About me (and my mission)
I just realized I don't have a page on my blog where I really introduce myself and explain why I'm doing what I'm doing. :-)
I've been writing and recording videos about language learning, Polish, and American culture for more than three years and, if you've been following along, you already know my whole story - but not WHY I do this!
(For my long-time fans: there is also a photo of me with long hair in the full article below. Check it out!)
If you don't know me, here's a quick official bio:
David Snopek is an American entrepreneur, programmer, language teacher, and language learner born and raised in Milwaukee, WI. Though his last name is, in fact, Polish (due to distant Polish ancestors who immigrated to the USA about 100 years ago), he grew up speaking only one language: English.
As an adult, David was able to achieve a rather high level of proficiency in Polish using a non-traditional method. Inspired by his success in language learning, he created Linguatrek to share the experience with others, and Bibliobird, a web application to help Poles learn English.
I was reluctant to write this article because I knew it would lead to talking about "my mission."
To be honest, I do have a mission, but I felt nervous saying so. Big corporations and politicians have missions - and, to say it nicely, they are usually bulls**t. ;-)
So, I was worried that you might think my mission is bulls**t too. But language learning is my true passion and I felt it was finally time to share this with you.
Read more for more information about my mission!
My mission is to:
- Motivate you to learn foreign languages and experience other cultures.
This can help you get a better job, broaden your perspective, get you in touch with your roots, allow you to have amazing travels, and enrich your life in general.
- Dispel the misconceptions that lead you to believe that you can't learn languages or a particular language.
Many people think you need to have "a talent for languages." Or that you have to live in the country where the language is spoken. Or that memorizing confusing grammar rules is essential. Or that some languages are drastically harder than others. Or that you're too old to learn a language. All of these things are false: anyone can learn any language!
- Show you how to learn another language in an enjoyable, fast and effective way.
There isn't only one right method for learning a language. Some methods will be more efficient than others. But the best method for you depends a lot on YOU, and your personal preferences. I want to help you find your method.
Because I've been there: I once needed the same type of help and advice!
The truth is that I failed to learn several languages before I ultimately succeeded in learning Polish.
Like many Americans, I studied Spanish in grade school and high school. For a total of six years, I played games, sang songs, learned a ton of grammar, and took some tests. I did everything the teacher said and actually got very good scores. But like most of my peers, I failed to learn how to do more than pass a grammar test. After SIX years!
I talk to people every day who had the same experience with Spanish or English or French or whatever they were learning. They studied in school for 5 or 10 or 15 years, but they still can't order in a restaurant or watch a movie without subtitles or have a casual conversation with a native speaker.
At that point, I decided that I have no talent for languages and therefore I am incapable of learning one.
And besides what's the point? Why even learn Spanish anyway? At the time I had no idea and no real motivation to keep trying.
Later, as an adult, I made several Russian-speaking friends. One of them invited me to go with him to visit his family in Belarus and Russia.
I thought, Wow, what an amazing opportunity! I'll be able to see and experience life from the perspective of the residents of these countries. I'd better learn some Russian!
So I signed up for a Russian language course at the local university. I enjoyed the course, but much like my Spanish course, we learned grammar, grammar and more grammar.
After a year, I went to Russia with my friend and it was really fantastic! My language ability was terrible. However, the experience was enough for me to catch the language learning and traveling bug. When we came back, I continued taking Russian courses for the next two years.
Unfortunately, I never got very good and I was getting increasingly frustrated.
I put tons and tons of work into studying Russian. But whenever I had the opportunity to test my language abilities with my Russian-speaking friends, I found that I could only have the most basic of conversations, and only if they spoke very slowly and restricted themselves to the small amount of vocabulary I knew.
Six years of Spanish and three years of Russian and I'd only mastered grammar tests. Fluidly speaking and understanding a language was still little more than a dream.
When it came time to learn Polish, I started by taking another college-level course. I enjoyed it quite a bit, mostly due to the professor, who told great stories. But, after a year it was obvious I that wasn't going to really learn Polish, just like I never really learned Spanish or Russian.
I asked myself, "Do I want to learn how to pass grammar tests? Or do I want to actually speak Polish?" Obviously, I wanted to speak Polish!
It was time for a drastic change.
So I stopped going to my Polish class and started doing a ton of research on how the human brain learns languages. I also began experimenting with a method that involved reading and listening to Harry Potter in Polish.
At first it went very slowly. It took me four months to read my first book. But only a year after starting, I managed to read all seven Harry Potter books!
I went from struggling with the most basic conversations to being able to:
- Talk with native speakers on almost any topic
- Read and listen to books
- Watch movies
- Write emails, letters and articles
Plus, I did it relatively quickly, studying primarily on my own (not in a course and without a teacher), and while living here in the USA. It was a profoundly enjoyable and life-changing experience.
A year and a half after starting this new method, my wife (Carrie) and I moved to Poland for a year. Immediately, I was able to:
- Handle Polish bureaucracy entirely in Polish, including the immigration office, the tax office, the post office, etc
- Interview for jobs in Polish
- Find and rent an apartment
You can do it too!
Frequently, people respond to my Polish videos with comments like, "Wow, you speak great Polish. You must have a talent for languages. I wish I could speak English as well as you speak Polish, but I have no talent for languages."
Hey, I don't have talent for language learning either!
If I did, I would have also easily learned Spanish and Russian by now. When I learned Polish, I was still the same talentless person I was before. The only thing that changed was my approach.
As long as you're able to gather together the ingredients to successful language learning, you can learn any language, and to a high level of proficiency!
What's your story?
Now that you know about me, I'd like to learn more about you!
I'd be very grateful if you'd introduce yourself in the comments below and tell me YOUR language learning story.
What is your language learning story? What language are you learning and what will your life be like once you learn it? Don't feel like you have to write a novel - I just want to get to know you. :-) Please write a comment below!