Becoming a polyglot

Throughout my life I’ve tried to learn several languages. This started when I was a kid and my dad would read The Little Prince in French as a bedtime story. It continued when we got our first computer and a program stored on multiple disks that made language learning a game. And it took a darker turn when I realized I had things I needed to say without being understood and I didn’t quite trust that no one would read my diary. What languages I wanted to learn changed throughout my life depending on others around me. One might say I lacked focus. And they wouldn’t be wrong, but they would miss the point.

As adults, we tend to be more focused and disciplined than when we were kids. My experiences with language learning are no exception to that. My choice of language is still strongly influenced by the people around me, but now I have clear goals and enduring motivations to keep me focused.

At the end of the day, learning a new language is about connection. It’s about opening your mind to a completely different way of thinking of things. You can’t want to learn the language for superficial reasons like impressing people or moving forward in your career. You have to want that connection with others. You have to want to open doors that would otherwise be closed.

Right now I’m learning Spanish. I’ve made a good amount of progress in a small amount of time. I’m at least as far, probably farther, than I got in my Japanese studies and I’ve been exerting serious effort for half the time it took to get me there. I’m making friends with people all over the world, thanks to the ease of finding language exchange partners these days. When I become fluent in Spanish (not if, when) I’m sure I will continue to maintain that skill because I love the friends I’m making and the people I meet. They all have stories to tell and sharing stories is a quintessential part of being human. And once I’m in a place where I can maintain my Spanish, I will try for another language and another culture. For the first time in my life, I feel like I can become a polyglot without facing overwhelming odds stacked against me.

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