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Moses McCormick’s admirable achievement

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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Budz
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 Message 145 of 221
04 November 2010 at 11:03pm | IP Logged 
Interesting question... I can't believe it hasn't generated heaps of replies.

I suspect if you're learning 60 languages, it's easier to get to the 60,000 word mark because words such as table or chair, window etc. will have to come first and they will have a utilitarian value which will make them easier to remember. the 14,999th word in some language is probably going to be easier to forget and harder to learn in the first place as it will be some word or concept that won't come to mind that often.
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Huliganov
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 Message 146 of 221
08 November 2010 at 12:47am | IP Logged 
Budz wrote:
Interesting question... I can't believe it hasn't generated heaps of replies.

I suspect if you're learning 60 languages, it's easier to get to the 60,000 word mark because words such as table or chair, window etc. will have to come first and they will have a utilitarian value which will make them easier to remember. the 14,999th word in some language is probably going to be easier to forget and harder to learn in the first place as it will be some word or concept that won't come to mind that often.


It's certainly true that one language helps the other along, but in the introductory assumptions I discounted that. In the real world it may well be harder to get to 4 languages with 15000 words apiece than 60 languages with 1,000 words apiece.

I also would say that as far as looking to the uninformed as impressive is concerned, the person who can rattle off a hundred commonly used phrases in 60 languages with a decent accent is going to impress the bystander much more than a linguist who has done just as much actual work on his four languages, but the latter has much more chances of being accepted as a functional member of society in the countries where his language is spoken, and he has the apparatus to think in his languages and he can truly experience something of what it is to be from a different culture.

That's why it is hard to say which is the greater achievement and which gives the greater utility. The 4 languages guy may regard the utility of the 60 languages guy as something shallow, whereas the 60 languages guy may say - look, in fact when we get down to detail everybody wants things done in English these days anyway, I'm being practical - I can be polite to people from all over the world, and that makes me an effective networker, business traveller, salesman, etc etc.

So one has one sort of utility, the other has another sort of utility. I think neither has the right to impose his utility on the other, but every one should instead be aware that you can be a linguist and a polyglot using either strategy or something even more extreme or between the two, and the only person who has the right to decide if you have done the right thing is yourself. Only you know what you want out of the language study, so only you should decide the course. In fact, the only way to fail is to have certain goals in language learning but to bow to pressure from someone else to use their way, and then not achieve one's own goals or achieve them in a way which wastes time or isn't interesting for that person.
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Budz
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 Message 147 of 221
08 November 2010 at 1:05am | IP Logged 
Ha! I was thinking of replying to the original post again, but that seems to have summed it up pretty well.
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ronp
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 Message 148 of 221
08 November 2010 at 5:21pm | IP Logged 
I particularly enjoyed your final paragraph. Thank you for an interesting post.

Huliganov wrote:
So one has one sort of utility, the other has another sort of utility. I think neither has the right to impose his utility on the other, but every one should instead be aware that you can be a linguist and a polyglot using either strategy or something even more extreme or between the two, and the only person who has the right to decide if you have done the right thing is yourself. Only you know what you want out of the language study, so only you should decide the course. In fact, the only way to fail is to have certain goals in language learning but to bow to pressure from someone else to use their way, and then not achieve one's own goals or achieve them in a way which wastes time or isn't interesting for that person.

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Cainntear
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 Message 150 of 221
08 November 2010 at 10:44pm | IP Logged 
Kuikentje wrote:
I agree, it's better to not criticise the other people and their languages' level

If someone sets themselves up as an example, they are open to discussion and yes, even criticism.
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Arekkusu
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 Message 151 of 221
08 November 2010 at 11:03pm | IP Logged 
I don't know anyone who speaks either 60 languages (at 1000 words each), or 4 languages with 15,000 words.

My guess is that preserving either would be a tremendous task.
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