Register  Login  Active Topics  Maps  

Alexander Arguelles

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
71 messages over 9 pages: 1 2 3 46 7 ... 5 ... 8 9 Next >>
United States
Joined 5994 days ago

59 posts - 65 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Turkish
Studies: German, Mandarin, French

 Message 33 of 71
06 June 2005 at 1:52pm | IP Logged 
Your point on the number of words for literature was driven home to me the other day. I picked up Cervantes -it has long been a goal to read this work in the original - the structure made sense and I can follow the story. But there were many nouns I didn't know. And while I could read it, I felt I was loosing the art of the work. So I'm going to put it off for a few more months while I build my vocabulary.
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 6052 days ago

521 posts - 485 votes 
1 sounds
Speaks: Spanish*, EnglishC2, GermanB1

 Message 34 of 71
06 June 2005 at 3:32pm | IP Logged 
No problem if there are many unknown nouns in Cervantes works. Not even native Spanish speakers can read say "Don Quijote" without a dictionary because most of the words are obsolete in Modern Spanish. I would recommend reading a simplified version for Spanish speakers. BTW, although I have "Don Quijote", I have never read it. I have watched it in films and animated movies, read it in comics, and enjoyed "Man of la Mancha".

Another Spanish language writer that requires a lot of vocabulary from readers is Gabriel García Márquez. I've met quite a lot of native readers who have put off his books because of this.

Edited by jradetzky on 06 June 2005 at 3:36pm

1 person has voted this message useful

United States
Joined 6101 days ago

609 posts - 2100 votes 

 Message 35 of 71
25 June 2005 at 10:39pm | IP Logged 
I am very sorry for this long-delayed response to several pointed questions—a combination of professorial duties and paternal responsibilities has left me with extremely little time of late, and what time I do have, I have to devote to keeping up my languages first and foremost, which is one of the main burdens of being a polyglot—as well as one of the main pleasures, and mine has lately been to indulge every spare second enjoying the breakthrough I have recently made in my ability to read and enjoy Arabic literature.

I certainly did not decide to become a polyglot “just for the sake of being so,” but neither did I become one as a “side-effect” of learning languages for another specific purpose. I always enjoyed language classes more than any other aspect of my university curriculum, probably because of the measurable progress. By the time I was an advanced student in graduate school, I had no more time to work on languages because I had to interact intensively with contemporary critical theory, which frankly seemed to me to be nothing but mere meaningless verbiage. I had to do this to earn my doctorate, but it was at that point that I decided that it was all nonsense and that what I really wanted to do was to learn as many languages as I could, as well as I could. There was a point at which I studied some languages just for their own sake (i.e., to survey a new and different grammatical and lexical structure), but in general there has always been a philological if not a philosophical drive behind my study (i.e., to understand new languages in relation to others I already knew, and to be able to think in patterns that were not native to me), as well as a dominating and overarching cultural motivation (i.e., to be able to read literature in them).

I am sure that I have already treated the when’s and why’s of my monastic, language-devoted life-style earlier in this thread, but perhaps that has gotten buried because it has now grown so embarrassingly long. When I went to Korea in 1996 for the sake of learning the language in-country, I found myself in an idyllically isolated environment. Having always previously lived in culturally interesting cities such as Berlin and Chicago, I expected to go stir-crazy, but instead I soon found that such a situation was perfect for intensive language study. I had the means and the discipline to go at a specific intellectual goal, and so I did so with passion. I spent five years (1996-2000) really obsessively learning new languages, and another four years (2001-2004) polishing the ones I decided to keep. I left then for three main reasons: 1) I had always chafed at the orientation of the university with which I was affiliated; 2) I had always planned my life in stages, and since I had spent nearly a decade in East Asia, it was simply time to move on to spend the next decade in another civilization, and; 3) linguistically, when it comes to exotic languages, you can only get so far by studying on your own—once you are advanced enough, you have to live them, and it was time for me to do this with Arabic.

Although I profited greatly from this “monastic” experience and enjoyed it greatly at the time, it was clearly a one-sided and imbalanced existence, and what I was always really striving for was a balanced and well-rounded education. I do believe that a knowledge of enough languages so as to incidentally qualify as a polyglot is an essential aspect of an ideal education, for to me being educated means not so much knowing information, but rather knowing how to go about getting information and put it into a meaningful context. Information is out there in a considerable number of culturally important or “fulfilled” languages, and so knowing enough of these is an integral part of the process and spending the requisite years to acquire them is an absolute necessity, and in so doing (if one goes about it in a philological and philosophical way), one learns not only the languages themselves, but about Language (i.e., the structure of the mind). So yes, for me a Renaissance concept of an all-rounded education really must begin with languages, just as the old Trivium did, but we, alas, can no longer be limited to Latin alone, for the vernaculars have been used as cultural vehicles for centuries now in the West, and the world has shrunk and our ability to access cultures and languages outside of Europe has increased to the point when it seems to me intellectually blind if not criminally negligent not to gain some meaningful insight into them as well.

My ideal of a balanced education centers around building an encyclopedic mind. My own education has been lopsided in favor of the humanities, but I also strive to have a basic knowledge of what in my old-fashioned way I think of as “natural history” in all its branches, as well as of mathematics. One cannot read or know everything, but after a certain point it strikes me as scandalously shameful to be ignorant of the basic facts of universal history, the components of culture, or its most outstanding artifacts. For instance, there is no contesting the fact that Cervantes’ “Don Quijote” is the single most important work in all of Spanish literature, and that it also holds an extremely high rank in the canon of monuments of world literature. Someone who has a well-balanced, well-rounded education will have read such a work. To the person who wants to read it but was put off by the many unfamiliar nouns, I would say this—don’t put it off! The only way to build your vocabulary to read it is to sit down and read it. The idea of a simplified version horrifies me, but an annotated version, with the archaic vocabulary at the bottom of each page, surely makes perfect sense. However, if you can follow the story, if you just read through the entire work, you will get much of the vocabulary from context. Granted, you may have to read it more than once, but it is more than worth it. While I would not venture to match my Spanish against that of anyone from Spain or Mexico, I can and have read both Cervantes and Gabriel García Márquez with both pleasure and understanding. Indeed, I really would not venture to say that I knew Spanish if I had not done so. I am well aware that most people, including most members of this forum, view “knowing” a language as meaning being about to communicate effectively with living contemporary speakers, but for me this ability is simply an additional benefit of really knowing a language, which means knowing whence it came and how it got to be what it is, and knowing the content of the literature and thought that has been expressed in it.

Edited by Ardaschir on 25 June 2005 at 10:56pm

4 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 5990 days ago

363 posts - 368 votes 
Speaks: English*, Polish

 Message 36 of 71
26 June 2005 at 5:50am | IP Logged 
Hello Ardaschir,

Nice to see you back on the forum again. I read in one of your earlier threads that you were working on a book about polyglottery. I was just wondering how this is coming along and when it might be published. I'm sure I' not the only one on this site who would be intersted in reading it.

Also, have you considered putting it out as a (paid for) e-book which people could just download from the net? I've noticed over the past couple of years that e-books are becoming more popular.
1 person has voted this message useful

Raistlin Majere
Trilingual Hexaglot
Senior Member
Joined 5997 days ago

455 posts - 424 votes 
7 sounds
Speaks: English*, Spanish*, Catalan*, FrenchA1, Italian, German
Studies: Swedish

 Message 37 of 71
28 June 2005 at 2:27pm | IP Logged 
Ardaschir, I was just wondering; is Finnish one of the many languages you know?
1 person has voted this message useful

Joined 5994 days ago

24 posts - 23 votes
1 sounds
Speaks: English

 Message 38 of 71
30 June 2005 at 2:46pm | IP Logged 
Ardaschir, you said that you have studied Linguistics. Could you please explain in short of which this field of study consists because I connect rather topics like the theory of communication with it. Actually, does a dissertation permit you to teach languages all over the world (thinking of your jobs in Korea and in Libanon now) or do you have any other special qualifications? Furthermore I am interested in which subjects permit you to teach languages in other countries, or does it suffice when one has studied something connected with languages.


Edited by creeper on 30 June 2005 at 2:47pm

1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 6026 days ago

608 posts - 733 votes 
Speaks: English*, Mandarin
Studies: German

 Message 39 of 71
09 July 2005 at 10:32am | IP Logged 
Ardaschir, thanks for your account. I have had a lull in my studies. And, I've spent far too long reading this web site. You've inspired me. I'm going to get back to regimented studying NOW.
1 person has voted this message useful

United States
Joined 6101 days ago

609 posts - 2100 votes 

 Message 40 of 71
22 July 2005 at 1:07am | IP Logged 
Nephilim, I have about 300 pages of my book on polyglottery in relatively complete format and another 300 or so in notes. Although I consider this book to be far more important than any of my other research projects (generally reference works such as dictionaries and grammars), it is consequently more difficult to write, and as I have some contractual obligations to finish some other projects first, it might take a few more years to see the light of day. Personally I would rather have a nice hard copy of it to hold, but you are right, e-books are becoming more and more popular, and so maybe by the time I have it finished, that will indeed be the format.

Raistlin Majere, Finnish one of the many languages that I started but did not continue with. I have a professional philological overview of it, but I don’t know it in any meaningful sense at all. Why didn’t I continue with it? Well, once you have branched out of European languages, it is not particularly exotic or challenging, and it doesn’t have any real literary tradition.

Creeper, much of what I studied in school was philology or historical linguistics, which is concerned with how languages are related to each other and how they change over time. A degree in this doesn’t permit you to teach all over the world, nor does a knowledge of many languages, but rather it is a combination of these qualities that seems to have opened doors for me.

Delectric, you are quite right, regimented studying is the only way to get anywhere, and even sites like this, as interesting and informative as they may be, can distract you too much. Stay at it and—good luck!

2 persons have voted this message useful

This discussion contains 71 messages over 9 pages: << Prev 1 2 3 46 7 8 9  Next >>

Post ReplyPost New Topic Printable version Printable version

You cannot post new topics in this forum - You cannot reply to topics in this forum - You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum - You cannot create polls in this forum - You cannot vote in polls in this forum

This page was generated in 0.4063 seconds.

DHTML Menu By Milonic JavaScript
Copyright 2021 FX Micheloud - All rights reserved
No part of this website may be copied by any means without my written authorization.