West Van YouTuber amasses huge following teaching world to speak, one language at a time
Anyone with enough motivation and time can learn a new language, Steve Kaufmann says, and age is no factor.
He should know: The West Vancouverite speaks 20 languages to varying degrees of proficiency, has 400,000 subscribers on his YouTube instructional channel and more than 25 million views. And co-founded LingQ , a language-learning app used by more than one million people.
Learning a language isn’t hard and it should be fun, is his motto .
It’s a bit like going for a long walk, he says, one in which you may not reach your destination but you are definitely getting somewhere: If you’re able to enjoy the scenery, wherever you wind up is fine.
Kaufmann was born in Sweden, just after the Second World War ended, to parents who were Czechoslovakian Jews, but the family moved to Montreal in 1950, when he was five years old.
At 17, he quit a job in construction and looked for a ship in the Montreal port that would take him to Europe in exchange for on-board work. After a couple of rejections he was successful with the Gerda Schell, a German tramp steamer. Ten days later the boat was moored at the docks in London, England, and from there Kaufmann travelled to Dover, caught a ferry to Ostend in Belgium, then headed to Grenoble in France, where he spent a year living at the foot of the Alps.
He had had French classes growing up in Montreal, but now he dove in headfirst, studying in French at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, a grande école that luminaries such as Pierre Trudeau and several French presidents attended. From there, Kaufmann thumbed his way around Europe, gaining basic grasps of Spanish, Italian and German.