Motivational speaker Paul Hughes joined us to tell our Year 9 students his story and how learning languages has changed his life. In a presentation, Paul spoke about how languages have changed his life. He described finding school hard (he was diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult) and how he was never successful in exams. After leaving school, he joined the Royal Air Force and was soon recruited to Special Forces. He described research that showed how linguists have more connections in their brain – more white matter – which makes them faster and helps them in other areas of their lives. He credits his language learning as the catalyst for all he has achieved, from working with premiership footballers, to lecturing at Cambridge University, to appearing on the TV programme ‘Hunted’.
He dared our students to ‘go limitless’, to use his sports coaching techniques to push past the thinking part of their brain that might tell them they have limits or that they should give up. He explained how he used flashcards to learn a hundred new words per day and how he used this technique to master Russian, Arabic and Pashto. Our Year 9 students found Paul’s presentation “funny, amusing and inspiring.” One student said that they “enjoyed how he motivated people with ADHD and dyslexia to chase their dreams.” Another said that “it’s changed my views on languages and it makes me want to learn more languages.” It is a testament to Paul’s style, content and delivery that not only did students come out of the session buzzing, but staff too.