Olly Richards, founder of I Will Teach You a Language (IWTYAL), is an enthusiastic polyglot… or should we say, octoglot? Speaking eight languages and documenting it along the way, Olly knows a thing or two about the trick of the trade. His company’s website is jam packed with courses, tips and most importantly, the promise to teach you a language. But how?
Offering a variety of courses in several languages, Olly’s programs intend to appeal to varying levels of capability. There are three main tracks the student may choose from, directed towards the beginner or intermediate language learner, all in the style of self-study and accessible with a one-time payment.
Maybe you don’t feel like tackling the overwhelming task of fluency and would rather take a low stakes approach to linguistics? There are options for that, too.
Woven through all of these courses is the method of StoryLearning, coined by the creator himself. Let’s dive in.
What’s the StoryLearning method?
When it comes to language learning, there’s one consistency among all of them: rules, rules, rules. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. Unless you ask Olly, who would say that you actually can live without them. With his trademarked StoryLearning method, grammar and worksheets are thrown out the window.
The entire premise rests on constant exposure to your target language in the form of short stories, which he cites as the most basic form of communication. Rosetta Stone might have a quibble with this theory, but IWTYAL guarantees it as a natural and brain-friendly path to fluency.
Uncovering the Uncovered Course
Offered for four languages (Spanish, French, German and Japanese), the Uncovered courses are the ship upon which the StoryLearning method sails. For the price of $297, you’ll receive 20 chapters (modules) that each include a story accompanied by a myriad of supplemental materials. This program will take you about 100 hours to complete, equalling 5 months at 30 minutes per day, and suggests you’ll advance from a beginner to a low intermediate level.
The stories are written by Olly’s team and do include the English translations, which is an important factor to consider when deciding how you want to approach studying. Although the instructions do recommend you save the English translations for last, only utilizing them after you’ve already listened to the primary video, read the text, watched the cognates lesson and taken the comprehension quiz. Once all that’s been checked off, you can work through the remaining videos and worksheets and voilá, you’ve completed one module.
One student of the German Uncovered course wrote in a review that at times the audio quality was poor and the speaking lessons were vague, but that overall she found the program logically organized and the native German instructor motivating and engaging. Schön!
We like the immersive methods used in the Uncovered courses, and it has been touted by many as a really enjoyable experience. If you’re looking for somewhere to start on Olly’s path to language learning, this would be the place.
Though perhaps you prefer to stay covered up, especially under a pile of blankets? In that case, check out our recommended Netflix shows for Spanish learners.
Grammar Hero… we all need one
Remember how the bat-signal would be used by the police of Gotham to summon Batman in times of need? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if language learners had something similar — an advocate to guide us through tenses, conjugations and syntax? Well, that’s the goal with Grammar Hero.
Recommended for intermediate students, you can choose between 6 languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian and Portuguese. The promise is that you will master grammar within 90 days, reading one of Olly’s signature stories per week over 15 weeks. Each story focuses on a “core” area of grammar in your target language, aiming to contextualize your learning experience in the anti-workbook style characteristic of the IWTYAL courses.
Here are the major components…
- Guided discovery: underlined words in the story to emphasize certain grammar rules.
- Expert insights: like sparknotes but for grammar, annotated in the margins of the story.
- Activation exercises: worksheets to drive home the grammar lessons.
After taking the Grammar Hero for Russian course himself, one student concluded in a detailed review that this is a great tool for literary purposes but not ideal for those looking to improve their speaking skills. Luckily, IWTYAL has a program for that, too.
Influenced by Dr. Stephen Krashen’s theory of comprehensible input, the Conversations course offers a story told via audio in 20 parts in your target language. Each audio clip is about four minutes long, accompanied by an English translation to follow along with. For $197, your options are Spanish, Cantonese, Chinese, French, German, Italian and Japanese. The ideal student is at an intermediate level and is looking to improve their skill level through the art of dialogue.
TruFluency’s CEO Micah Bellieu is a big fan of Olly’s Conversations course. So much so that she uses the materials with her Japanese language coach, using the script as a basis for listening, discussing and implementing new words into her vocabulary. She reports “it’s a great way to focus the conversation [and] get listening skills for REAL conversations.” Not only that, but they use the material several times until the chatting becomes more and more natural.
Here at TruFluency, you can do the same. Experience real and tailored conversations with one of our vetted teachers, using the Conversations course as a fun and practical addition.
You bet there’s more. Olly is as much an entrepreneur as he is a polyglot, and there are seven more components to cover ranging from learning tools to free resources. Let’s go over them.
Bulletproof Memory ($197) and Language Learning Foundations ($97) are made for improving specific skills. The names are pretty self explanatory: the former intends to solidify your ability to memorize and recall vocab while the latter is Olly’s “step-by-step blueprint to learning to speak a new language quickly” in the form of a 10-part video course.
Or maybe linguistics isn’t your thing and you just want to know the basics for an upcoming trip to Spain or Mexico. In that case, Survive in Spanish ($47) uses the “Fast Mastery” method to teach you all you need to know in just 14 days. Que rápido!
Enough about Spanish, maybe you want to touch up your English grammar? There’s a course for that. For $47, you can access 15 lessons of self-paced modules made specifically for non-native English speakers.
Keep digging and you’ll also find a podcast with almost 400 episodes, an Online Teacher Accelerator Course for those wanting to teach English online and finally, short story books for beginner and intermediate learners.
*Takes breath* Phew. We probably missed a few.
The question on everybody’s mind
What you’re wondering now is probably something like this: so… will he teach me a language? With all of these tools at your disposal, we think it’s a good start. The Uncovered courses aim to take you to a B1 level on the CEFR, a type of language test, which is classified as a step below professional proficiency. The Conversations lessons will up your game if you’re an auditory learner. And the Bulletproof Memory package will give you some valuable tips on accessing that ever fleeting vocab.
There is a seriously valuable slew of resources over at IWTYAL, and we’d be remiss to not give some kudos to Olly’s team for all the advances they’ve made in the field.