Language lovers, it’s that time of year again! That’s right, the Polyglot Gathering Online begins this week – taking place from 20th to 23rd May.
You can check out their official website for more information, or keep reading our post to find out more about all things polyglot.
What exactly is a polyglot?
The word polyglot comes from the Ancient Greek polúglōttos (πολύγλωσσος), literally meaning ‘many-tongued.’ And while this might sound to some like the description of some monstrous creature from Greek mythology, it is in fact just a word to describe someone who speaks several languages.
Note that a polyglot isn’t the same thing as a linguist! A linguist is a person who has studied the science of language – phonology, morphological structure, syntax, semantics, and other very academic topics. A polyglot is a person who speaks, reads, and writes many languages.
How many are too many?
Since a polyglot speaks many languages, you’re probably wanting to know what’s the highest number of languages a person could ever learn?
The yardstick for most people seems to be around five or six. The reasoning behind this is that research has shown that the upper limit for multilingual communities around the world (a multilingual community is one where the use of multiple languages is considered normal – such as in India, Switzerland, and many parts of China) is around five. Thus anyone who speaks more than five or six languages can be considered a polyglot – though this is a rough guideline, not a firm rule.
Some well-known polyglots like Richard Simcott and Professor Alexander Argüelles have studied more than 30 languages and are fluent in them to varying degrees.
Some have even coined a new term – hyperpolyglot – to describe individuals like Richard and Professor Argüelles, who have mastered a vast number of languages.
What are their secrets?
If you asked ten polyglots what their secret was, you’d likely get ten different answers!
Most polyglots work hard at their languages – filling notebooks with thousands of words written in their target languages, reading, listening to audiobooks, and watching TV. Many practice a technique called shadowing, listening to a recording or watching a clip in one’s target language and saying the words out loud, mimicking the native speakers’ pronunciation as closely as possible.
Some rely on drills and exercises, focusing on grammar and phonetics. Others faithfully record the number of new words learnt, meticulously keeping track of their new knowledge. Others reach out to native speakers in real life (or, more likely in this Covid-19 era, via social media and Zoom) to practice with them. The invention of the Internet and social media has been a godsend to many polyglots and now, more than ever before, avid language learners have access to resources far beyond the reach of those from previous generations.
Finally, many polyglots prefer to use mobile apps like uTalk, Duolingo, Memrise or Lingodeer (among others!) to acquire new vocabulary and listen closely to various words and sentences pronounced by native speakers.
Are you a potential polyglot?
The polyglot community is incredibly diverse and inclusive. People from all corners of the world, of all ages, races, religions, sexual orientations, and backgrounds are becoming increasingly connected to people like them – those who enjoy learning other languages and discovering a little bit about the cultures of people who live on the other side of the world.
So, if you’re interested in finding out more, why not join us this week at the Polyglot Gathering? We’re working with the team to bring you another fun quiz on Friday – and we’ve also been given an exclusive code to share with you all that will get you 20% off your Polyglot Gathering ticket.
Simply type utalkgathering21 at checkout to get your discount. We hope to see you there!