What No Outsider Really Understands about Polyglotism

last pic of 2017

January 2018 is about to close, and it seems that I did myself a great disservice at the beginning of the month.

Empowered by the fact that I did achieve a significant amount of my 2017 goals, I DRASTICALLY overshot for both the whole year as well as for January 2018.

My goals were to focus on:

 

Hungarian (modest success)

Gilbertese (modest success)

Vincentian Creole (virtually no progress whatsoever)

 

Not also to mention that I greatly neglected the “CleartheList” challenge that I set out to do at the beginning of the month. I seemingly neglected every single task.

If this were a high school report, January 2018 would have given me a barely passing grade.

But interestingly, I’ve notice a HUGE change from my school days to now, the fact that the combination of failure and trying again is more powerful than merely succeeding on the first try.

Surprisingly I felt (and this is the first time I’m saying this) that my college grades weren’t up to par. While some people found themselves on the Dean’s List and Phi Beta Kappa I struggled GREATLY (granted, this was in part because I felt pressured to continue my classical studies long after I lost interest in dead languages in general).

But do I think about it now at all? No. If anything, I think that I saw organized education as deeply flawed actually EMBOLDENED me. It made me want to go on the different path, stand out and be rebellious. And you’d be surprised how little your previous failures matter when you speak 17+ languages very well (even if a good portion of those 17 are English Creoles).

And then, there are the polyglotism failures.

 

Times I haven’t lived up to my standards.

Times I felt compelled to run away from a conversation with a native speaker because I was just too self-conscious even if they said outright I was speaking very well.

Times I was asked to speak a language that I’ve had rusty practice with and didn’t deliver.

Times I’ve fallen to my own limiting beliefs.

Times I’ve made grievous errors, regarding word choice, grammar, tones or something else entirely.

Times in which I’m tempted to compare my native English to any of my other languages and they, for obvious reasons, fall short (I tested in the 99th+% percentile for English vocabulary usage, so my speech in English is EXTREMELY well developed.)

 

But with each one I’ve become further emboldened after the fact. Sometimes I’ve had to call a family member or confide in a friend that I felt that I used a certain language so weakly that I “ought to have been ashamed” (and yes, sometimes ENGLISH was that language!)

I think that there are some online polyglots that try to deliberately hide their vulnerability on their blogs but from my experiences at conferences we really all have that vulnerability…not just polyglots, but any high achievers.

As to what I did wrong with “Clear the List”, well…I was feeling invincible after the Polyglot Conference and after having looked back at what a success 2017 was for my life, and I just took on too much.

Let’s revise my plan for February 2018 accordingly:

  • Greenlandic 30-Day Speaking Challenge (I just think COMPLETING it would be a good idea)
  • 30 minutes of Fijian Every Day (this is something I NEED to get done)
  • Caribbean Creole Project in honor of Black History Month, perhaps uploading at least one video on that Creole once every three days at least.

I haven’t decided which Creole gets the “honor” yet, I put it to a poll on my Facebook page but it seems that the personal poll feature still has yet to be worked out (it didn’t show up on people’s News Feeds for some odd reason).

Anyhow, the Hungarian 30-Day Challenge in complete (there will only be 28 recordings because two of them involve songs that I can’t post on my YouTube channel if I want to monetize the videos. Despite the January 2018 changes that will render my channel demonetized until I reach 1,000 subscribers AND 4,000 hours of view time in the last year, I want to invest in it eventually, so make sure to subscribe!)

In the meantime, here’s the previous Greenlandic 30-Day Challenge Video from December 2017, I’m curious how my next one in February will go!

Label Items in my House in Burmese (Eurolinguiste 30-Day Challenge: Day 14)

Table – စားပွဲ (zəbwɛ̀)

Document – မှတ်တမ်း (m̥æʔ.tæ̀ɴ)

Book – စာအုပ် (sa.ouʔ)

Dictionary – အဘိဓာန် (əbídæɴ)

Mirror – ကြေးမုံ (ʨè.mouɴ) OR မှန် (m̥æɴ)

Bed – အိပ်ရာ (eiʔ.ya)

Bag – အိတ် (eiʔ)

Chair – ကုလားထိုင် (kələ.tʰaiɴ)

Telephone – တယ်လီဖုန်း  (tɛlipʰòuɴ)

Cards (to play with) – ဖဲ (pʰɛ̀)

Wallet (also purse) – ပိုက်ဆံအိတ် (paiʔsʰæɴ.eiʔ)

Coat (also jacket or raincoat) – မိုးကာ (mò.ɡa)

 

Do YOU know any more words that YOU think should be on this list? Share them with us!

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Some of my Favorite Exclamations that I Think Should be in Every Language

Today is a sunny day, and ideal for making a listicle!
I believe that, given the title, this list needs no real introduction, aside from the fact that I sometimes find myself using the words in question regardless of what language I’m actually speaking.
Each of the meanings can be signified with the word in question, and any combination of the meanings can fit in various usages.
1. “Gerne!” (German)
Means: Yes, certainly, with pleasure, gladly

Anyone who has spent any time in any German-speaking country will attest to this word’s prominence, bordering on overuse.

It conveys a certain sense of camaraderie that very few words are even capable of.

2. “Fedt!” (Danish)
Means: Awesome! Cool!

Literally means “fat”, probably has something to do with meat. It is very easy to imagine how this ended up in its current usage, and those of you who understand anything about Danish culture will more easily imagine how and why.

I tell my English-speaking friends that Danish is the only language in which the word “fat” is conveyed as a compliment. If you know of any other languages in which this is the case, let me know.

So far, not even the other Scandinavian Languages qualify. Neither do any others, for that matter…

3. “Take!” (Yiddish)
Means: Yes, of course, definitely, without a doubt, certainly, very much so

(The “e” is pronounced…hence, ”tak-eh”…accent on first syllable)

Let’s be honest, this one sometimes is used in English—or rather, English as spoken by some/many Orthodox Jews.

Michael Wex, of Just Say Nu fame, noted that this word is very much overused and can convey the same meanings as many English filler words. Just think of the American “awesome” to think about the degree to which this word is used.

4. “Totta kai!” (Finnish)
Means: Let’s go!, Let’s do it! You’re absolutely right! I’ll get that done. As you say. Got it. Yes. I wouldn’t doubt it. Shall do!

No other phrase can…ahem… “finnish”…a discussion…or an exchange…quite like this one. Just say it aloud if you need further proof.

5. “Duiju! (Northern Sami)
Means: You idiot!

When the word “idiot” in an exasperated voice just simply will not do…

6. ”Egal!” (German)
Means: Doesn’t matter, don’t particularly care, either way I’m okay with it, makes no difference to me

Smooth, laid-back indifference flies in the air whenever I hear this word spoken. Especially in a slightly loud tone, or even with a friendly one…

And my overall favorite of the bunch goes to…

7. ”Sussa!” or ”Sussat!” (Greenlandic)
Means: Don’t bother with it! Disregard that! Doesn’t matter! Not Important! Forget about it! No good! Shoddy. I don’t care. Makes no difference. Who cares?! So what?! Do I look like I care?
“Sussa!” is singular and “Sussat!” is the plural, so depending on the object of indifference/light scorn, this word is altered accordingly.
This word is “egal” with 70 times the personality. It is pronounced with an accent on the first syllable and the “a” is pronounced like English “at”, but slightly closer to a standard “e” sound, as found in the Romance Languages.
Sometimes when I am extraordinarily frustrated (but not angry), but still want to convey a certain sense of class, I’ll use this word, regardless of what language I’m actually speaking at the moment.
I really recommend using it whenever possible.
It definitely deserves memetic status, and an occasional “sussa!” here and there can work wonders for your feelings, bordering on therapeutic.
Interestingly, one of the best-known musical hits in the Greenlandic Language, “Sila Qaammareerpoq” (Roughly, “The Weather is Sunny, Beautifully Shining”), is the creation of a band with the same name:

What are some of your favorite one-word expressions? Share them in the comments!

Rhythm, Vocabulary, Music, and a Song in Estonian

Yesterday evening and this morning I was browsing through my musical collection in order to ease telltale signs of slight infirmity (thankfully I’m a lot better now…)
A certain gem of my collection was the following song (although possibly not everyone will call it a song):

The song, which is in Estonian—although I can’t possibly classify it as either sung, chanted, screamed, or spoken—almost represented Estonia at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2013, “Meiecundimees üks Korsakov läks eile Lätti”, translates to “One Man of Ours from Korsakov went to Latvia Yesterday”

The lyrics are probably about as deranged and eccentric as the costumes you may see, and deals with the man in question having his bones broken one after another. I was reminded by Daniil Kharms’ stories which I first savored as a sophomore in college.

My family members didn’t particularly like the song and I imagine that many of you won’t be enthused by it either. BUT this post isn’t about this song, it is about a revelation I had about vocabulary learning, which is partially indebted to this demented but possibly brilliant…yes, I will say it…masterpiece.

The rhythm of the lyrics managed to induce a certain catchiness, despite the fact that the lyrics weren’t particularly sung nor was the melody anything of particular note. Perhaps it was some variety of modernistic ritual chant…

It was very easy for me to memorize the long title of the song, largely as a result of the fact that it was repeated in the song very often but also as a result of the primal rhythm which somewhat resembles a very excited heartbeat.

Later on that day I found myself looking at my Greenlandic phrasebook before going to bed. Awfully long words, I thought, how am I going to memorize everything in this book…
…and then it came to me…

…what if I used that rhythm from “Meiecundimees”, or a similar-sounding one, in order to commit these words to memory?

“Naalagaaffeqatigiit”…the Greenlandic word for the “United States of America”, a very important word for me to remember…so how did I memorize it?

Upon chanting it several times, I’ve noticed that it stuck, very much like the longer song title did.

Afterwards, I tried it with a number of other words as well, but I didn’t want to “stuff” my memory too badly before the night was up.

With most Indo-European Languages, I could manage to make out cognates and remember them that way. This was even true when I found myself committing Northern Sami vocabulary to memory (I could just search for cognates between the Scandinavian Languages or Finnish).

The only way I could do that with Greenlandic is with the modern words that came from Danish. “Beta Versioni” doesn’t strike me as too hard to remember. But for most of the words with Inuit origins? No way…

…and that is how music became necessary.

I imagine that many of you would seek to study more commonly studied European languages, and in that case you may already have methods of memory that involve tying them to languages you already know.

Chinese and Japanese with their systems of characters call for another set of memory methods altogether, but the fact is that with Greenlandic I found myself alone, without too many colorful resources or speaking partners.

So when all else fails when you need to remember something, or are just seeking to learn new words…remember my lesson…

…and face the music…