken languages in the world! The more people I can communicate freely, the better.

What is your advice to other language learners?

Get out there and practice. The best thing you can do is be persistent in your language learning and celebrate your small victories. If you watch a TV show and understand 1-2 new words per day, celebrate! If you manage to construct a complex sentence correctly—or at least correctly enough that a native speaker can understand—celebrate! Language learning doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does require confidence, patience, and persistence.

If you have any questions or opinions for Amanda Bullington, leave your comments below.

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