After nearly a half a year of authoring The Present Presence Blog, I have had so much fun writing for you that I have decided to start another project.
For those of you who might not know me yet, my name is Jared Gimbel and I am an American passport-holder who has lived in Israel, Poland, Sweden and Germany. When I have to have down-time, then I will make the best of it by ensuring that most of my leisure time is spent watching/playing things that are not in English.
My language journey, like those of all others, has been full of mistakes and confusions after which fulfillment and meaningful discoveries followed. Unlike many other polyglots that I have met, I often get comments like “why do you choose to focus on languages with not many speakers? (e.g. Hebrew, Danish).
Being the only member of my nuclear family who is fluent in a language other than English, I’ve realized that I have one thing that motivates me to undertake a project: being surrounded by people who think that it is uncool or not useful. By this same logic, I found it difficult to study languages that everyone was encouraging me to learn (unless it was absolutely necessary) and found it easier to study ones that people were actively discouraging me from learning.
My transition to full confident polyglottery occurred only earlier in 2014, however, although I was practicing my skills for two years until I truly unlocked the self-confidence that I needed to play the act fully.
I’ve had a fascination with language learning since I was a child, despite many attempts at discouragement from many people throughout my life. For most of my life I was fairly convinced that I was to be a monoglot forever (despite the fact that my Jewish education enabled me the ability to read Ancient Hebrew and translate prayers and holy texts with ease).
For most of my high school years, as well as my college years, I was convinced that I would never reach a decent communication level in any other language, and that I would remain the stereotypical American English speaker for all time.
But this changed because of two things: for one, the Yiddish Farm summer program gave me an initial boost of confidence, in speaking only Yiddish for three weeks. However, despite that, I was convinced that I wasn’t really that good at Yiddish, and that I wouldn’t get anywhere with it—that the countless Yiddish books I had seen in my life would forever be shut off from me, by virtue of me not learning it early enough in my life.
The second, more decisive, defeat of this too-old mythology came about when I was in Stockholm one time for a Shabbat dinner, someone told me that it was indeed possible for me to learn Swedish as an adult (even to a perfect level!), and that I was wrong to think that it would be impossible for me to learn any language beyond a certain age.
A lot of encouragement for potential language learners has already been written by many (Benny Lewis’ “Fluent in 3 Months” definitely being the best-known), and I am not going to say what others have said beyond what I need to. My job is to provide the stories and the experiences that only I can.
Ever since the realization that I could continue this process as an adult (which occurred, roughly, in February/March 2013), I have taken it upon myself to continuously improve my skills in languages I had learned previously (to various degrees), but also to learn many new ones in accordance with my interests, my passions, and my work.
Since this turnaround, I brought it upon myself to learn more about the world through the tongues of others. I have focused most passionately not only on Yiddish but on the Scandinavian Languages in particular, but not to the exclusion of many others.
Now I have decided to record my lingual journeys, past and present, with this blog.
My path in exploring other tongues, like so many other journeys, has been one of tripping, mistakes, public embarrassment, and self-consciousness, alongside mirth, fulfillment, confidence, and the warmest feelings known to mankind.
I will be as honest as I can about my feelings and my linguistic journeys and bring you all in my journeys to acquire new languages and delve deeper into those other languages that I know better.
I hope that this will encourage all of you to do the same, if you haven’t already.