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Price of Polyglottery - New Prof

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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 Message 17 of 90
21 September 2013 at 10:47am | IP Logged 
I find this article by Alexander
about going to conference and meeting professor. Maybe some of you also
think it interesting.
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 Message 18 of 90
22 September 2013 at 12:49am | IP Logged 
Sibsil wrote:
I find this article by arguelles/">Alexander
about going to conference and meeting professor. Maybe some of you also
think it interesting.

Thanks for the heads up. I've read Alex before, seen the video, and find him to be a nice
guy, modest with it.

Interesting that he finds his conventional degree studies almost to be more of a burden
than a help. Perhaps that's not a 100% fair assessment, but it seemed he was doing it
because he couldn't think of anything else to do. And of course, he will probably have some
form of academic career, and for that, you need a degree, and (especially from Oxford),
it's going to be a traditional degree.

If he just wanted to learn languages, however, he could so this himself, with very little
help from a conventional university (except perhaps, for finding immersion placements, and
there are other ways of doing that these days). If he just wants to know a language,
there's no need to go off and learn about obscure 18th century playwrights, although, of
course, I would defend to the death the right of anyone to study that if they liked, or
anything else, even if it were completely "useless. In fact, especially if it were
completely "useless".

Is six a magic number? I wonder. Having watched the Arguelles keynote speech, I suppose I'm
used to the idea. I got to counting the number of languages I'd had exposure to, in
addition to English:

In order of appearance:

Biblical Hebrew
New Testament Greek

hmmm....eleven, including English. Three of those are "dead" languages.

However, the only ones I've really taken seriously are:


Recently: Welsh

Possibly: Danish

So I'm kind of teetering on the 5-6 boundary.
I don't think it's given me any special gifts or superpowers yet.
But watch this space.

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 Message 19 of 90
22 September 2013 at 1:28am | IP Logged 
I find it interesting that Rawlings comments such on his degree, I don't know how I
feel about mine and languages. If I'm being honest, some of the languages I've
learnt...well I would never have honestly ever bothered to pick up Italian or German
were it not for my degree. French is a different matter simply because I've always
liked the idea. That that I'm brilliant in these languages. However, they were needed
in order to read academic articles and books for my main subject (Classics) so in that
sense my degree improved what I would otherwise have learned. I suspect for someone
like Rawlings the insane Oxford system (and it really is horrible sometime!) held him
back due to the amount of depth in each language versus breath.

In my case I'd probably pick up even more ancient languages. I suffered a mini
intervention last year when I skipped some German reading Classics for an intensive
Phoenician seminar. I don't know why, I these things. :( Joining this forum
has forced me to modernise a bit and go out and speak.

On the other hand there are many, many, many, many academics with a phenomenal grasp of
several foreign languages, just never publicised. Leofranc Holford Streven's is a
perfect example. Trained as a Classicist, ended up working in Publishing, can read some
high double digit languages to a ridiculous level. Intimidating but charming. See here: of_the_Romans/

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 Message 20 of 90
22 September 2013 at 3:19pm | IP Logged 
There's a reason I studied engineering and natural sciences :)
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 Message 21 of 90
24 September 2013 at 7:29pm | IP Logged 
I really enjoyed the talk.

Re: his "dry" delivery... well yes, it's very dry. He doesn't crack a smile. But on the
other hand I think that there are too many TED-style talks where each fact has to be
undercut with a joke. Yes, Stephen Pinker is easier to listen to than Noam Chomsky
regarding linguistics, but that's because they serve different audiences.

I think that Arguelles's thought are engaging without him having to crack anecdotes or
throw out dazzling facts. He's a serious person... and the context of his talk is also
serious. Probably 33% concerns, 33% analysis and 33% proposals. If he was talking about
the joys of polyglottery then he should show some emotion, but it's a serious subject
and a serious assembly, so I think he should be able to expect to be listened to
without the burden of being entertaining.

I expected him to go more into his dislike of modern linguistics, but instead he just
leaves it as roughly "people who love facts about language but oddly aren't drawn to
learn them." It could equally be asked of him, "if you love learning languages, why
aren't you interested in the scientific theories about what they objectively
are?" (If you're reading this, incidentally, I would very much be interested in
your answer.)

It would certainly be a better world if one institution of higher education focused on
traditional humanistic learning still existed. Arguelles's speculative curriculum,
posted on this forum, sounds like it would have been challenging even for an early
modern humanist student, but the idea behind it is only what those historical people
DID manage to do. The major problem is that modern education in the richest countries
barely prepares students for their single-subject BA education. There's just not the
same expectation of intensity in education that the early modern world took for
granted. Dr. Johnson, for example, recommended: "A young man should read five hours in
a day, and so may acquire a great deal of knowledge."

It made me think when Arguelles says that polyglottery must be done "on the sly" and
almost "illegitimately," when compared with "legitimate" goals such as getting a high
paying job in finance or following an ordinary academic career path. This is something
clearly close to Arguelles's heart, since he lucked out in Korea and could follow his
"illegitimate" desire, almost as a secret. Why should it have been a secret project
that he only managed to embark on through the indifference of his department?

For me this is exactly why polyglottery should be recognised as an area of study in its
own right. As he says - there are many existing departments in Linguistics which serve
very small niches and manage to survive. It certainly seems that Arguelles is not at
home in any department, and someone of his dedication really should. Why? Because
someone who devoted as many hours to reading English literature as he has to "Languages
with a capital L" would certainly have a tenured post in a university Literature
department somewhere. And would be giving valuable knowledge to students of that
subject. Whyever not for the subject of "Learning Languages"?
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 Message 22 of 90
25 September 2013 at 12:43am | IP Logged 
Retinend asks: It could equally be asked of him, "if you love learning languages, why aren't you interested in the scientific theories about what they objectively are?" (If you're reading this, incidentally, I would very much be interested in your answer.)"

It is not very likely that you get an answer from ProfArguelles. My own humble answer is that I constantly use my training in linguistics when I study languages. In an old thread I have described myself as a rebellious language student because I try to reformulate and concentrate and personalise not only the methods I use, but even grammar itself. However my general feeling is that much current linguistic research has become an empty formalistic exercise, and precisely because I concurrently think in language learning terms that kind of research is of little interest to me.

I once studied "Modern and comparative Literature" at Århus Universitet and became utterly disgusted with the predominantly communist atmosphere at the institute. For practical reasons the language selection was basically limited to the major European languages (including translations into those languages), but nevertheless it was a step in the direction of the multilingual literature institut which prof.Arguelles wants to create. The irony is of course that this institute played an important part in my loss of interest in fiction of any kind.

Linguistics didn't play an important part in the studies there, but I got that later when I studied French (and other Romance languages) afterwards - and this time without hard feelings. And I suppose the professor would encourage language studies and especially studies of more exotic languages in his ideal institute, so that institute would have a totally different and more tempting profile than the politically biased sandpit I have experienced. The main risk would be that his institute would become too serious.

Edited by Iversen on 25 September 2013 at 12:56am

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 Message 23 of 90
25 September 2013 at 1:54am | IP Logged 
montmorency wrote:
So I'm kind of teetering on the 5-6 boundary.
I don't think it's given me any special gifts or superpowers yet.
But watch this space.

That would be wonderful if six were the magic number - it would mean that a lot of us are
close! Though in my case it would have to include languages that I once spoke well and
haven't touched in ten years.

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 Message 24 of 90
25 September 2013 at 3:53am | IP Logged 
A thank you to the OP for bringing this new video to my attention; it was riveting. I can't believe anyone would find it dull, much less members of this forum. The Professor is the only "Youtube polyglot" whom I don't find crushingly boring. Perhaps that is because he is the only one who actually knows and has something to say.

About linguistics, acquiring a collection of facts about a language -or language, plainly- and actually learning a few of them are two very distinct things. And regarding the pretensions to "objectivity" of linguistics, it is but an illusion when not a conceit.

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