Today’s guest post is from the very talented Natalie at Fluent Historian. Take it away, Natalie!
I’ve been involved with the language learning community for over four years now (even longer if you count the time I lurked in forums and on other people’s blogs before blogging about language on my own) and as diverse as language bloggers and their blogs may be, there does seem to be a commonality amongst them: many, many language learners who blog and post on forums learn more than one foreign language.In some cases, it’s just a few languages. Someone likes Spanish, then decides to do French and eventually German, then works at maintaining these three. Or a person learns something common and conventional like Spanish and wants to pick up something more exotic, like Russian or Arabic. And in some cases, it’s even more extreme. I’ve seen forum posts and bloggers who claim to know eight, nine, or even ten foreign languages, and sometimes even more. (Alexander Arguelles knows over thirty languages at a relatively high reading comprehension level, if I remember correctly. I think he speaks a fair amount of them, too.)
I’m not trying to criticize people who learn a ton of languages. Honestly, I understand the temptation. Since starting Russian, I’ve sporadically studied other languages, too, including Swedish, Serbian/Croatian, Ukrainian, Spanish, and Afrikaans. I even wrote a short-lived blog about my brief Serbian experience.
However, I’m not fluent in any of these languages I studied after Russian. (With the exception of Ukrainian. I can kind of fake fluency sometimes. Like when I’m listening and understand a lot of what is said, which only happens sometimes. Don’t ask me why—I don’t understand it either.) I would argue that a lot of so-called polyglots aren’t fluent in all the languages they claim fluency in, either, but that’s the subject of another blog post. Studying other languages was fun for a little bit, but ultimately, I wasn’t able to stick with any of them.
The reason why I didn’t stick with any of these languages—and the reason why I’ll probably never be a polyglot—is I just love the Russian language too much. Whenever I studied a language besides Russian, I always thought that my time could be better spent improving my Russian. In other words, I’d rather be really good at Russian than mediocre at two or three foreign languages. And as controversial as this may sound, in my experience a lot of language bloggers who claim to be polyglots aren’t actually fluent in most of the languages they think they are. (Some notable examples to this rule are Ron*, who writes this excellent blog, and Donovan of The Mezzofanti Guild. I’m sure there are others but I can’t remember them right now.)
(*Editor’s note: Natalie is very kind to mention me, but like her, I don’t like to label myself a polyglot. I explain why in an older post, which bears similarities to the one here.)
One of the reasons I’ve stuck with Russian all these years is because I love it so much. It’s the first foreign language I studied that I truly fell in love with. I’m interested in other languages but that interest is mild compared to the passion I feel for Russian. So yes, I may not fit in with many fellow language learners in our part of the blogosphere—but that’s okay, because right now, Russian is the foreign language I need in my life.
About the author: Natalie studied history and Russian language at university. Her Russian obsession has been going strong for over seven years now and shows no signs of abating. She also plays violin, works on novels, and writes about her life on her blog, Fluent Historian.