That’s the question I asked myself a few months ago, and I think it’s something everyone wanting to learn multiple languages should ask.
I caught the language learning bug about a year ago. It started with Spanish. I remember how excited I got when I realised that learning a language can be fun if approached correctly, and then I suddenly realised it’s possible to learn multiple languages; there were many people doing it and they all said the same thing: ‘it’s something anyone can do’. Wow! What an awesome idea. I’m going to learn a few languages, too!
I started reading everything I could about language. I got excited and ordered myself a bunch of language books. I was going to be a polyglot. I was sure of it. I told myself I’d learn 2 languages, but then I said 3, and then 4; the numbers kept getting bigger. I started counting languages like numbers. If only learning was as easy.
If you’re enthusiastic about language then my story may sound familiar. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of learning a list of languages. I certainly get a sense of pleasure when I think about all the languages I could learn. It’s called dreaming. We all like to dream; It’s easy and makes us feel good.
However transforming a dream into reality takes hard-work and time. Most people shy away from hard-work, so for many this is the deal breaker. Forgive me for sounding high and mighty, but I think the universe is like this for a reason. If you don’t want to work hard for something then it’s probably not for you. If you don’t work hard, you won’t get good. However, if you truly enjoy what you do then even when you have to work hard, you won’t feel like you’re working hard. Do you feel like you work hard?
I’m lucky to have interviewed some of the most accomplished language learners you’ll ever hear about, and I’ve noticed a pattern: these people are *extremely* enthusiastic, and their lives revolve around language. I absolutely adore languages, I’m in a relationship with Spanish, but dedicate my life to language? Suddenly I’m second guessing myself. I don’t think I’ll turn up for the wedding. If I do, I’ll probably feel as though I’m missing out on something else I could have had.
I love language but I don’t want to dedicate my life to language. Nor do I want to give what it takes to become proficient in many different languages. I’m being honest with myself, are you?
The reason I’m writing this article is because when I browse language forums and language blogs, I come across an awful amount of people saying they want to be polyglots. Again, a nice idea, but nice ideas aren’t enough. Successfully making this dream a reality is largely dependent on enjoying the process so much that you get lost in it.
Don’t take my word for it, listen to those who have successfully accomplished the goal you’re trying to achieve.
If you’ve set yourself a goal to become a polyglot then I suggest you stop to think hard. Being a polyglot is a lifestyle choice; it’s more than a nice idea.
I’ve let go of wanting to be a polyglot; It’s a nice idea, but whatever will be will be. For now, I’m just a guy who enjoys learning languages.
Is wanting to be a polyglot a misdirected dream? For me, the answer is yes. How about you?