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Becoming a polyglot. Misdirected dream?

 Language Learning Forum : Polyglots Post Reply
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DavidMansaray
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United Kingdom
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 Message 1 of 12
07 December 2011 at 7:50pm | IP Logged 
'is wanting to be a polyglot a misdirected dream?'

I recently wrote an article on my blog discussing this and I wonder what you all think.

I browse language forums and read a few language blogs and it's clear that many people - although it's a niche -
want to be a polyglots. I think it's easy to see the accomplishments of others and then want to do the same.
However, it takes hard-work and dedication; something that polyglots have because of how much they love
languages.

(I’m not saying that only polyglots work hard and have dedication, just that it comes easier to them because of
their obsessive passion)

I've had the pleasure of interviewing a few polyglots and I've noticed that none of them planned to be polyglots.
It just kinda happened.

Aiming to be a polyglot I think sets yourself up for failure; and can stop you from feeling proud of what you have
accomplished.

What do you all think? Is wanting to be a polyglot a misdirected dream?


PS: you can read the article I wrote earlier here if you want.

http://www.davidmansaray.com/polyglot-misdirection

I'm look forward to all your great responses!





Fasulye
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 Message 2 of 12
07 December 2011 at 9:47pm | IP Logged 
DavidMansaray wrote:
I've had the pleasure of interviewing a few polyglots and I've noticed that none of them planned to be polyglots. It just kinda happened.


David, I got your Twitter-link to your blog and I read your blog-article. I should add that I am also one of those polyglots who didn't plan to become one. My opinion is that if you aim so high you set yourself under too much pressure and that reduces the fun of language learning.

The natural way is that your learn your first foreign language and you enjoy it. Then your ask yourself whether you should learn a next foreign language. Then you have a good occasion and you do it. Afterwards you plan a trip to the country X. To prepare the trip you decide to dabble in the language X. While dabbling you discover that this language is fascinating. Then you start studying this new language but you also see the necessity to revise the first two languages. So you try to balance the language revision with the learning of the newst language X.

This is just a fictive example how the accumulation of languages could develop but you can imagine how this could go further. At some point in your life you could decide: "Perhaps I can be called a polyglot."

No, I would not recommend planning polyglottery only because you watch some people on You Tube giving multilingual interviews. I think it's more language learning in general what these polyglots want to inspire. At least I for myself want to inspire language learning in general with my videos, because it should be more popular to learn foreign languages.

But this is a good point: I will discuss this topic with some polyglots where I have contact with. It now interests me what their opinions are on the topic you have presented here.

Fasulye
1 person has voted this message useful



Jarvis1000
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United States
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 Message 3 of 12
07 December 2011 at 10:00pm | IP Logged 
I never tried to learn a language for most of my life, but then I went to Thailand and learned how to speak Thai. And that is where my addiction started! Learned Esperanto for a bit, because the idea facinated me. Now I am learning Spanish, because why not?

I think its a great goal to have!
2 persons have voted this message useful



mick33
Senior Member
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 Message 4 of 12
07 December 2011 at 10:36pm | IP Logged 
Excellent topic!
I think aiming to be a polyglot could have set me up for failure if I still had the unrealistic expectations I had in 2007 when I decided to attempt to learn Afrikaans and Dutch at the same time with the belief that I would be fluent in both languages within 6 months. At that time, I believed that fluent would mean that in 6 months I would be speaking, reading, writing and listening to Dutch and Afrikaans as comfortably as I can do this things in English. How wrong I was to think this, because I had failed to remember the amount of time and effort it takes to learn a language, even one's mother tongue, to a relatively high level. There were other factors as well, such as that I failed to define fluency in greater detail (I have since come to understand that each person has their own definition of fluency or proficiency, and that's fine) or to devise a clear plan for how to become fluent,or that in 6 months I would, more likely, only speak and understand both languages at a low to intermediate level at best. Learning to use another language to the same level, or even close to the same level, as I can use English actually takes longer than 6 months. The discovery that Dutch and Afrikaans are very similar to each other didn't help matters either; I naïvely thought that I didn't have pay any attention to the sometimes subtle, and sometimes striking, differences between the languages, therefore I became very confused very quickly.

Once I had a better understanding of what is necessary to learn languages to even a low, but still usable, level I found that learning languages more languages could compliment my study of psychology by perhaps giving me more insight on how people think, how they express their thoughts and whether or not speaking a different language changes how people think or express their thoughts.

Thus, for me, becoming a polyglot is not a misdirected dream so long as I am honest about what I want to achieve and how much time and effort I am willing to invest in this endeavor.

Edited by mick33 on 07 December 2011 at 11:02pm



Serpent
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 Message 5 of 12
07 December 2011 at 10:59pm | IP Logged 
Fasulye wrote:
The natural way is that your learn your first foreign language and you enjoy it. Then your ask yourself whether you should learn a next foreign language. Then you have a good occasion and you do it. Afterwards you plan a trip to the country X. To prepare the trip you decide to dabble in the language X. While dabbling you discover that this language is fascinating. Then you start studying this new language but you also see the necessity to revise the first two languages. So you try to balance the language revision with the learning of the newst language X.
funny but I didn't think of it like that. Indeed, when learning English, when wanting to learn German and Finnish, I only thought of these three languages. It was only when I reached a decent level in Finnish on my own that I decided I want to learn many more, on my own. To me that's not pressure. Pressure is when you try to force yourself NOT to learn a language, focusing on another one.





Iversen
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 Message 6 of 12
08 December 2011 at 1:48am | IP Logged 
We have recently dicussed this theme in a thread called Planning your polyglottery, where I ended a message with these words: "When you read about people who have learnt 50 languages then don't be too tempted to follow in their footsteps. Formulate your goals as a couple of concrete languages within the next couple of years, not as 10 or 20 or 48 languages before you die". Or in other words: if you set out from the beginning to become the new Mezzofanti, then you are almost certain the burn out and loose interest long before you have come even near the goal.

When you find yourself picking up more and more languages you should also be aware that you may have to make compromises on precisely what you will learn in each language, and you have to accept that there will be tradeoffs between quantity and quality. I have for instance concluded that I probably can learn to read twenty or more languages fluently, but due to my study methods, personality type and lack of immersion I'll never learn to speak all those languages like a native. So by setting a more realistic target (learning to survive a monolingual journey in a number of languages plus being able to write in a few more) I avoid losing interest due to too many disappointments. For a beginner it is even more important to have some realistic goals instead of aiming for the stars from the beginning.

This doesn't mean that become a polyglot is impossible (or "a misdirected dream"), but just that you have to ask yourself whether you want to invest the necessary time and effort, and if you do decide to take on the challenge then you should set goals which can be attained.


Edited by Iversen on 08 December 2011 at 1:56am



lichtrausch
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 Message 7 of 12
08 December 2011 at 6:18am | IP Logged 
Another factor that I think is important in making sure your dream of polyglottery isn't a misguided one is prioritizing your languages. For short periods of time I've tried spending an equal amount of time on three or four languages and I found my rate of progress very unsatisfying. Having one or two high priority languages that you are making steady progress in does wonders for motivation. At least that's been my experience.



NickJS
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 Message 8 of 12
08 December 2011 at 6:54am | IP Logged 
I don't think it is a misguided dream so long as its for the right reasons and if
that's what an individual aspires for in life I say go for it.

But I don't agree with doing it just to label yourself a "polyglot" because as I see
that its rather vain and actually limiting the individual more in their learning (or
rather gaining in-depth knowledge of a single language).

Like you said, it just happens to people as they progress through languages they want
to learn. I for one think about different languages I could be learning, but in my
heart I know I wouldn't stick them out as I like to focus on a single thing at any one
time, at least in that one field of knowledge - as the rest is for my other hobbies
which I feel that I must also put time into.

But for me, if I ever did become a polyglot, it would happen because of my choice of
what language I'm learning and I have learnt previously, not because I dream to reach a
polyglot level.

However as you also mentioned, languages are hard to learn - so when an individual does
reach a polyglot level (or I know if I did) I would want to feel and know how much
effort I had put into it.

I'm so pessimistic sometimes haha!

Edited by NickJS on 08 December 2011 at 6:58am




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