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studychinese

Calling out the polygots

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imron

..... Published on May 20, 2016

 

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studychinese

There has been some more polyglot discussion on this thread, so if you were following this topic you can go and check that out.

 

The interactions on that thread, and particularly after reading this thread over at How To Learn Any Language, has made me realize that what the "polyglots" are doing is way worse than selling derivative and dubious study methods, but may actually be toxic to language acquisition itself. Over at the forum of How To Learn Any Language, it is interesting to see how the polyglot charlatans interact with each other and back each other up. It generally follows this pattern: a YouTube polyglot's true abilities and claims are called into question. This causes a flood of polyglot charlatans (often people "fluent" in more than ten languages) to rush to the YouTube polyglot's defense, and accuse the questioner of jealously, negativity, or attempting to dissuade people from learning languages. When all else fails the YouTube polyglot is a fantastic chap that shouldn't be criticized. Its an interesting profile in group psychology, and how people can embrace and protect the falsehoods of others to protect the falsehoods that they are also telling.

 

One of the weird fetishes of the "polyglots" seems to be list making. List making is where a polyglot or prospective polyglot makes a list of all the languages that they are going to acquire over the next few years. The longer the list, the better. If there are 20 languages in your list, that beats someone with 10. You can see plenty of lists and list makers over at How To Learn Any Language forum. To me this is the opposite of language learning. The true benefits of learning a language come when you get deeper knowledge of the language and think within the frame of that language. If you started learning a language, and after 3 months self style yourself a "fluent" and do so for a couple of years, then you can also self style yourself as a polyglot. But you will not have deep knowledge of any of those languages, and will be a joke in a real situation. And when it comes to the YouTube polyglots, to the extent that they speak ANY language fluently at all it was not because they followed their own advice, they put in far more time than they let on.

 

Besides what was written in this and the other thread, here are some issues with the "polyglots"

 

*People feeling inferior because they aren't able to be "fluent" in a language in 3 months, or even two weeks! Its sad that they feel that way because the polyglot charlatans aren't fluent either, and that should be made clear at every opportunity (like me posting this here).

*If you have questions about the specific claims made by polyglots, forget about just asking them about it directly. They will ban you if you cast shade on them. Questions can only be raised on third party forums like this.

*The slippery slope is in full swing. Its no longer enough to be a "polyglot", now they have to be a fake hyper-polyglot to get any attention.

 

Don't think that the polyglots are doing anything you aren't doing already. If you are reading this on this forum and have studied for a few months, there is a very good chance that you speak Mandarin better than almost all of the polyglots.

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DavyJonesLocker

I would have thought that the easiest way to settle any claims would be to take a  language proficiency test. Anyone who doesn't take a test doesn't deserve any sort of recognition. It takes and hour, is cheap and and would be in very beneficial to the  polyglot.

 

One can't claim to be proficient in other areas without some for of professional or academic recognization 

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Shelley
34 minutes ago, studychinese said:

And when it comes to the YouTube polyglots, to the extent that they speak ANY language fluently at all it was not because they followed their own advice, they put in far more time than they let on.

 

I also think that they "forget" either deliberately or unconsciously just how much work they did to get to the level they are at..

 

I do wonder if there is a certain point in learning a language where you have learnt and understand the mechanics of the language and you are just adding vocabulary, I wonder if it is at this point they feel they are "fluent" I think they may still be caught out by a new usage or an unusual structure.

 

 

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Wippen (inactive)
32 minutes ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

One can't claim to be proficient in other areas without some for of professional or academic recognization 

Why not? There are many examples of people who have gone to work in China for a number of years and have become proficient and have been able to sell this skill in their next job where fluent chinese was required. Without having gone through a formal language assessment

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Shelley

I think what DaveyJonesLocker might have meant is that to put the doubters to rest, these so called polyglots could take an approve method of gauging their level of fluency. Then they can add this to their lists of accomplishments and they will stop being hounded, that is of course if they have a good result otherwise I suspect the results will disappear into the ether never to be mentioned again.

 

People who actually use the language for work, or other, will just get on with it and are not making claims on the internet or trying to sell their method and so are not being constantly called on to prove their skills with paper qualifications because it is apparent from their results that they can speak the language in question

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DavyJonesLocker
17 minutes ago, Tøsen said:

Why not? There are many examples of people who have gone to work in China for a number of years and have become proficient and have been able to sell this skill in their next job where fluent chinese was required. Without having gone through a formal language assessment

 

I mean people who are in the business of claiming they are polyglots to sell their language learning business, not someone who uses their language skills to aid their primary careers.

 

Edit: @Shelley, just posted at the same time you did do missed your reply

 

Edited by DavyJonesLocker
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studychinese
16 minutes ago, Tøsen said:

Why not? There are many examples of people who have gone to work in China for a number of years and have become proficient and have been able to sell this skill in their next job where fluent chinese was required. Without having gone through a formal language assessment

 

You can't take that sentence in isolation. In the previous paragraphs he makes it clear that he is talking about polyglots who have had their language abilities questioned. Usually this arises because someone heard them speak the language and decide that they are not good in that language at all. Completely different from a person that is manifestly competent in a language.

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Wippen (inactive)
2 minutes ago, studychinese said:

 

You can't take that sentence in isolation. In the previous paragraphs he makes it clear that he is talking about polyglots who have had their language abilities questioned. Usually this arises because someone heard them speak the language and decide that they are not good in that language at all. Completely different from a person that is manifestly competent in a language.

Ok understood that afterwards.

I often get CVs with people claiming they know a range of languages and that it ok if they can explain why they know the language (including if they claim to be multilingual) and without a certificate this is also ok.

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Shelley

@DavyJonesLocker No problem, glad I got your meaning correct, just wanted to support and clarify your comment.

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Wippen (inactive)

I personally perceive claiming  as be a polyglot as bragging. Being modest about ones's achievements would make me respect it.  I am not saying they are all like that.

I feel their claiming to be fluent in these languages of which one I may speak one, indirectly belittled all the effort I have put in. In the case of Chinese over 5000 hours. 

 

In these hours I have tried to cover all language aspects from grammar, tones, prosody, higher level writing, writing by hand, chengyu , use of synonyms the list goes on etc etc. Some of it I have enjoyed but some aspects I haven't. With the polyglots often they only allow you to see one aspect: speaking. Skills like listening comprehension, writing etc are often not shown.

 

It annoys me I am not able to just ignore it and then get on with my life :-)

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studychinese
9 minutes ago, Tøsen said:

I personally perceive claiming  as be a polyglot as bragging.

 

I think its OK to brag about being a polyglot if someone is in fact a polyglot. They put in the hard work, talent, or both, so they get bragging rights. A fake polyglot bragging on the other hand is totally unacceptable.

 

11 minutes ago, Tøsen said:

With the polyglots often they only allow you to see one aspect: speaking

 

Right. And most often speaking into a camera with a script. Or if they are talking to a person, its always in a controlled environment. I think quite a few "polyglots" have been burned trying to learn the languages of East Asia, and we probably won't see another polyglot "learn Chinese in 3 months" thread for a while.

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eslnomad
1 hour ago, studychinese said:

Right. And most often speaking into a camera with a script. Or if they are talking to a person, its always in a controlled environment. I think quite a few "polyglots" have been burned trying to learn the languages of East Asia, and we probably won't see another polyglot "learn Chinese in 3 months" thread for a while.

 

That's why I'm far more impressed by someone like Julian Gaudfroy or Da Shan who absolutely hit it out of the park with one language than most of the youtube polyglot dabblers.  Someone who masters a very difficult foreign tongue like Chinese, Russian or Japanese and can go on a show aimed at intellectuals like 锵锵三人行 like Julian Gaudfroy or Professor Wolfgang Kubin beat out by far the scripted, controlled environment dabblers going through their list of languages.  I do like Luca Lampariello and Steve Kaufmann however, although I see recently Steve is also becoming a dabbler, going from Korean to Polish to Arabic to Hebrew to Greek with it being doubtful if he'll get to where he was with his earlier core of languages.  I do use his LingQ app for Chinese and a few other languages since I like texts and listening input à la Krashen.

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DavyJonesLocker
9 hours ago, studychinese said:

 

Its a long thread, but see how you feel about the most famous of polyglots after seeing how he treats the regulars here.

 

16 pages on my phone, must be the longest thread on the forum!

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imron
35 minutes ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

must be the longest thread on the forum!

Not by a long shot.  BTW people, the Benny thread is closed for a reason, no need to rehash it here.

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Wippen (inactive)
5 minutes ago, imron said:

the Benny thread is closed for a reason

why may we not discuss on these forums?

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Shelley

I think mainly because that topic just started to go round and round and it wasn't really achieving anything.

 

I guess we exhausted that topic.

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