Tips for Prospective Polyglots

By Ma

It has been more than a month ever since I travelled to Brisbane, where I felt carefree and unconstrained. This is in stark contrast to life in Hong Kong, where the hustle and bustle dominates on a daily basis.

Yet it is not only the monotony of the job which besets me, but the decline in my English speaking skills has also become my main concern. Both a linguaphile and a linguistic zealot, I always consider communication skills as of utmost importance. Once I thought immersion – the method of second language (L2) learning through which a learner studies all subjects or all areas of knowledge in L2 – was a well-established and an effective way of mastering other languages. But I was wrong. As all roads lead to Rome, I believe his persistent efforts will be paid off after whatever attempts. (I shall explain how this works in detail for the next entry.)

Recently I have been trying hard to find the culprit(s) of my retarding learning capability. Despite numerous reasons found, I would like to highlight some here ranging, in order, from the most culpable:

  1. Slothfulness

If you are contented with being a couch potato, you will probably fall prey on the evil of laziness. Apparently it hinders you from achieving all your goals. The only way to ward off the obstacle is to force yourself by going straight ahead with the target you aim at. Conscious of this evil in myself, I registered for multiple exams in my own will. But it seemed that I bit more than I could chew in the end.

Thus, here is another tip for better progress: To know your own ability. While practising self-constraint is essential, act according to your own capacity. Do not drag yourself down because of too much stress, as a stressful environment is unfavourable for language learning.

  1. Lack of Practice

I have hitherto stressed that perseverance is the key to success, and those who dare defy the axiom are to be doomed to failure. But in order to persist in the same thing, an impetus, namely Passion, is indispensable. Passion is particularly important for second language acquisition, as your interest in foreign culture and music, as well as your love for the unique phonemes of its words all motivate your further study. Then, you should, I think, seize every opportunity to practise it such as listening to music, watching videos and reciting from time to time until you habituate yourself to that language.

Having spotted my problems with my learning progress, I therefore come up with few improvements.

Systematic Learning

This is particularly essential for those who aspire to be a polyglot – a master of multiple languages. Regretfully my study plan has been at sixes and sevens, since I was always diverted myself instead of implementing a plan to spend equal time on studies of Japanese, Korean and French.

Goal Planning

Before formulating an appropriate plan, it is also necessary to concretize your goal so that you can think more seriously how to achieve it. As to me, I hope, with strong determination, that I can master English, Japanese, French, Korean and German within a few years’ time.

Progressive Learning

Another suggestion for those would-be polyglots: you would better acquire an intermediate level (for example, in case you are a Japanese learner, I would advise you to attain the N2 level), before you start learning another language. Likewise, if you persist in acquiring two languages simultaneously, it will be ideal that they have different etymologies in order to minimize confusion during learning.

When you finally reach a particular level in a foreign language, you will find that you gain a key to access more freely the culture, and you take full liberty of enjoying the books, the films, and the music, which is indeed the icing on the cake – an extra benefit of mastering the lingua franca. After all, to learn how to walk from scratch can be daunting, but if it carries through the end, you can, I believe, reap more than you sow.

[Featured image taken by James on 19th October, 2016]


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