Daniel Welsch is a bestselling author, blogger, language trainer and social entrepreneur. He writes books in Spanish that have helped thousands of English learners from Spain and Latin America improve their English.
He also runs a Spanish-language site, ¡Aprende más inglés!, with English grammar tips, learning strategies and the occasional article about his beard. And in English, he’s the man behind The Chorizo Chronicles, a blog about expat life in Madrid.
Recently we had a chat about his work, the best English learning tips and how to improve your memory…
Gabriel: Tell us a little about yourself and what kind of work you do.
Daniel: I’m from the US, but I’ve been living in Madrid, Spain, for almost 12 years. Around 6 years ago I started a website where I teach English to Spanish speakers, and it suddenly started growing.
At this point I’ve had several million page views on the web, and I just reached my first million views on YouTube.
Last year I quit my day job to create online courses, and so far it’s going very well! I’ve been at #1 on Amazon Kindle in Spain and Mexico several times, and I’ve met a lot of people and had a lot of adventures that never would have happened if I hadn’t started that first blog back in 2010.
Gabriel: You’ve published 11 books now. Which book do people seem to like most and what do they say about it?
Daniel: The book that’s had the biggest impact is called “6 Keys for Learning English”. I originally wrote it to answer the questions everybody had about learning English effectively.
The funny thing is that people spend 10 years or more learning English and in the end they can only speak or understand a little. So I wanted to clear up exactly what the problem is and what would be a better way of approaching a language as a non-native.
A lot of people have written to say it changed their life and their way of thinking about learning, and to me that’s great. One woman even wrote me years ago to say it kept her up all night reading, which isn’t bad for an educational book.
“People spend 10 years or more learning English and in the end they can only speak or understand a little.”
Gabriel: In your opinion, what’s the most important personal quality to succeed in learning English?
Daniel: Being persistent, and not giving up as soon as things get a bit difficult. I’d say at least 80% of people will drop a class in the first couple of weeks. Then they come back two years later and try again. The ones who succeed are the ones who stay with it.
Gabriel: And … what is usually the main obstacle for people learning English? What can they do about it?
Daniel: Most people in Spain have the problem that they never actually hear a real English (or American, or Australian, or South African) accent while they’re learning. So they have a serious disconnect between writing and pronunciation.
There are lots of possible solutions: find a native teacher, go to a language exchange, make friends with some native speakers, watch TV series in English. Just do something!
“The ones who succeed are the ones who stay with it.”
Gabriel: What kind of films and TV shows do you usually recommend to English learners to help them improve?
Daniel: Whatever they enjoy watching! I particularly recommend documentaries about any topic, because the language is usually a bit more formal and easier to understand.
Gabriel: … and do you think they should watch with or without subtitles and why?
Daniel: With subtitles is usually best to begin with. Subtitles in English, not in your first language. I also tell people: don’t be afraid to repeat a scene or even a full episode until you’re more comfortable with what’s going on.
Treat it like a language exercise more than like mindless entertainment and you’ll get a lot more out of it.
“Find a native teacher, go to a language exchange, make friends with some native speakers, watch TV series in English. Just do something!”
Gabriel: “I’m learning English and I only have 5 minutes a day to study. What’s the one thing I should do in those 5 minutes?”
Daniel: Umm… good question. If you only have 5 minutes, my recommendation is to work on your time management until you can come up with at least 15 or 20.
In that time, you can review vocabulary, read an article online, or listen to an episode of 6 Minute English by the BBC.
In five minutes, I guess you could listen to part of an episode, or read part of an article. But really, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. Set some priorities.
Gabriel: What’s the strangest language-learning tip you’ve discovered?
Daniel: My friend Anthony’s method of putting ridiculous, disturbing or violent images inside memory palaces is a bit strange, but it really works. I’ve had massive success memorizing vocabulary and other things. You just have to get over the strangeness of the method and the set-up time in order to make it work. Check him out at magneticmemorymethod.com.
Gabriel: Finally, if you could have just one superpower, what would it be?
Daniel: The power to destroy people’s excuses (mine and others’) so they could go out and be their best, without limiting beliefs stopping them from succeeding.