In search of tips and inspiration, Rosetta Stone Magazine went to visit luxury travel blogger and life-long-linguist, Jet-Settera (also known as Barbara Wagner) and quizzed her about her approach to Language Learning. Fluent in 4 different languages, she told how she’d learnt them and how she still has to fight to maintain them.
Barbara Wagner has earned her stripes when it comes to luxury lifestyles and travel. She spent many years touring the world as a model before a period working in finance in New York and London. Then she took a trip to South America on a career break and never quite made it back to the 9 to 5. “I planned to go back to work, but the clients seemed to really like my work and I got more and more opportunities to travel with the blog.” 3 years later, she’s still travelling and documenting her experiences in a thriving blog, www.jet-settera.com. On top of this she manages to find the time to maintain her language skills.
Barbara clearly has a genuine thirst for adventure and has travelled a lot. She reported having visited 24 countries last year alone, some more than once. It was language learning that originally gave her the travel bug, providing opportunities to travel from her native Hungary at an early age.
“My father thought it was really good for us to learn languages. Both my sister and I went to international schools and came out with several different languages. These languages were the best thing I got from my education. It opens up your world. I travelled to Germany every year (on exchange programmes from her German school). Now every child travels, but back then it wasn’t so common.”
Learning poems and texts by heart is Barbara’s top tip for language success. “When you learn by heart you don’t just learn the words, you learn them within a context. This is much easier to remember”. But she didn’t make it sound easy: “As a teenager I had a teacher who made me learn very long texts. To sit down and learn long texts by heart is the most time consuming thing you can imagine, but it is very effective.”
Barbara was even made to learn the Ancient Mariner when she studied, but suggested starting with more bit-sized texts such as song lyrics and famous quotes. “Things that genuinely inspire you or make you laugh.”
Barbara speaks four different languages. Hungarian, English, German and Spanish. She says that she has to work to maintain her grasp of them and feels that she is at her limit. “I have no idea how people who say they speak 8 languages do it. I have a hard time maintaining three…For example, I make a big effort to read in German and Spanish – otherwise I feel I will lose the languages. “
Interestingly she felt that reading was maintaining the language only. “It’s a very passive form of learning. I look up the words I don’t know and write them down, but often I don’t remember them again when they come around the next time. It can take 3 or 4 times before I’ve learnt a new word”
Barbara’s overall advice was the importance of really getting involved in the process of language learning. When she was learning Spanish she would place post-it notes all around her house and learn the word for everything around her. This at the same time as she was being taught the language and reading Cervantes in her leisure time! “You have to really get into a language. Try to think in the language, and read in the language. Get obsessed with it and get excited about learning more.”
Language learner, teacher and contributing author to the Rosetta Stone magazine
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