Check Out My Guest Post On Language Surfer!

Yesterday I had a guest post run on Ron’s excellent blog Language Surfer. I didn’t get a chance to tell you about it earlier because it went up earlier than I expected—which isn’t a bad thing!

Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve been involved with the language learning community for over four years now (even longer if you count the time I lurked in forums and on other people’s blogs before blogging about language on my own) and as diverse as language bloggers and their blogs may be, there does seem to be a commonality amongst them: many, many language learners who blog and post on forums learn more than one foreign language.

Read the rest here!

Update: Shortly after this post was published, Ron passed away. I have no idea what his family intends to do with his excellent blog, so just in case, I am publishing the entire post in full here.

Why I’m Not A Polyglot (And Probably Never Will Be)

Note from Ron: Today’s guest post is from the very talented Natalie at Fluent Historian. Take it away, Natalie!

I’ve been involved with the language learning community for over four years now (even longer if you count the time I lurked in forums and on other people’s blogs before blogging about language on my own) and as diverse as language bloggers and their blogs may be, there does seem to be a commonality amongst them: many, many language learners who blog and post on forums learn more than one foreign language.

Nevsky Prospect – St. Petersburg, Russia. Source.

In some cases, it’s just a few languages. Someone likes Spanish, then decides to do French and eventually German, then works at maintaining these three. Or a person learns something common and conventional like Spanish and wants to pick up something more exotic, like Russian or Arabic. And in some cases, it’s even more extreme. I’ve seen forum posts and bloggers who claim to know eight, nine, or even ten foreign languages, and sometimes even more. (Alexander Arguelles knows over thirty languages at a relatively high reading comprehension level, if I remember correctly. I think he speaks a fair amount of them, too.)

I’m not trying to criticize people who learn a ton of languages. Honestly, I understand the temptation. Since starting Russian, I’ve sporadically studied other languages, too, including Swedish, Serbian/Croatian, Ukrainian, Spanish, and Afrikaans. I even wrote a short-lived blog about my brief Serbian experience.

However, I’m not fluent in any of these languages I studied after Russian. (With the exception of Ukrainian. I can kind of fake fluency sometimes. Like when I’m listening and understand a lot of what is said, which only happens sometimes. Don’t ask me why—I don’t understand it either.) I would argue that a lot of so-called polyglots aren’t fluent in all the languages they claim fluency in, either, but that’s the subject of another blog post. Studying other languages was fun for a little bit, but ultimately, I wasn’t able to stick with any of them.

The reason why I didn’t stick with any of these languages—and the reason why I’ll probably never be a polyglot—is I just love the Russian language too much. Whenever I studied a language besides Russian, I always thought that my time could be better spent improving my Russian. In other words, I’d rather be really good at Russian than mediocre at two or three foreign languages. And as controversial as this may sound, in my experience a lot of language bloggers who claim to be polyglots aren’t actually fluent in most of the languages they think they are. (Some notable examples to this rule are Ron, who writes this excellent blog, and Donovan of The Mezzofanti Guild. I’m sure there are others but I can’t remember them right now.)

(*Editor’s note: Natalie is very kind to mention me, but like her, I don’t like to label myself a polyglot. I explain why in an older post, which bears similarities to the one here.)

One of the reasons I’ve stuck with Russian all these years is because I love it so much. It’s the first foreign language I studied that I truly fell in love with. I’m interested in other languages but that interest is mild compared to the passion I feel for Russian. So yes, I may not fit in with many fellow language learners in our part of the blogosphere—but that’s okay, because right now, Russian is the foreign language I need in my life.

About the author: Natalie studied history and Russian language at university. Her Russian obsession has been going strong for over seven years now and shows no signs of abating. She also plays violin, works on novels, and writes about her life on her blog, Fluent Historian.

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9 thoughts on “Check Out My Guest Post On Language Surfer!

  1. I found it interesting to read your post and I can completely understand it. Though, I think a lot of the reason it’s difficult to continue learning other languages is the lack of schooling. Generally, we only have the time/opportunity to learn a single language while in school. Therefore, we’re forced to learn other languages outside of school, on our own, which is ten times more difficult, especially because there’s no one to converse and practice with.

    Even so, I don’t consider myself ‘fluent’ in German. I consider myself ‘adequate’ and capable of getting around and having general conversations, but what constitutes ‘fluency’? I mean, there are tons of technical, topic specific words that people may never know because it’s not required for them, but does that make them any less fluent?

    Not to tangent. I’m more curious about what is considered ‘fluent’ and if there is a universal ‘fluent’ or if it’s consistently subjective.

    Even if I may never reach fluency in the seven languages I’d like to learn, I want to learn as much of them as I can so that I may better understand their culture. (Granted three of them are heritages of my family and in learning them I learn more about my heritage and where I come from. The others are fascinations in the unique cultures from which the languages are rooted.)

    1. Honestly, I think everyone probably has their own definition of fluent. For me, it’s being able to intelligently discuss the same topics a native speaker of the language would. I can’t discuss quantum physics in Russian, for example, but I can’t do that in English either, so that doesn’t bother me or “count against” my fluency, for lack of a better term. However, it is a bad thing that my business vocabulary in Russian is poor because I can discuss business topics in English, so I’d like to learn this in Russian, too.

      What languages do you want to learn? I’m dying to know! You should post about it if you haven’t already!

      1. Ah. So you see ‘fluency’ as understanding the same vocabulary as you understand in English. Though, as a writer, I feel that’s quite difficult because we have naturally broader vocabularies in the English language than most native speakers. You know? Does that mean we have a harder time becoming ‘fluent’ in a foreign language than non-writers/literature-oriented people? Food for thought.

        Haha! I’ve posted about a few on like the blog awards that make you name some facts. As we’ve discussed, I speak English and German(fluently). I’m slowly teaching myself French and Japanese. Yet, someday I want to teach myself Korean, Dutch, and Irish on top of that. Seven sounds like fun. Maybe more if I ever get that far. :p *is far too ambitious*

      2. That’s ambitious, but I think you could do it over the course of many years. The “many years” part is daunting, LOL. I secretly want to learn every Slavic language because I’m totally obsessed with the Slavic language family.

        To address the fluency question again, maybe I wasn’t clear… or maybe I’m misunderstanding you. I know that by sheer numbers of words, English has more words than most languages. I don’t think that would necessarily impact fluency though? In Russian, there are a ton of words with lots of little nuances, so even if one word has multiple meanings in English, those meanings are still there. 🙂

      3. Haha! You’re right. The number of years it’d take to become fluent in so many languages is quite daunting. :p But hey. I need a long-lasting hobby. Haha!

        And I was totally just bringing up another point because my brain completely tangented in the realm of languages. :p But I get what you’re saying. Like you don’t need all the synonyms for words so long as you have at least one word or one way of describing what you’re saying. So, fluency isn’t actually matching the patterns and mannerisms in which we speak English, but just the ability to have normal conversations. That what you’re getting at?

      4. Sort of. Honestly, we were so off on a tangent that I’m not even 100% of what I was getting at. LOL! 🙂

        Long-lasting hobbies are the best ones, of course. I’m going to keep learning Russian for decades… or at least as long as it keeps my interest!

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