Tuesday, January 08, 2008

5 Advantages of Being a Polyglot

I read on someone’s blog a while back a few journal pages where the owner made a sort of wish list for the next 5 years. Her main wishes were to learn 5 languages in the next 5-10 years, including Arabic, French, German, Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. When someone commented on the post, asking why she wants to be such a big polyglot, she simply replied: to be a citizen of the World.

I agree that the only true way we can be citizens of the World is by knowing each other, our languages and our cultures but I’m sure there are many other reasons an individual would want to learn a foreign language or two and become a polyglot. Here are mine:

1. International Business – I-business is more common than ever nowadays, with the Internet allowing us to outsource, freelance and close deals overseas without too much trouble. Being a polyglot and being able to speak in the language of the person you’re working with, or the person you’re working for weighs heavily in how the deal will end. Remember, not everyone knows English and you shouldn’t expect others to speak your language if you don’t put at least some effort to speak theirs. Check out these free online courses if you’re planning on learning a new language.

2. Travelling Opportunities – How many times have you thought about travelling to a remote, exotic country, but worried that you’ll have a hard time there due to lack of communication? It happens everywhere, regardless if you’re going to a country in Africa, or somewhere in Europe. If you can’t talk their language and they can’t talk yours, you’d best learn body language. Or, you can take up these free language courses.

3. Personal Impression – Let’s face it, when you hear a foreigner coming to YOUR country and speaking YOUR language, I’m sure it tickles your ego a bit. The same thing would happen if you would travel to another country and the natives would hear you speaking their own language. It can really bump your image (positively) in a native speaker’s eyes.

4. Social Status – Does making a lot of money automatically make you a great person? No, because money can be the result of luck or theft. Does knowing 3-4 different languages earn you this social status? Yes, because being a polyglot is clearly the result of some hard work and you can tap in on that aura that you’ll be surrounded with, regardless if it’s simply to gain an edge in society, in business or at work.

5. Explosive Learning – Learning a new language is a tough process that involves both short and long term brain cells to work full time. The reason the first language is hard to learn is that we’re not used to the learning process itself. Most polyglots will find that it’s easier to learn their 3rd or 4th language than the first ones, because by the time they reach number 4, their language learning process is already in full motion and is capable of assimilating information much quicker, through the patterns you already established with the other languages.

Are these reasons enough to become a polyglot? I hope so. But even if it’s for one of the above reasons, or just for the heck of it, becoming a polyglot is a great achievement and something that is heightening for any human being. So if you want to become a better human and a true citizen of the World, start by learning a few languages to back you up.


ClarissaMach said...

I found this blog at random, looking for the words "being a polyglot" on google and I really liked it. I'm looking forward to learning French, Spanish, German and Russian. Currently I'm studying French and Russian. The former I'm learning by myself, it's very easy because it's simmilar to my native language (Portuguese). The latter is a little hard by my husband commands it as a native does.

JhnT said...

I am trying to be a polyglot as well. I found this blog at random when I googled the word "polyglot". Currently, I speak English, Cantonese and Malay while conversant in basic Mandarin and Spanish. I am learning Mandarin, some other Chinese dialects as well as Spanish. I hope to learn more in the future.

irishpolyglot said...

Some great advantages listed there! I totally agree :) It feels like a great achievement, but I believe anyone can do it!! I've just written a blog post about how to become a polyglot for those interested.

coffeehound said...

I'm writing a book about polyglots, which will be published in the US by Henry Holt and by Minumsa in Korea. It willbe titled Babel No More, and a ensure is being built at babelnomore.com. The book is based on an article I wrote for the New Scientist about the science of polyglottery; there will be a link to the article on the site.

Michael Erard

Francesca said...

I've always spoken English and Italian, leaned French and Spanish in grade school and now can speak and write Japanese. I have no trouble remembering things I care about -- learning languages is the best thing you can do for yourself and your children.