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My goal is to become a polyglot. What is a polyglot?

A polyglot is one who speaks multiple languages fluently or at an advanced level. You could also call this person multilingual.

Now technically, according to the dictionary definition, if you speak 2 languages, you can call yourself a polyglot. But in English we generally call someone who speaks 2 languages bilingual, 3 languages trilingual, and only reserve polyglot or multilingual for the person who speaks 4 or more languages.

I can only speak 1 language fluently – English. My dream is to be fluent in 10 languages. So I have a long way to reach my goal!

However I do know some French, Tamil, Portuguese, Spanish, German, and Japanese. But my knowledge in all 6 of those languages is still at a beginner or elementary level. In fact, using the CEFR designation, I consider myself at an A2 level in French and at an A1 level in the other five.

Now while I desire to eventually become fluent in 10 languages, learning multiple languages concurrently is quite difficult.

Fortunately in today’s world there are a plethora of resources available, both paid and free.

Since I prefer to be self-taught, I use only resources where I can learn on my own. I also tend to use a lot of language exchange meetings to practice what I’ve learned. (Though if I’m honest I sometimes start to use the meetings as my sole method of learning new content!)

I’ve learned some things from attempting to learn six languages at the same time.

The first is that life is all about priorities. I used to want to commence a daily or otherwise consistent study routine, even for just French. But I then found that at the end of the day I wouldn’t have time to learn any French. And day after day of this frustrated me greatly. Until I realized my actions were prioritizing hanging out with friends over learning French.

The second thing I’ve learned is that it’s ok to only study one small new lesson each day. Or to spend only 5 minutes in review. Or, if the lesson is long, break it up over 2 or 3 days.

The third, and perhaps biggest, thing I’ve learned is how to learn a language. That may initially not make sense, but just like studying at school, there are methods of study that work and other methods that don’t. In this regard there are two types of methods – categories if you will.

There are those methods that work specifically for one person while not perhaps not another. An example of this would be verb conjugation tables. Some people learn verb conjugation forms better by studying a table listing all the forms. Others prefer to learn the different forms in the context of sentences and phrases.

There are then those methods that are approaches to or views about the subject matter. For example, when I started learning French (the second time), my approach was to learn a vocabulary item as the French equivalent of an English word. As I commenced on multiple languages I began to change my approach. I now try and learn a new word, in any language, as the target language’s way of expressing a concept.

I’ll try and expand upon this idea in a future post, as I believe that this approach will really help someone learn a language quicker.

I will also elaborate further upon my own multilingual journey in future posts. But what about you, my reader? What languages are you learning? What things have you learned during your journey to master a new language? Which techniques have worked for you and which ones haven’t?

DH

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