One year ago today I filmed my first polyglot video of me narrating my life in 31 languages (and I uploaded it the following day). In my opinion now, it isn’t the best video, but still an accomplishment nonetheless give that I was fairly new to video-making and was still (at that point) too nervous to even film a Let’s Play Video, yet along a Polyglot Video.
I’ve gained not only wisdom, several newspaper articles written about me, and many interviews and friends since then, but also things I need to know about making videos in the future.
For one, a lot of people aren’t going to really know about what makes a video good or not, even if they’ve filmed something viral themselves. The algorithms continue to not only confound me but also change regularly.
However, one thing I’ve consistently gotten feedback on in the fact that more emotion and voice musicality is good, not also to mention sound quality. Sometimes I’ve been capable of delivering this, other times I haven’t.
Also keep in mind that no matter what you do, people are going to accuse you of being fake somehow. Believe me, this happens to ALL of the online polyglots (some do a significantly better job at hiding it that others). One viral video had several nasty comments accusing the speaker of using Google Translate (something that I literally COULDN’T have done with my most recent Valentine to Oceania video from February 2018, given that literally none of the languages in the video were in Google Translate at the time of filming [and still aren’t, as of the time of writing]).
I know I’m genuine. Sometimes I have bad moments, sometimes I “knock it out of the park”, but most of the time I’m good if not great. This isn’t up for debate, because otherwise I wouldn’t be friends with well-known polyglots and have conversations with them in their various languages. No amount of Internet hate can take that away from me, and it shouldn’t take it away from you either.
I wasn’t reading from a script in any of my polyglot videos (although I did outline beforehand “things to talk about”, for example, and go through a practice run of talking about those things with recording software to see if my accent[s] sounded good enough). Nonetheless, given that I didn’t show emotion in my video (due to fear) I got that accusation leveled against me by multiple people.
Even if you have difficulty showing emotion, I would recommend trying to smile (even though yes, this is something I’m trying to work on myself). Also I think that while short videos can be helpful if you’re trying to get some feedback on your accent (which was one point of the Oceania video from last month AND the Jared Gimbel Story from last year), keep in mind that many people may be looking for a solid 30 seconds – 1 minute per language you speak.
But again, feel free to experiment with the formula (very much like I have).
If I had to prepare another video tomorrow, here’s what I would do:
- Each language I’d like to feature, 30 seconds each MINIMUM.
- Multiple takes is okay with good editing.
- You could have a thread that ties all of the narratives spoken in each language together or just simply say “I learned language X. I liked it because XYZ”. Either way, there are going to be some “haterz” angry with you regardless of which you picked. (The former may accuse you of being scripted, the latter may say “why do you just say the same thing over and over again?” You can’t win with some people)
- Announce a plan to my friends beforehand (on Facebook) to give me positive feelings going in.
- Set aside a good hour to rehearse speaking beforehand (that is to say, good diction, eye contact, etc.)
- Film with the best device I have (smartphone is good).
- Use languages I really like.
- Do some recording practice beforehand for some self-assessment
- Give it a title that doesn’t mention you by name but DOES mention you by name in the description or video itself.
Some Miscellaneous Thoughts
One neutral, and one thought that may vex some of you.
Let’s start with the neutral one.
The fact that I focus on lesser-known languages is likely to work against me in the algorithms, if it hasn’t already. Someone speaking Romance languages from Western Europe may be more likely to get millions of views than my videos featuring languages from the Pacific (despite the fact that my Oceania video was actually the first-ever of its kind!)
I’m okay with that because it is true to who I am, and who knows? Maybe a video featuring me and my rarer languages WILL actually go viral, contrary to my expectation now.
Lastly, I’m not going to lie, I feel as though the online polyglot community needs to diversify away from the official languages of the U.N and the “Duolingo Five” (of Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Italian). It’s okay if you like them, it’s GREAT if you like them, even. I may even choose to focus on one of them in the future in more depth than I already have if the need comes up (Spanish and German I have well enough already, but I don’t really “love” them the way I do languages like Greenlandic or Fijian).
To that end, I will be omitting languages like Spanish, French, German and even ENGLISH from my polyglot videos until I feel as though the YouTube collection of polyglot videos diversifies considerably beyond that. If you speak one of these as a native language, please do not construe this as me holding your culture is less regard, because we ALL have value. This is just my way to ensure that this world gets “spiced up a bit” (and also to see how people react when I have Kiribati and Lao in my video and no Spanish. It should be an important lesson on how most people ACTUALLY value linguistic diversity)
I need to set an example. I think that a lot of people are focusing on very powerful languages with very little motivation without realizing that so many cultures need to be explored. That’s why I do what I do. And it is okay if you disagree with me, because communities are all about mature disagreement.
I have to use my position of power and influence to create a world I need to see. And that world includes linguistic diversity from ALL of our cultures, not just the ones that were and are dominating the globe.
I’d like to thank all of my watchers and readers for the support that I’ve had since my first polyglot video was filmed. I truly appreciate it and it is because of you that I continue to work!
I’m running out of pictures and I should probably upload new ones. Sometimes I can’t believe how shamefully open / honest I am.
On to your dreams!