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Advice To An Aspiring Teenage Polyglot?

  Tags: Polyglot
 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
38 messages over 5 pages: 1 2 3 4 5  Next >>
catullus_roar
Quadrilingual Octoglot
Groupie
Australia
Joined 2999 days ago

89 posts - 184 votes 
Speaks: Malay, Hokkien*, English*, Mandarin*, Cantonese*, French, German, Spanish
Studies: Italian, Latin, Armenian, Afrikaans, Russian

 
 Message 1 of 38
23 May 2012 at 1:38pm | IP Logged 
This post is addressed to Dr Arguelles, but everyone's responses are very much appreciated, especially if you share similar experiences.

I am a 13-year-old aspiring polyglot, with about six languages and two dialects under my belt so far. My mother tongue is Chinese and the national language of my country is English, so I am at a native level in both of these languages. I have been immersed in an environment with my two native dialects, Hokkien and Fookchow, since I was born, and am proficient in both dialects though I lack the proper native accent.

I have been learning French since I was around four, and I am able to read novels in the language with a comprehension rate of around 95% of the vocabulary. I can communicate confidently and clearly with native speakers on everyday tasks, and I can understand lyrics in songs and watch movies without the subtitles. I also enjoy writing poetry in the language. More recently (4 years ago), I have picked up German and, two years ago, Spanish. I am less proficient in Spanish than in German (around B1). This year, I have begun to self-study Russian, but my progress thus far has been fairly insubstantial.

For all the above languages, except my Russian and two dialects, I am attending professional classes with a native speaker. I learn English and Chinese in school as part of my normal curriculum, but for French, Spanish and German, I have one-to-one private tuition with a native speaker, and I read voraciously in all of the above languages (except dialects and Russian).

I am not particularly prodigious (only five to eight languages, only about three or four of which are considered highly fluent), but I am highly committed to my dream of becoming a hyperpolyglot. Why am I doing this? My main motivation is the magical feeling I get when I learn new words in any language - I feel like each word is a magical key to unlock a new door and breach a new barrier in communication. When I manage to form sentences using forms I have just learned, I experience a sense of thrill and ecstasy that others get from, say, sports or other hobbies.

Right now, my main learning methods are through my classwork and immersing myself in the foreign culture, while teaching other friends these languages and revising frequently. However, I would like to know if I am doing all this correctly and whether my goal of 11 languages or more is achievable. I recently read the book Babel No More (as many of you have) and I was disappointed to find that flash cards did not quite work for me, as they did for Cardinal Mezzofanti; hence, would anyone recommend better methods for a younger mind?

Lastly, a brief overview on my learning style. I am quick to accept criticism and I learn better through listening to pop music in the language which I am learning. I have a partially photographic memory, but I find that writing things down is a more secure way of remembering vocabulary and sentence structures in my target language. Some languages I would like to learn to an advanced level after Russian include Classical Latin and Swahili. I have dabbled in creating my own language (it did get quite far), but I have put that on hold for now ; however, the process has given me a renewed perspective on formation of tenses, nouns, verb endings etc and has hastened the time taken to pick up grammatical structures in the languages I am learning.

Here are a list of my questions. I would appreciate greatly if someone could answer them:

1) What revision methods would you recommend me to both consolidate my existing languages, as well as learn Russian faster?
2) I do not have access to expensive materials, eg. Pimsleur. Are there any more economical methods to pursue my dream?
3) Sometimes, I get random brainwaves of words I have never seen before or heard before (usually I am fairly sure), but I know what they mean and how to use them. Is this a natural by-product of my limited immersion methods, or is it something else? Is there a way to make this happen more often? (For example, I look at a cup and the sentence of "I would like to drink" appears in my head in different languages, even though I have not learned the word for 'drink')
4) I notice that I am getting confused between my languages more often. Is there a way to prevent this? Switching languages OFF is more difficult than switching them ON.
5) How many hours of studying a week should I devote to each of the above languages (excluding my dialects, as I do not wish to pursue my studies in them any further), given that I would like to attain a near-native level (above C2) in each of them, or at least a level comparable to that of my French now?
6) Are there any languages I should learn/methods I should try that would improve my ability to pick up languages in the future?

Thank you for reading this post and please reply with advice or suggestions. If you have any further questions, I would be happy to entertain them :)

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Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 5028 days ago

9753 posts - 15777 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 2 of 38
23 May 2012 at 5:46pm | IP Logged 
Aw, you sound like me :')

Have you tried any of the methods listed here? http://learnanylanguage.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Techniques
As for flashcards, what sort of them have you tried? I love spaced repetition and I put entire sentences on cards, sometimes with gaps in them. Also, been to ajatt.com yet? What you mention in 3) is definitely due to immersion/input (especially as drink is such a common word!). Have more input and it'll happen more often :) I'm not sure what else can help.

Pimsleur is by no means a requirement and won't even get you very far. If you really want to try it, you can download it. Assimil is a great resource though it's very different from Pimsleur. Also, there are a lot of free podcasts and other materials online, just look around:)



Your goals are certainly achievable, especially as you're so young. Because of your age I recommend focusing more on the pronunciation and listening. In fact, that was my reason for getting started so early with nearly all the languages I want to learn. From this point of view, Listening-Reading is something worth trying, including a few hours of accelerated audio.
2 persons have voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 5028 days ago

9753 posts - 15777 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 3 of 38
23 May 2012 at 5:58pm | IP Logged 
And as for the amount of time... You need to make it a part of your lifestyle. Try to have nearly all your fun in foreign languages (including music, movies, books, computer games etc).
For example, because it's a part of my lifestyle and I took my laptop along, I didn't spend considerably less time practising my languages in Poland (see the Poland tag and click on Polish below the chart to show other languages) than I would otherwise. I did more Polish of course but I just had even less contact with my native Russian than I would otherwise.

The ajatt twitter is very motivating for making this change in your lifestyle.
3 persons have voted this message useful



catullus_roar
Quadrilingual Octoglot
Groupie
Australia
Joined 2999 days ago

89 posts - 184 votes 
Speaks: Malay, Hokkien*, English*, Mandarin*, Cantonese*, French, German, Spanish
Studies: Italian, Latin, Armenian, Afrikaans, Russian

 
 Message 4 of 38
24 May 2012 at 1:28pm | IP Logged 
Hello Serpent :)

Thank you very much for the reply! Well the flash cards I've tried so far are rather primitive, they are just words (eg. in Russian) with the English translation behind. For German, to learn Dativ vs Akkusativ in prepositions, I have put Dativ on one side and Akkusativ on one side in simple phrases.

Since you are a native Russian speaker, could you answer some of my side questions (not related to the main topic, unfortunately). I am currently trying to pick up Russian, but it has been very difficult for me. I learn using textbooks as commonly found in British foreign language classes (eg. Ruslan). After about 3 weeks of studying, I have memorised about the whole alphabet, but my orthography is weak, in the sense that I have trouble writing down words in Russian by listening to the sound.

Is there a book/website that can help me with both my orthography and my alphabet? Also, I am having a difficult time learning to write in the Russian cursive. Can you recommend any practice worksheets where I can trace the letters (I find that tracing works best for me). I would really appreciate it!

I wish you all the best for your goals as well :) I cannot type Cyrillic on my computer, but 'spasibo' for all your help!

1 person has voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 3138 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 5 of 38
24 May 2012 at 1:41pm | IP Logged 
I own the Ruslan materials and they are pretty terrible. If you want to learn the script, I recommend you get the Teach Yourself booklet Teach Yourself Russian Script (the one Solfrid has used) and you should be fine with that.

By the way, the way I taught myself to write Cyrillic script was just practice, and I skimped on doing it for months. But now I realise writing cursive is a lot easier.
2 persons have voted this message useful



catullus_roar
Quadrilingual Octoglot
Groupie
Australia
Joined 2999 days ago

89 posts - 184 votes 
Speaks: Malay, Hokkien*, English*, Mandarin*, Cantonese*, French, German, Spanish
Studies: Italian, Latin, Armenian, Afrikaans, Russian

 
 Message 6 of 38
09 June 2012 at 3:30pm | IP Logged 
Sorry for the lack of reply, I have recently returned from an overseas trip. My cyrillic script is improving with practice and a lot of writing, so thank you! However, I have some further questions to ask :)

1) How do polyglots sustain a high level of commitment in a target language for an extended period of time? I find that my enthusiasm for languages in general tends to keep me going, but some days I find that I must force myself to get to work. I try to make up for this by listening to more foreign language music (cultural immersion) on those days, but is there a way to be more productive?

2) I am having trouble finding native speakers to converse with me regularly (given my age) and am naturally rather shy, so approaching random tourists on the street isn't really something I would do. Is there anywhere I can turn to, be it an online forum etc?

Thank you for answering all my questions so far :) Would Prof Arguelles please advise as well?

1 person has voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 5028 days ago

9753 posts - 15777 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 7 of 38
09 June 2012 at 5:51pm | IP Logged 
Prof Arguelles isn't active here anymore. You can contact him via his website or youtube account I suppose.

As a female, I find that what helps is being in harmony with my monthly cycle (see my log). I don't really believe in "discipline". (Carmen is a female name, right? ;))

What exactly do you force yourself to do? It's a good idea to try a variety of techniques so you had them at hand. This was the idea of this thread too, as every now and then we all want to "do something", but all the obvious options feel too routine. (or is it just me? :D)

And as for your second question, given that you have classes with native speakers, maybe you can ask your teachers for help? They probably know many expats from their country and could help you get in touch with a fellow teenager (especially if they know someone who wants to learn Mandarin). You can also talk via skype if you have a microphone. I don't know the specific resources, but you can perhaps find people online (at social networking sites?) and then meet them in real life once you've got to know them? Again, those about your age :) Look for those that share your interests, this way it should be easier to get along. When I was 13-19, most of my friends were older than me, nowadays the new people I meet are mostly the same age or younger :)
1 person has voted this message useful



catullus_roar
Quadrilingual Octoglot
Groupie
Australia
Joined 2999 days ago

89 posts - 184 votes 
Speaks: Malay, Hokkien*, English*, Mandarin*, Cantonese*, French, German, Spanish
Studies: Italian, Latin, Armenian, Afrikaans, Russian

 
 Message 8 of 38
10 June 2012 at 12:24pm | IP Logged 
Hello :) Yes, I am female! Wow, I think that your monthly cycle idea is really interesting, and I am going to try it out. What I force myself to do is mostly revision of stuff my teachers give me. I don't really need to force myself to listen to music or read books or watch films in my languages, because I find those activities enjoyable. Practising my writing, doing exercises, or just revising is quite a lot harder.

Thanks for the idea of asking my teachers, I never thought for it for some reason! :) Just curious, when did you start learning your many languages? Also, you state that you know Latin. I neglected to write it up there, but I did study some Latin when I was around six or seven and it helped me improve tremendously in my French. Are there any resources which would provide me with cool stuff in Latin (eg. music, modern books, native podcasts). Latin really is somewhat of a dead language, especially in my part of the world, and I have trouble learning languages, or maintaining them, if they do not have sufficient modern culture to interest me. Thank you again for all your help so far! :)




1 person has voted this message useful



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