Florian Decludt on learning languages and adapting to cultures (#48)

I can’t believe that we’ve released almost fifty episodes and we haven’t talked about languages yet. I mean, you’d think that language is quite important when it comes to communication. So we’re finally having that conversation. And who better to have it with than someone who has learned to speak eight languages?

Today we talk to Florian Decludt. Florian has lived in eight different countries and can speak eight languages. He has a wealth of knowledge to share about adapting to cultures and learning new languages. He has worked as a diplomat, salesperson, teacher, solopreneur and growth marker. One common theme has been Florian’s ability to learn and adapt. We learnt a lot from talking to Florian and we trust that you will too.

We hope you enjoy this informative conversation with Florian Decludt.

You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or Simplecast.

Show Notes

1:21 – the first person to disagree on LinkedIn.
5:20 – the countries Florian has lived in.
7:18 – most difficult country to adapt to.
9:17 – are people less friendly in some countries?
12:32 – some cultures are more indirect.
14:36 – how to get an insight to the country’s unwritten rules.
16:30 – how Florian felt about going to a boarding school in a new country where he didn’t speak the language.
18:09 – why should people live in a different country?
24:45 – a new country is a clean slate.
27:10 – finding yourself when travelling.
32:00 – fear of failure stopping us from starting.
36:57 – don’t overthink what you say because people don’t care.
39:10 – tying self worth to people’s opinions.
41:48 – learning and fear and failure.
44:18 – is social media a waste of time?
47:50 – create a learning entourage.
50:30 – the benefits of learning new languages.
57:45 – how to learn a new language?
1:09:21 – connect with Florian.

Links to References

LinkedIn post where Divan disagreed with Florian

Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool


Dominican Republic

Haiti is the poorest country in the LAC region

Justin Welsh

Florian’s first LinkedIn post

Study: Bilingualism delays onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms

Forvo: pronunciation dictionary

Duolingo: language learning app

Language chart: Foreign Language Training, Foreign Services Institute, U.S. Department of State

Key Quotes

“I tried to do it to the max and figure out the game.”

“People tend to agree a lot and I think that’s terrible because the moment everybody agrees with you is the moment you are in trouble because you are not being challenged any more.”

“I have lived in eight different countries.”

“The hardest country to adapt to was the UK because I didn’t speak the language.”

“Because I didn’t speak the language I had a hard time integrating with the culture.”

“It’s not that Parisians don’t like Asian people, we don’t like anybody, even other French people.”

“Different cultures have different ways of showing they disagree with you.”

“I’ve found the friendliest country to be the US.”

“The harder the shell, the better the people are at the core.”

“When you go to places like Japan, Thailand or Philippines you have a feeling that everyone agrees with you and everyone is so nice but because you don’t read their cues you don’t understand that you’re making a fool of yourself and no one agrees with you and no one is ever going to do business with you and everybody hates you.”

“When a Japanese person says that it’s going to be difficult that means ‘no’. They’re not going to say no.”

“Join a language class [in the country you have moved to]. You will be with a teacher who can speak some English and they’ll understand all the questions you have [about the country’s unwritten rules] because it won’t be the first time a foreigner shows up with lots of questions about the country… And you’ll meet fellow learners who have just moved to the country.”

“I turned to my dad and said: why is this guy speaking English? Why can’t he speak French like everyone else?”

“That was the best decision my parents made for my education [sending me to boarding school in the UK to learn English] but at the time it was a tough pill to swallow.”

“Living in a different country makes you appreciate so many things.”

“When you live in a different country you are in a position of weakness. You might not speak the language, you are a guest in the country. You have to respect a whole new set of rules. That’s a very humbling experience.”

“When you live in all these different places there’s things you appreciate in every single country.”

“The number one motivator for me to go to Australia was that I just wasn’t happy with my life in France, I wasn’t happy with who I was and I was looking for a clean slate.”

“People say that you’re a product of your environment and that’s really, really true.”

“That’s something that’s really helped me with language learning: I try to imitate people.”

“I don’t think you find yourself. You shape yourself. You shape yourself through different experiences.”

“When you don’t speak the local language you are not free.”

“Authenticity does really well on LinkedIn.”

“That early success showed me that I can figure it out and that it’s possible.”

“It’s liberating, but people don’t care. They don’t care about you. They care about what you can do for them.”

“It’s about finding your purpose beyond just the views and the likes.”

“What you want [to learn a new language] is a really strong motivator. That is the key.”

“That’s why it’s so important to have those three different types of people in your entourage [people ahead of you, people at the same level as you and people you are helping] because they are going to stretch you and also help you measure your progress.”

“Studies show that it delays Alzeihmer’s by two to three years if you are bilingual and it delays it more if you speak more languages.”

“My best advice [to learn a new language] is just pick a country or culture that you are really interested in.”

“The more interested you are in the language or the culture, the more likely you are to learn it because you will stick with it longer.”

“Yes, definitely learn a new language because it is good for you in so many aspects but be very deliberate about which language you want to learn.”

“I hate it when people pick a language to learn because it’s useful…but then can barely order a bowl of rice. I’d rather speak to someone in a so-called useless language who can speak it really well.” 

“Most people who want to learn French go to Paris. That’s a terrible idea because in Paris so many people speak English. So people go to Paris for six months and say ‘I don’t speak French!’”

“Watch some Youtube videos in that language. Even if you don’t understand it at that point, the point is to train your ear to listen to the language to get the words and the rhythm as well.”

“Watch the news and try to mimic their body language.” 

“You are not going to learn a language using Duolingo. Duolingo is only useful if you want to maintain your language.”

“The only way to learn a language is to speak it.”

“People have this obsession with making learning fun… if you really, really want to learn it’s not fun. The best type of practice is not fun.”

“You don’t need more fun, you need more motivation [to learn a language].”

“Talent is a myth. Have you been deliberately practising the skills required?”

“Lower the bar and pick a language that is easier to learn. Once you learn a language you break the belief barrier and you can try more difficult languages.”

About the author

Divan and Mark are co-hosts of the Candour Communication Podcast where we discuss interpersonal communication and all the human stuff that gets in the way.