"DAMN YOU, POLYGLOTS!" CONFESSIONS OF A WANT-TO-BE LINGUIST
Recently, I have decided to add another language to my repertoire. Currently, I speak English and German. But before any premature conclusions are being drawn, I need to emphasise the fact that I am German by birth and hence, knowing English doesn’t really count in that way. Speaking English well in Germany is about as exciting as a red brick wall, I'm afraid.
Whenever I witness people switching between more than two languages with absolute ease, I always experience this strange mix of admiration and loathing. Who they think they are, feeling superior because they speak a few languages? And how the hell did they even manage to learn so many languages in the first place? Absolutely ridiculous. Could you tell me how you did it, though?
While most multilingual people I’ve met were very lovely and modest about their language skills, I’ve also had encounters with polyglots who made me want to jump out of the window. Recently, I made acquaintance with a girl over dinner, who unsolicitedly told everyone at the table how she just came back from living in the US for 6 years. She then proceeded by listing the languages she could speak apart from English and German. And if that hadn’t been appalling enough already, she managed to make it even worse by asking, and I quote, “How about giving me a little taste of your English?” Well, how about a little taste of you shutting up?
Thankfully, these encounters are relatively rare, and most of the time, I simply just feel inspired when people can speak more than two languages without being a pretentious dick about it. The latter part is very important. Meeting a polyglot should be nothing but encouraging and motivating since languages are quite literally the key to the world. They are so fascinating and facilitate learning about different cultures. Speak the language of the country you're visiting, and you're not just some tourist anymore, whom the natives secretly despise. So please don't be put off by people who need to be served a big piece of humble pie.
My favourite bit, however, is probably being able to have a full on conversation in the middle of a packed restaurant without anyone knowing what you're saying. Admittedly, this can go awfully wrong if you're not careful, but having a secret language to resort to when needed is really amazing. Speaking multiple languages is actually a superpower, and I admire polyglots very much for that.
So now, I’m trying to pick up on French again and honestly, I cannot wait to make people hate me for it. "Oh, you don't speak French? That's a shame."