You become a polyglot. Interview with Olivia Ambassador Janek Meissner

Although he knows almost everything there is to know about language learning, he still admits that methods, accent and vocabulary need to be constantly improved. He speaks 7 languages and it’s not like he discovered his talent, found a miraculous way and suddenly everything changed. YoiTube, persistence and everyday encounters with the language turned out to be helpful – says Janek Meissner from Air Help, Ambassador of Language Tandem OBC, which is a part of the project “We are united by passion” of Olivia Business Centre.

Did it take you a long time to persuade you to share your passion?

I’m convinced that it’s worth inspiring people to discover new things, so when Olivia’s “Share Your Passion” project was proposed, I just asked “where and when” (laughs). I’ve spent four years learning languages, I still enjoy it and I thought it would be a good time to share the knowledge I’ve gained.

Weren’t you afraid that your willingness might clash with the enthusiasm of the participants?

I had, but the desire to take up the challenge prevailed. At the very beginning, it was hard to imagine what would come of it, but from class to class I found out that the idea was right.

Have you always had a flair for teaching?

I started my adventure with tutoring in high school and quickly got discouraged because I felt that my expectations were different from reality. Time allowed me to distance myself from the methods I used, in which I noticed a lot of mistakes. I decided that I would improve them and I implemented my “better” with subsequent students. It worked, and I had the opportunity to observe the satisfaction of my pupils, who left me and, instead of playing on the computer, searched for information on their own and delved into the topic they were working on together.

What did you teach?

Physics, which made me believe that my methods made sense when one of my students started looking for more information about Einstein’s relativistics. If I could inspire someone like that, I must have loved teaching (laughs).

How many languages do you speak?

Seven. I have mastered English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, Catalan and Polish.

How many years have you been learning them?

I started in July 2015. I tried hard and it resulted in English with a pretty cool accent and a rich vocabulary. I work in Spanish, so I know I have to speak nicely and coherently. I know Italian at a level that allows me to have a casual conversation with my friends who are natives. I’m happy when they admit that I speak well enough that they call me slang. In Portuguese, I am able to understand and tell stories, although sometimes I have to ask questions because I lack vocabulary. I can speak French and Catalan, but I can guess some of it from the context.

Have you discovered an ingenious method, or has persistence helped?

In high school, I passed only three of my German exams. I didn’t like these classes, I didn’t want to memorize a list of words, I hated memorizing them by force. It’s not like I had a super talent and suddenly everything changed. One day, I typed on YouTube how to learn a foreign language, watched 20 videos, memorized the most important information and put it into practice. On top of that, I was damn stubborn and spent about 2 hours studying every day for a few months. There is no miracle method – there is systematics and the assumption that you have to work regularly, otherwise nothing will come of it.

What happened that made you decide to share your knowledge and enthusiasm for thanks? Is there a second bottom?

I think it’s a nice thing to “know” and I’d like others to be able to benefit from my experience. The other side you ask about is people – I like to enjoy the successes of others, and the opportunity to participate in such stories gives me a lot of wings. It gives me great pleasure to be able to share the capital that is knowledge.

Tell us about this secret way, tell us what happens behind the doors of Language Tandem OBC.

I describe our meetings as an evolution full of experiments, and conducting such classes is a very valuable lesson for me. In practice, at the opening of the meeting, I give a presentation to the audience and tell them how I learned and how others do it. My favorite topic is how to become a polyglot in three steps.


Step one – learn one language. Step two: learn the next one. Step three: repeat step two (laughs). Then all I have to do is explain to the group precisely what I meant. The presentation lasts about 20 minutes, then I devote 10 minutes to discussion and for the next hour the participants exchange languages in pairs, and my role is to give them tips on how to do such a tandem better and what to focus on.

Is there a common denominator that defines the participants of the OBC Language Tandem?

Usually, there are people who have had the opportunity to take part in a student exchange or have to deal with a foreign language at work. There are also lucky people who have learned a third language thanks to their partner or parents. They have different levels of motivation and motivation, but many of them admit that I used to be able to, and now I’ve forgotten if I can do a little and I would like to do better. I try to live up to those expectations. It is important that everyone is open and willing to talk.

What would you like to achieve with the Language Tandem of Olivia Business Centre?

To break the barrier and the feeling that languages are secret knowledge. It’s amazing that the further into the forest you go, the more the science draws you in, and we, satisfied with the results, want even more. My dream is for Language Tandem to be a strong base for what you can do on your own – a guideline that will help you move around the language without any problems. After all, no one is born a polyglot – you become one, which I wish for myself and other enthusiasts with all my heart!

Interviewed by: Dagmara Rybicka, Communication Department, Olivia Business Centre.


Language Tandem OBC!

Please note that from March 19 we are organizing free English lessons on our FB profile. What do you need to know? Together with Talkers, every Tuesday and Thursday at 7:00 p.m . we will verify myths about language. No bulky books, cramming, or boring revisions. With exceptional instructors, such as Wiktor Jodłowski, the founder of the English language school, Talkersi.pl and… Jake Jephcott, Development Director at Olivia Business Centre. You will practice practical phrases, learn the rules, check how much time is actually needed to communicate effectively and what to do “smartly”;) when you don’t understand the interlocutor. And of course, you’ll learn how to break down the barriers of speaking English.

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