Language rants, or: you nerds sure have too much time

Es wurde schon alles gesagt, nur nicht von jedem.
Everything’s been said, but not by everyone yet.

– Karl Valentin

I already mentioned some of my thoughts about polyglot blogs here. However, in this post I assumed that yes, the bloggers in question are no impostors but do learn the according languages.
However, a recurrent topic in the language learning part of the internet deals with the fact that people doubt these achievements.

I can identify two different lines of thought here:

First, they say, the bloggers had some prior knowledge of the language. As you can understand from my previous post on languages bloggers, I wholeheartedly agree on that one. I’d even go as far as saying that it is inevitable that they have some kind of foreknowledge after having delved into a wide range of languages, investing both time and passion. After some time, it’s a law of nature that they cannot learn a language from scratch anymore.

The second issue deals with the language level the bloggers claim to acquire. Do they really speak all those languages that well after such a short time span or do they inflate their knowledge?
Let me answer this one with another question:

Why should I give a fuck?

How will my life be affected if I am to find out that Benny the Irish Polyglot didn’t reach level C 1 but only B 1 in, say, Spanish? It’s none of my business if he gets by in Spain or not. The only way this could affect me would be if I used ineffective methods because I read it on his blog. But even if we assume that he didn’t make as much progress as he states: does this make his methods useless? This would imply that language learning is only about methods, but as everyone knows (or should know), it isn’t. I may sound like a broken record here, but the circumstances under which someone makes progress are highly individual.

Does he feel a special connection whatsoever with the country he’s in? Does he love talking? Is it easy for him to grasp the prosody of a given language? Is he lovesick? Does he already know a similar language (cf. #1)? Are the locals friendly and easygoing or is it hard to make contact?

All this stuff will highly influence the progress a learner will make, and none of this says anything about the effectiveness of the methods used.

I read language blogs to find new inspiration. Whenever I encounter new methods and ideas, I’m likely to try them out, happy and grateful that someone shared their experiences on the net. But I know that I’m different from the other bloggers, so I’ll have to adjust their methods to my needs.

Having said that, it seems to me that there is another reason for all those rants: fear and bitterness. Fear that all those endless hours of studying were in vain if any stupid blogger on the internet receives huges credit for his language skills just because he states on his blog that he’s fluent, and bitterness if this actually happens.

Luckily, there’s an easy solution for that one: don’t learn a language because you want to impress anyone. Do it for yourself – this should be reason enough.

Update: I just realized the extent to which this discussion may have been led by personal differences between the persons involved. I’d like to make clear that this blog post is solely and exclusively limited to the language learning aspect of this discussion. I don’t know everyone of the persons involved, and I am not interested in taking part. However I’d like to add that I am really sick of people who wash their dirty laundry in public.

Published in: on May 4, 2011 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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