A friend of mind recommended that I write this piece when he asked me how on earth I managed to live a multilingual life at a young age. Granted, I do have some advantages. Living in New York City means that I have opportunities to hear and use these languages. Being a freelancer that works with translation and teaching has as well (although this does tend to benefit the languages that I have the strongest command in above all). Then, of course, there is my peer group.
If you want to have any mental or professional attribute, surround yourself with people who have it and you’re more than likely to acquire it yourself.
With that said, I also think that anyone can learn 10+ languages to very high levels as long as one crushes any limiting beliefs or any hint of “I can’t!”. History was never changed by people who had this sort of thought.
Here I’ll lay out the variety of mindsets that my hyperpolyglot peers and myself have adopted:
- An Altruistic Desire to Help One Another
The best language learners help each other up. They share tips and are willing to rehearse languages whenever necessary and provide feedback / praise / constructive criticism. They draw other people to them with the power of thinking “you can do it!” and “I’m willing to help you!”
They cultivate an openness that is likely to draw in speakers of their target language as well as similar “bridge builders”. They’re willing to provide advice of any sort and provide whatever courage needs to be provided with nary a hint of any toxicity or discouragement at all.
This is NOT saying that hyperpolyglots are angels, because all of us have flaws as human beings. Rather that they see the value in spreading positive energy in encouragement.
- A Growth Mindset
Contemporary educational systems tend to focus a lot more on the “fixed mindset”, in which only the current result is judged in ADDITION to ignoring the fact that it is very possible for human beings to improve, even drastically so.
Often on the Internet a lot of people judging people’s language abilities judge what they HEAR and SEE, as opposed to what it WAS and what it has the POTENTIAL TO BE.
Hyperpolyglots see the potential to growth in everything and foster that path in others.
- A Distinct Lack of “Perfectionist Paralysis”
I think it was Benny Lewis that coined this term.
When I upload my Fiji Hindi recordings next week or so, there are probably a LOT of things that I got wrong. There is a chance that I may have used too many English loan words or that my formality may be completely off.
That said, I’m going to upload them anyway, even at the cost of potential dislikes. This idea of “waiting until you’re perfect” or, even worse, assuming that anything less than near native fluency is useless, is dangerous.
A lot of today’s institutions as well as common mindsets try to make people adverse to risk. This only serves to breed conformity (which is helpful for the proliferation of income inequality). Always try with what you have, because those form the steps which will lead you to the legendary skills of your dreams.
- An Awareness that Learning a Language is a Very Vulnerable Act and that People Don’t Undertake It Precisely Because of That
There is a lot of negative energy in the world, not also to mention many people having heard horror stories about language learning. Some of them include, for example, a man who got a Mandarin Chinese tone wrong and was told by his in-laws to “never attempt this language again” as well as a Dutchman who said “I’d rather speak in English rather than listen to your shit Dutch”.
Half of my language-learning classes at the very beginning is programming people to have my mindset in which to not be afraid of mistakes and realize that even the “pickiest” of native speakers are usually very forgiving.
There is a huge veil of doubt, discouragement and limiting beliefs that prevents people from living their dreams. Every day. We all, as humans, have to get rid of that veil’s power—on ourselves and anyone else we may know.
- A Recognition that Everyone’s Accomplishments Deserve to Be Celebrated
Even a few words of your dream language is something.
Your first conversation is a milestone you’ll remember.
Making a video of yourself speaking the language also deserves celebration.
Getting praise from native speakers and /or getting mistaken for one is also very noteworthy indeed.
No matter the language, every single one of these steps has to be savored and congratulated.
- Being Intrigued by the Differences Between Nations and Cultures
This is one that sets apart those who speak three languages from those who speak 10+. They’re fascinated by what the world is like, what sort of surprises are present in the literatures, cultures, customs and traditions of the many languages of the world.
Those who get endlessly intrigued by this “world with little worlds” get thrown into a desire to endlessly explore, break comfort boundaries and do what it takes to acquire skills in many languages to degrees they can be proud of.
I find it no coincidence that my Polyglot Awakening occurred at a time in my life in which I shifted four countries over the course of four years.
- A Love of Humanity in General
Even if they don’t agree with most governments on the face of the planet, all of my hyperglot friends realize that all of our human cultures deserve to be learned about, shared and loved.
The human soul, brain and heart are infinite beings. We will never realize the full extent of our own conscious, yet alone that of any one human being at any point in history.
Those who learn languages with great passion see in it the door into realizing how we as humans can all come together and realize exactly how much we have in common.
I’m drawing up a video in which I’m writing the script for (this is a scripted “inspirational video”) and I’m using one language I chose from each continent as well as … well, you’ll have to wait and see. Despite the fact that these languages come from completely different places in terms of climate, values and history, they still share so much.
And that’s the beauty of being alive right now…and being a polyglot (or an aspiring one) in the 2010’s and beyond.