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Are polyglots at times overrated ?

  Tags: Polyglot
 Language Learning Forum : Polyglots Post Reply
27 messages over 4 pages: 1 2 3 4  Next >>
albysky
Triglot
Senior Member
Italy
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287 posts - 393 votes 
Speaks: Italian*, English, German

 
 Message 1 of 27
13 December 2013 at 2:08pm | IP Logged 
As a preface I want to say that I don't know any polyglot in person ,yet I have been
following attentively many polyglots on youtube over the last 1 and half year . I have
been especially impressed by Richard Simcott , Luca lampariello and steve Kaufman .
Steve kaufman is the only one who makes really long videos ( 10 mintues and even more )
of him speaking all his languages . He seems to be the only one among these "polyglot
gurus" who he is willing to show he really makes mistakes in his languages especially
his weakest ones like russian .I have heard Luca and Richard in long videos speaking
nothing but English ,french and Spanish ( which I am sure they really know at a naitive
like level ) . for languages like German and russian which already begin to pose some
problems ,you can not find longer videos ( to be honest there are a couple 10 minutes
interview with luca in russian ), anyway they are always talking about : pronunciation
, best ways to learn , in one word language learning .
what is your opinion ?

Edited by albysky on 13 December 2013 at 2:10pm

6 persons have voted this message useful



eyðimörk
Triglot
Senior Member
France
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Studies: Breton, Italian

 
 Message 2 of 27
13 December 2013 at 2:36pm | IP Logged 
Opinion on what? The question in the thread's title or your commentary on polyglot YouTube videos?

Are polyglots at times overrated? Yes. Practically all things are at times overrated. In particular I tend to think that white western people who've learned a couple of languages to a basic level are unnecessarily lauded as geniuses. It's not that it's a simple feat to learn languages, or that individuals shouldn't be congratulated on their progress, it's just that it doesn't make you a genius or even all that extraordinary on a worldwide or historical level.

As for your YouTube commentary. I definitely get why they wouldn't bother to make "long" videos. After all, who wants to sit and stare at another non-native, sometimes mediocre, speaker blather on? I wouldn't make a "long" video even in my native language without a very specific goal in mind and very specific information to share. And if your purpose is just to show which languages you speak, your progress, etc., why speak for more than a minute or two? The only people who are going to stick with you for a very long time are people who are primarily fans of your personality and people who are hoping to spot you making an error and throw it in your face.
13 persons have voted this message useful



Josquin
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Germany
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 Message 3 of 27
13 December 2013 at 2:38pm | IP Logged 
As impressive as their achievements are, I also think the YouTube polyglots don't really have that much to say except that it's all about attitude.

Luca, Richard, and Steve have proven their ability to speak several foreign languages at a very high level and that's very entertaining and inspiring, but other than that I don't get much out of their videos to be honest. And please don't get me started on Moses and Benny...

Other opinions?

Edited by Josquin on 13 December 2013 at 2:40pm

13 persons have voted this message useful



m32amir
Heptaglot
Groupie
Canada
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Speaks: Kazakh, Russian*, English, French, Spanish, German, Italian
Studies: Turkish, Mandarin

 
 Message 4 of 27
13 December 2013 at 2:57pm | IP Logged 
albysky wrote:
As a preface I want to say that I don't know any polyglot in person
,yet I have been
following attentively many polyglots on youtube over the last 1 and half year . I have
been especially impressed by Richard Simcott , Luca lampariello and steve Kaufman .
Steve kaufman is the only one who makes really long videos ( 10 mintues and even more )
of him speaking all his languages . He seems to be the only one among these "polyglot
gurus" who he is willing to show he really makes mistakes in his languages especially
his weakest ones like russian .I have heard Luca and Richard in long videos speaking
nothing but English ,french and Spanish ( which I am sure they really know at a naitive
like level ) . for languages like German and russian which already begin to pose some
problems ,you can not find longer videos ( to be honest there are a couple 10 minutes
interview with luca in russian ), anyway they are always talking about : pronunciation
, best ways to learn , in one word language learning .
what is your opinion ?


I know Richard and Luca personally. Both speak native-like German, and can deal a wide
of range of topics. The fact that they don't make many videos in German or simply
post videos talking about other subjects - and both have said it - is that most people
are interested in hearing what they have to say about language learning. Richard
studied languages at university, while Luca went to a prestigious conference
interpreting school. In order to access such schools, one needs to have a high
education, being able to tackle countless topics, not to mention great language skills.
I have talked to Luca in Russian countless times. I can tell you that he speaks with a
90-95% native accent now and we have talked about pretty much everything. He is
"fluent" by
any standards. I just wanted to clarify this because as I said at the beginning I have
often contact with them on skype (and met them a few times in real life).

Edited by m32amir on 13 December 2013 at 3:16pm

14 persons have voted this message useful



renaissancemedi
Bilingual Triglot
Senior Member
Greece
Joined 2548 days ago

941 posts - 1308 votes 
Speaks: Greek*, Ancient Greek*, EnglishC2
Studies: French, Russian, Turkish, Modern Hebrew

 
 Message 5 of 27
13 December 2013 at 3:04pm | IP Logged 
Certainly some of them, in some languages, are very advanced. But the term "polyglot" is generally used as a status title (not by the polyglots themselves, some seem modest). That always irks me.

I like the more old fashioned ideal of a person learned in languages, who uses them in very real settings, or to advance their education and knowledge in other things they enjoy. The cosmoplitan person who feels at ease with most people and in most places, who likes books, or travel or whatever. Not the person who learns languages in order to brag about it.

I am sure there are people out there we have never heared of, who are simply amazing.
15 persons have voted this message useful



iguanamon
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Virgin Islands
Speaks: Ladino
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2224 posts - 6708 votes 
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 Message 6 of 27
13 December 2013 at 3:31pm | IP Logged 
Well said, renaissancemedi. This may be close to sacrilege here on HTLAL but I am more impressed by someone who has something interesting or stimulating to say, something that makes me think or can challenge my perceptions, than by someone who can say any random thing in a bunch of different languages.

Some (not all, by any means) polyglots devote so much (or too much) of their time to language-learning that they don't have much to say beyond this very specialized field. I'd rather be stuck on a desert island with someone who can intelligently discuss life, literature, philosophy, physics or art than somebody who can speak a dozen languages and yet isn't able to say very much that's interesting or stimulating in any of them.

Something to beware of for all of us as we pursue this hobby. What's it worth to be able to speak a dozen languages and yet be boring in all of them?

Edited by iguanamon on 13 December 2013 at 4:49pm

23 persons have voted this message useful



Medulin
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Croatia
Joined 2858 days ago

1199 posts - 2192 votes 
Speaks: Croatian*, English, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Norwegian, Hindi, Nepali

 
 Message 7 of 27
13 December 2013 at 3:41pm | IP Logged 
I would classify people like Stanislav Grof as real polyglots. Dr. Grof is a founder (or one of the founders) of transpersonal psychotherapy, and he can do psychotherapy in: English, German and Czech (his L1).
When you can do psychotherapy in many languages, then you're the real thing in my book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bn-P-S6eFxQ

It's not about being able to speak many languages.
It's all about what you can do in many languages.

Edited by Medulin on 13 December 2013 at 3:46pm

5 persons have voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3722 days ago

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Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 8 of 27
13 December 2013 at 3:48pm | IP Logged 
Even if some polyglot out there is overrated, so what? It's not my job to go around worrying about what other people do in their YouTube videos. For example, so what if some grumpy, combative troll spends all his time attacking other other language learners?

The second problem is that assessing speaking skill is hard. When I took my CEFRL exam, they had two trained examiners in the room: One to force me out of my comfort zone (so I couldn't rely on islands and other useful tricks), and the other to focus in detail on what I was saying. Very few untrained people can evaluate speaking skills beyond "Do they have an accent? Do they talk fast?"

And some of the most controversial internet polyglots actually have a nice stack of high-level CEFRL diplomas, all of which presumably involved convincing a trained examiner that they could speak.

Even self-evaluation is hard, because skills vary so much from topic to topic and day to day. For example, I have no problem diffusing arguments between 3-year-olds in French. But ask me to explain how to optimize conversion rates on a commercial website, and my French will fall apart 80% of the time. If I'm well-rested in Montreal, and I've read 100 pages of a French novel in the last 24 hours, I speak pretty well. If I've had 9 hours of sleep in the past two days, and I've just spent 11 straight hours doing complicated work in English, well, don't suddenly ask me whether it would be better to rent or buy a house. I'll be able to answer, but it won't be terribly pretty.

Finally, there comes a point when many people get sick of being a "performing monkey." When I use my French online these days, it's usually because I want to talk to French speakers, not because I feel the need to prove the fact I speak French. I know that my French is sometimes OK, and sometimes a wreck, and presumably most French speakers will figure that out on their own. This whole businesses of wanting to measure everybody's language skills via YouTube videos seems like a dubious use of time.


19 persons have voted this message useful



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