Jimmy Mello is a polyglot from Brazil famous for his Mello Method – an innovative approach to language learning based on speaking from day one and postponing the study of advanced grammar to later stages. His invention earned Jimmy an international renown and provided his students with a very efficient means of learning new languages. In fact, he’s recently become the endorser of VocApp, as he also believes that flashcards are an indispensable component of learning a foreign language. Watch Meaghan’s interview with Jimmy and get inspired to speak from day one!
Meaghan: Hi! My name is Meaghan and I’m here for VocApp.com. Today I’m talking to polyglot Jimmy Mello who runs several blogs and websites, teaches English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and French, and has his own method for teaching languages, the Mello Method. How are you doing today Jimmy?
Jimmy: I’m doing great Meaghan. How about you?
Meaghan: I’m doing pretty well. Where are we talking to you from today?
Jimmy: Yes. Now I’m in Brazil. I live in Brazil and I run, as you’ve said, a language school in the city. It’s the third biggest city of Brazil – Belo Horizonte.
Meaghan: And you’re Brazilian?
Jimmy: Yeah, I’m Brazilian and I still listed as half Brazilian, half Spanish because my family came from Catalonia. I’m half Catalan and half Brazilian but I grew up in Brazil.
Meaghan: How many languages do you speak in terms of that you’ve mastered and that you’re currently learning?
Jimmy: This is a tricky question. I don’t like to say that. I can teach those languages that you have said: that is Spanish, English, French, Italian, and Portuguese. I have a high level on them that we call C1, C2. I also, from level B, that is intermediate, I have German, Catalan, Esperanto that’s a little bit C as well, Dutch. On a basic level, a basic level of Polish, and I have been studying several languages. I generally say that my list generally changes every year. To learn a language is very easy, but to maintain the language is different. From time to time, this list changes. I love languages and this would depend on a lot of things. Generally I like to say that I speak ten to eleven languages.
Meaghan: That’s very impressive. How long have you been teaching the languages, English or Portuguese?
Jimmy: Twenty years. I started when I was fifteen years old because a long time ago in Brazil we had no Spanish teachers. Even being a child I was fifteen years on that time. Everybody hired me because Spanish we had the Mercosur and it was a kind of united union. People were looking for teachers to teach Spanish. I started to teach in language school but I didn’t like the method, so I said, “Wow, why don’t we make something better than that because this method is not working.” For twenty years I have been teaching languages.
Meaghan: What has worked for you in terms of learning languages but also teaching the languages?
Jimmy: For me, to learn a language you really have to use the language. I don’t believe that you can learn a language with grammar. Grammar is absolutely useless at the beginning. It is very useful when you are on the upper intermediate or advanced levels, because after you can cut the edges, but you really have to learn how to speak. For my students, I focus on speaking from day one. Our method is focus on speaking from day one. You can produce a lot of things if you read some comments or things like that on my website. People generally say that is the perfect method to speak from day one. This is how it works. What doesn’t work is grammar. If you start with grammar you will fail.
Meaghan: I’ve heard there’s a lot of people that say the same thing. They are also very negative towards grammar.
Jimmy: Yeah. Is grammar completely useless? No, but there is a right time to learn it.
Meaghan: Very good. With the Mello Method it’s all about speaking from day one?
Jimmy: Yes. We have only conversations, conversations, and conversations. A guided conversation but through the fifteen minutes we only learn vocabulary and structures and we are going to produce, and produce, and produce. Generally we just use the target language and provide the translation. I say “table” and then I say the translation for it in the language that is “mesa”, something like that.
Meaghan: What do you think is the best way to learn vocabulary. At VoccApp we work with flashcards and we found that it’s a pretty effective way to learn vocabulary. What do you think?
Jimmy: Yes. Okay. They say to me, “How can I learn vocabulary?” I say, “There is no other way besides flash cards.” You can either use ready-made flash cards that you can purchase in some book shops or you can make your own, or now we are in a partnership with VocApp and we are producing now the vocabulary of Mello Method and putting them on VocApp, the app itself, and people are enjoying it quite a lot because it has that… How do they call that? RS? It is an intelligent system that knows the words you know and review in the right time. My students are loving it. The only way to learn vocabulary is using flashcards.
Meaghan: Oh great.
Jimmy: You can use paper flash cards or VocApp flash cards it’s a good idea. It’s the only way to learn vocabulary.
Meaghan: Sounds wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your tips and knowledge about learning languages with us.
Jimmy: My pleasure.
Meaghan: Do you have any last words for any language learners out there that need some motivation?
Jimmy: Yes. I like that people stay motivated this is other key. Motivation is the key factor to learn a language. If you are not motivated enough, give up and change the language. Someone might say, “I want to learn a language because of my job” but if you are not motivated enough you are never, you can use the best method you can use the best app, but you will never learn it. Get motivated, try to create a connection between the language and the people. For example, I’m learning Polish because I love Polish people. I love Poland. I have this connection with Poland. This is the best way.
Meaghan: Thank you so much.
Jimmy: My pleasure. Okay, thank you.