My Next Project – The Year Without English

Last year, in October, I finished the MIT Challenge. Now, I’m proud to announce my next yearlong learning project The Year Without English.

As with the MIT Challenge, I’ve made a central page where I’ll post all the daily conversation logs and the videos for each leg of the trip. Click here to see the main page for the project.

The goal of the project–to not speak English for a year and, in doing so, attempt to learn four new languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese and Korean. I won’t be doing this trip alone. I will be accompanied on this trip with my friend, Vat Jaiswal, who will also be learning the languages under the same constraint, even though this is his first language learning experience as an adult.

The adventure starts September 5th, when we’re off to Valencia, Spain for the next three months. We’ll even have the pleasure of getting hands-on advice from another famous polyglot, Benny Lewis, as we start our journey.

Wish us luck!

  • Derial

    Very excited to see where this project leads. I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone doing this so it’s a very novel project. Sounds challenging, but definitely doable. Best of luck Scott and keep us updated!

  • Scott Leibrand

    You don’t mention anything here or in the linked page about whether (how much) you plan to continue reading and writing in English. What are your rules there?

  • Nitin

    Wow, this will be exhilarating! I wish I had the time for this kinda stuff. Apart from English, I speak three other Indian languages fluently, and currently am dabbling in another Indian language, and Spanish. You guys just motivated me to follow along on your journey. Good luck, you both.

    On a side note, Scott, do you or Cal Newport plan on publishing what you folks got out of your knowledge work deliberate practice program, that you both held not too long ago? I’d be very much interested in how it played out.

  • Ricardo Felipe

    Hi Scott!
    i like your ambicious and your love to challange yourself. I would give my good hand for that.

    Just for curious:what portuguese do you will pretend to learn? the portuguese from Portugual or from Brazil?

    Anyway, i´m brasilian.If i could help you, will be a huge pleasure.

    My best!

  • Toni Cebrián


    I’m from Valencia (although currently living in Barcelona). If you are going to spend 3 months there we should have a beer. We could talk about my learning project for this year inspired somehow by your site 🙂


  • Luca

    Her Scott,

    Wonderful challenge. Even more intriguing than the MIT challenge. It is something I am planning to do after finishing University.
    On a sad note though I understand that you won’t be able to follow your “students” on Learning on Steroids (me included). And that is really, really sad!

    I have a question for you: will you update with some regularity like the weekly MIT challenge videos or do we have to expect a sort of “National Geographic documentary” when you come back next year?

    By the way, I wish you and your friend good luck!

  • Andrea

    Hey!!!! I will be in Valencia Sept 6th – 8th. I live in Barcelona but we will be road tripping around for a few weeks before summer’s over. Have fun!!!!

  • Benny Lewis

    See you in a week and a half 😉 I’ll get you started on the right foot with español!

  • Michael

    This is absolutely amazing, how does one even begin to embark on such a journey? Do I understand this correctly? You are going to travel for a year and on your travels you will not be speaking any english to the people you meet? That would be so far out of my comfort zone.

    Good luck with your travels, I am sure you guys are going to have a blast!!

  • Luis Garcia

    ¡Excelente idea e iniciativa! me encantará estar al tanto del experimento. Si hay algo que pueda ayudar me encantaría hacerlo. Un cordial saludo, L.

  • David

    Hi Scott,
    I follow your blog since a long time ago. I am Spanish and I live in Valencia. I would like to meet you if you are interested.
    If I can be of any help during your stay in Valencia, please let me know! 🙂

  • Tom Boyden

    This is absolutely great, Scott! I was so excited to see this in Benny’s newsletter after I heard the two of you speak in an interview about your French. Heaps of good luck go out to you!

  • Leona

    Will you post your progress in English? I find your challenge fascinating, but I can only read English.

  • Brian Kwong

    Yo Scott, looking forward to see your journey man, its going to be a wild ride!

  • Kell

    Heyyy I sent you an email, but not sure if you will see, so let me send here too lol

    Hiiii Scott! How are you? I´m Kellen, from Brazil – Rio de Janeiro.
    I just read your blog and found your idea amazing!!! I’d like to know when are you come to Brazil?
    I would like to keep in touch and met you in Rio…I can also help you if my Portuguese. I learned English in Canada 1 year ago and I find it very cool that you had interest in learning my language. So, if you need any help, let me know 🙂

    Cheers and have a safe trip!

  • Victoria

    Mucha suerte y buenas vibras, Scott 😀 ¡Y gracias por responder mi mail!

  • Armen Shirvanian

    Hi Scott.

    I like that you create long-term plans like this and have followed through on the one you had done previously. I think you will learn a bunch here like you did with the MIT Challenge. Language is something that many people would like to develop, but don’t get to, and you are making it so that you must develop 4 within a year.

    Keep up the good work and I look forward to the updates.

  • Piyush

    Hey Scott, I rem. you mentioning (in a post or somewhere) you’re a vegetarian…think you’ll have trouble with your dietary needs as you travel since all those countries you’re traveling to are mainly meat-eating?

  • Ravi

    Thank you for inspiring me for doing lot of things. And keep up doing projects like this.
    Good luck!

  • Nate Glenn

    Hope you have a great time! My wife and I are planning to move abroad and spend 1-3 years in each place. 3 months in each place will probably leave you wishing you could stay longer, but I think it will be a fun and interesting challenge for you and that you will be happy with your progress. I look forward to seeing the progress in your audio logs.

  • Oliver

    That sounds dangerous.

    I’ve actually done that, albeit not by choice. My native tongues are German and Chinese, English being my second (or third?) language.

    I was fluent in it (thanks to the beauty of IRC channels), but before I went to an international school in Beijing, China shortly before my 14th birthday, I never opened my mouth to speak it. My first day was…tense, but I managed.

    3 years later, I spoke and wrote in cleaner English than all the ABCs (American Born Chinese) in my school, in fact, better than my German. That’s the crux of the matter.

    I’m back in Germany now. I still speak German, but it’s nowhere near the German I used to speak. It’s cracked, interlaced with English idoms, and sometimes incomprehensible. Frankly, I’ve lost my natural proficiency with the German Gramatik, dilluted my vocab with nonexistent anglicisms, alas, I digress.

    I also learned way to many SAT words.

    Just know that your English will likely suffer from it.

    PS: How do you expect to learn Mandarin in Taiwan? Most of them will speak the Taiwanese dialect, and even if they do speak Mandarin with you, it’s like French English, but without the sexyness. Most of my Taiwanese friends sound like cavemen when they try to speak mandarin.

  • Juan

    Whoa, as a language lover I’m really impressed by your project. Good luck with it! Will you guys be traveling around Spain during or after your stay in Valencia? It could be a great opportunity to meet up with your Spanish readers.

  • FireInk

    Chinese is not very easy.
    Good luck to you!

  • Owen

    Chinese is not easy to learn, and why don’t you come to China(mainland)?Maybe simple Chinese is easy to accept.

  • Fan Wu

    Hi Scott!
    I think you have so many interesting ideas. Your life must be colorful for finding the ways to get more from life!
    I’m Chinese,I can help you in Chinese,I’d be glad to promote some books to learn this language better.You konw ,chinese is the most difficult language to learn 🙂
    Good luck!

  • Fred

    Hi Scott!

    I wish you both good lucky in This challenge! Nowadays, everywhere, people and cultures absorbed english and it is part of routine. I think the hard part will be with mandarim.

    I am from Brazil and I can help you if you need… Portuguese is easy (Português é fácil). What are your plans in Brazil?

  • dag

    I wish you success! ¡Mucho éxito! It’s going to be difficult but it’s not impossible to achieve very basic communication skills. However, I forebode you both will mix Spanish and Portuguese.
    Since I am also passionate about languages and try to learn adquire some new ones, I will follow this challenge with special interest.

    Por cierto, mi primer idioma es el español…;
    e a miña terceira é o galego, que é moi semellante á portugués.

  • Jay

    This sounds like it could really be both exciting and a mental deluge. Wish you much resiliency!

  • Irrefutable

    Si puedes leer mi comentario, es que vas bien.

  • Ayana

    Good luck! I’ve been living in Japan for 2.6 months now and have wished for situations where I don’t speak English for a year but it’s a struggle. Plus I teach English therefore I have to speak. Anyway enjoy the times you get over humps

  • Edmund Dantes

    Hola Amigo,

    Va a escribir en ingles todavia? O en espanol, frances … ?

  • Olu

    Hi Scott, You are indeed a smart guy and can motivate yourself to do different stuffs. The human brain is very interesting and under utilized most times. Its really encouraging to see people like you placing high demands on their brains. Good stuff!

  • Louise Mason

    The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it…interested to see how long it takes before you start dreaming in another language, thats when you know its clicked! i dream in french but i can only count to 10 in korean…
    this blog has given me some more ideas to add to my travel plans!

  • Christina

    Hi Scott! I love your blog because I think you are really contributing something original here.

    However, my concern with this challenge is that your blog will look like all the other language blogs out there for the next year, and I have to admit that those blogs just seem to become redundant after a while (I’ve followed a lot of them and bought products from some of them before).

    What will you do differently to keep your readers engaged, especially those of us who have followed a lot of the top language blogs out there?

    I don’t mean to be a hater, but I was hoping your challenge would shed light on a less saturated topic. Can you let us know what your unique contribution will be to the language blog world for the next year?

  • Zach

    Esto es brillante. Buena suerte!

  • Scott Young


    I’ve thought about that a lot actually. A big part of it is the video project we’re trying to do for each country. I can’t say whether it will truly make it’s mark, because the power is in the execution, not the idea, but I feel it will show the language learning process in a way that has never been done before.

    Beyond that, my blog definitely won’t be a language-learning-only blog for the next year. If you look at the articles I wrote during the MIT Challenge, most weren’t about that particular project. The projects I undertake add flavor to my blog, but I try not to let them overwhelm it.


  • Dan

    Taiwan (also Hong kong) is using Traditional Chinese while the mainland is using the Simplified Chinese. The former is much more difficult to read and write (equally difficult to speak and listen), and is used less for obvious reasons (considering the population, impact and geographic difference). On the other hand, living in Taiwan should be more comfortable since it shares common idealogical value with the west, and the social and economical development is better than the mainland. While in the mainland, there are rich history, convention, and culture diversity. So I would say living in Taiwan gives smoother experiences while in the mainland you probably lives tougher but will have much bigger return in experience.

    P.S.: I don’t think your time scheduled in China/Taiwan is enough considering the language and culture is vastly different from the West, maybe a full year in China/Taiwan is reasonable.

  • Dan

    Hi Scott,

    Many thought leaders like you are multi-lingual, yet most of them are confined within Indo-European languages. If someone like you could really master Chinese, think about the gains, impact and opportunities: huge!!!!


  • Dan

    Finally, mastering Chinese is much more challenging than the MIT challenge. If you can prove it, you for sure will stand out from most of the thought leaders.

  • Minyoung

    Hi Scott,

    I found your blog while searching CS curriculum of MIT. I have a great interest to learn programming language in short period of time and your story was quite inspiring. I’m really willing to see how you learn 4 languages within a year. if you have any question about Korean or plan to visit Korean, feel free to send an e-mail.
    I wish your success 🙂