Andrea Caschetto (Italy)
Before being diagnosed with a brain tumour, Andrea Caschetto was one of the top students in his school in Sicily, Italy. After his diagnosis, his doctors told him that he’d never learn again.
Fast-forward to today, and Andrea is cancer-free, speaks an impressive five languages, and has travelled to more than 94 countries to inspire and help others.
But learning Spanish, English, French and Portuguese as second languages – in addition to his mother tongue, Italian – was no easy feat.
Andrea’s brain tumour surgery left him with memory problems. He would travel abroad, but later forget every moment of his trips when returning home to Italy.
But one day, after returning from a trip to an orphanage in South Africa, he realised that he remembered something – the faces and smiles of the children he met at the orphanage.
This revelation inspired Andrea to keep travelling the world to help children in need, and bring smiles to their faces.
It also guided him to start learning in a different way: with his emotions. And from that point, there was no stopping Andrea in his pursuit to learn languages.
In 2016, he was invited to share his story at the United Nations, as part of an event for the International Day of Happiness. He was given the option of speaking in Italian, with an interpreter on hand. But determined to inspire others, Andrea decided to deliver his entire speech in English.
When it came to learning languages, he discovered Busuu – which has been his learning tool of choice for the last few years.
“I found Busuu’s visual approach and ways of teaching grammar really helpful. When I spent one month in Paris to learn French, I started each day by studying the language on Busuu before heading out to speak with people,” Andrea says.
Andrea’s advice to other language learners
For Andrea, the keys to progressing further with a language are having the confidence to speak with others, and the willingness to succeed.
“People are often embarrassed to speak with other people in a foreign language when travelling abroad, but after a beer or wine, they suddenly find their confidence!”
“I wake up every day wanting to achieve something. Don’t think that you don’t have time. Never stop believing. If I can learn, anyone can!”
Philipp Kessler (Austria)
Back in December 2019, before COVID-19 took hold of the world, Philipp Kessler and his wife Karin wanted to leave their home country, Austria, and explore the world.
Before the pandemic locked down most of the world, the couple quit their jobs and started to plan their around-the-world adventure. But their plans had to quickly change as borders started closing.
“As you can imagine, we had to adjust our plans a few months before the start of our journey. Instead of taking the Transsiberian Railway from Russia over Mongolia to China and exploring more of Asia, we had to start in Europe. You can’t always stick to your plans,” Phillip told us.
After travelling across Europe, the pair found themselves in Mexico – where every day became an opportunity for Philipp to immerse himself in the Spanish language and culture.
He began each day studying Spanish grammar and vocabulary with Busuu, before venturing out to put everything he learned into practice.
Everyday tasks, like grocery shopping, taking a bus or getting a haircut, became eye-opening and (quite literally) fruitful experiences for Philipp.
When a local market vendor taught him about exotic fruit that he’d never seen before, Philipp realised how rewarding it was to connect with locals in their language.
“Most of the time people are happy to see you at least try to speak their language.”
“My Spanish skills were also pretty helpful when, recently, we decided to take the second class bus from Oaxaca to Puebla. At the bus terminal, there was no information about our departure. I had to ask… In Mexico, you often have to ask for information because you don’t always find them on the internet…”
“Busuu has also helped me when I was at the barbershop. There are special exercises for visiting the hairdresser. So I could tell him exactly what I would like my hair to look like. And fortunately, it worked out very well…”
Philipp’s advice to other language learners
Philipp’s advice for others, whether travelling or at home, is to find opportunities to have conversations with others in the language you’re learning.
“Studying with Busuu and then using the things I’ve learned is the best combination for me.”
Maggie Miao (USA)
Like a lot of people, Maggie started looking for ways to pass the time and feel productive during the lockdown period. More importantly, she was keen to find an activity that didn’t feel too stressful or heavy.
And so Maggie decided to learn a language – choosing to learn Japanese because of her interest in anime and the large community of Japanese learners out there.
“Learning a language gives me a good way to pass the time! It’s enjoyable, but still ‘productive’, so I feel good and empowered when I study,” says Maggie.
“I always feel guilty when I do things I enjoy like watch TV shows or play games, but with Busuu I can do something I enjoy without the guilt.”
Maggie’s advice to other language learners
Keeping on track with a learning goal is difficult at the best of times, not to mention during a lockdown.
Focus on your end goal, and have a plan in place to help you achieve it.
“I like looking at my Study Plan whenever I feel unmotivated or feel like I haven’t gotten anywhere, especially the part where it tells me the date I’m projected to reach my goal.”
“Whenever I see that I’m like, ‘if I just put in 30 minutes a day, in a year I’ll be able to conversationally speak in a different language’.”
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