Note: If you came here from HTLAL, please read my addendum here.
I hate fake polyglots. You may have heard of them – those people who say they speak five, ten, fifteen languages fluently and post video evidence on YouTube to prove it. The vast majority of people seem to take these videos at face value because most of us don’t speak multiple languages.
One of these alleged polyglots was even profiled in the New York Times. I found the link through a language-learning friend’s Twitter feed. Though I cannot judge his alleged fluency in most of his foreign languages, I was able to find this video of him speaking Russian. It annoys me that the article implies that he is fluent in Russian because he is most definitely not. He’s fluent in Russian in the way I’m fluent in French – that is to say, not at all.
The video on the main page of the article is worth watching, though. I think it’s interesting that researchers have found that many hyperpolyglots (people fluent, or allegedly fluent, in an insane amount of languages) are male, left-handed, and love arcane, in-depth study of grammar that would bore most other people. I’m not male, but I do fit the other two criteria.
There are very few people on the internet who actually have fluency in multiple languages. One is Jana Fadness, one of my favorite language bloggers ever and the other is Susanna Zaraysky. No doubt there are more people out there who actually possess the fluency they claim
It may seem like this post is motivated by jealousy, that I’m griping because I don’t speak multiple foreign languages. I’m really not because ultimately, I would rather speak one foreign language very well than many mediocre (or worse than mediocre) level.