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A Confession: I want to be a Polyglot and Esperanto is the only way I might achieve it.

As I'm stuck inside and taking a break from my graduate class, I was pondering language learning over a cup of tea. Something I don't like to admit is that I would love to be a polyglot. I don't like to say that out loud, since I think it sounds profoundly arrogant coming out of my mouth. Of course, I don't want to be a polyglot for the sake of being a polyglot or to brag about how many languages I speak.

I just truly want to be functional in four (maybe five) languages. I like the idea of being able to connect with people in their language.

I need to make Spanish my strongest language. I'm a teacher and most of our ESL students speak Spanish (something like 52%). I would like to speak Portuguese, since Brazilians make up around a quarter of our ESL students.

I'd love to bring my German to a B2 level eventually. My Italian is rusty (it was B1 years ago) and I'd love to learn French to either A2 or B1. As a Latin teacher, Romance languages just pull me in.

I also want to reach A1 in a dozen different languages. I know I can't realistically reach C1 in Swedish, Greek, Turkish, Korean, Chinese, Dutch, and Russian, but a solid A1 is possible.

Of course, Esperanto calls to me with its sweet siren song. With my limited time, I know I can reach B2 quickly with Esperanto. I know I can reach a lot of people who genuinely want to make a connection. The community has a high percentage of trilingual people and that helps me find practice partners.

Is anyone else on a similar path?

March 7, 2018



I am indeed. I'm also a teacher, so Spanish is my priority as well (due to the ESL population) and I'm lucky enough to be conversational already, bordering on fluent. The biggest thing to take the languages to the next level (especially listening/speaking) is to have some medium where you hear (and at least mimic, copy) the language. For me, it's European football (soccer)-- I watch live games in my target languages to keep the "music of the language" in my ears.

I've set the limit at six additional languages and am relying on my background in Spanish and to some degree French. So basically I have 2 very foreign languages (German and Swedish) and two that relate quite closely to Spanish. It's manageable. I learn the other languages for kicks, but I have no delusions of fluency or even A1. My goal with ALL other languages I've looked at (on Duolingo and on my own time) is to reach a level where I could meet someone or travel somewhere for a short time and be able to move around functionally (directions, ordering, meet and greet).

I think that being intense and diligent about language learning is important, but being realistic is essential for long-term gains. I compose music, write prose and have other hobbies that require my memory and attention, so I feel like I've set boundaries to make sure I don't let those other disciplines suffer as a result of my polyglot ambitions.

March 7, 2018


"I learn the other languages for kicks, but I have no delusions of fluency or even A1. My goal with ALL other languages I've looked at (on Duolingo and on my own time) is to reach a level where I could meet someone or travel somewhere for a short time and be able to move around functionally..."

I have a similar idea about my skills in most of my languages, but I think you're selling yourself short. If you can travel and function at a basic level then you're at least A1.

March 7, 2018


I feel you. I already speak English and Mandarin completely natively and I have a semi-native grasp of Spanish because I grew up in a Hispanic community. I'm trying to learn Italian and Spanish helps a lot but I'm no language-learning prodigy and so Italian, like all natural languages, has been difficult to learn nonetheless. Esperanto seems to be the only language that I can learn with a fraction of the time it takes to learn any natural language, even Italian. Low-key, down the road, I want to pick up some German, French, or a Scandinavian language just for fun. I've always wanted to learn Latin, Arabic, and Greek, but their grammar systems all seem hopelessly remote from the systems I'm already accustomed to. Vivu la Esperanto!

March 8, 2018


I was in a French immersion school as a kid for 4 years. I spent many years and a lot of money trying to learn Arabic. I can't speak French or Arabic. I can speak Esperanto though.

March 8, 2018


Haha that's so funny. I was in a French immersion school for 7 years and I'm fluent...

March 8, 2018


It really depends not on how many languages you want to learn but which ones. For example, if you want to ‘collect’ Romance languages, each one becomes exponientially easier to learn/understand than the previous one. So for learning closely related languages in a family a laddering technic might be best. If you are learning unrelated languages, then it might make more sense to learn them simultaneously, especially if one language has a complicated alphabet... you can soend more time on the basics, while practicing another language. I don’t know about Esperanto, since I have only perused it, I have heard that learning it makes subsequent language study easier... but I remain unconvinced myself. However, if you like Esperanto and the language community around it.. then that seems like a good enough reason to study it for its own sake.

March 7, 2018


Well, the Romance languages won't be a problem to learn, only to keep separate in my mind. My Portuguese and Italian still bleed into my Spanish (which a native Spanish speaker told me sounded "cute").

As for the magic wand effect, where it helps you with other languages, that depends on when you learn it. I already knew Latin before I started Esperanto, so the accusative -n was familiar. It did help my understand agglutinating languages immensely. After finishing the Esperanto tree, Korean and Turkish grammar make a lot more sense. It has helped me not reach my critical frustration point when studying other languages.

March 7, 2018


If you're gifted with languages, which is seems like you are, Esperanto will be a cakewalk. It has its own idiosyncracies and pitfalls, but you won't have irregular plurals, verbs, etc. to memorize. Once you learn the past tense is formed by replacing -i with -is, that's it, you're done. And there's enough depth to the language I still find it interesting and learn new things even 15 years later.

I would say if you're interested in Esperanto and end up enjoying it, then that is all you really need. I speak English natively, French for 18 years and Esperanto for 15. I started feeling more comfortable in Esperanto than I did French after only a year or two, and still feel that way today.

The reason is twofold: the language is very regular, so at a certain point you don't need to always worry about grammatical pitfalls. And the second, nearly every Esperantist speaks it as a foreign language. That means we are all on a level playing field, all sometimes make mistakes, and are all trying to understand each other. I also love using Esperanto's word building features to make just the right word I needed.

Come for the regular grammar, stay for the community and fun!

March 13, 2018


The level playing field also extends to accents: since there not really a "native accent" to follow, the usual anxieties about sounding wrong do not apply as much, and listeners will generally be very accepting of a wide range of variant accents.

Another aspect is that almost everyone who learns Esperanto tends to have some purely "for the fun of it" interest in languages, and will usually have learned it as an adult, so they are mostly both willing and able to discuss Esperanto language questions (as opposed to how native speakers of other languages sometimes only have "you just have to know" or "that's just how it works" answers).

March 13, 2018


I totally understand you. I want to be a polyglot too, but I don't think it's a shame to say that out loud, i always say it to my friends hahaha :)

March 7, 2018


I've met a few people who have told me they were polyglots when we were introduced. Their level of arrogance when it came to languages made me never want to sound like that.

March 7, 2018

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