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studychinese

Calling out the polygots

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Lu

@Tomsima, I see your point but this is a problem I really never had. Probably because in the Netherlands, virtually everyone is multilingual. You can go to a bike repair shop and have an effective conversation in International Bad English. You can go to a bike repair shop in the East of the country and have that conversation in German as well. So pretty much everyone here knows what learning a language entails. The only people who ask me how long I have studied anything are Chinese. (And then I try to wave them off with 好久了 because I haven't been seriously studying for years but I never stopped learning either. Impossible question.)

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Tomsima

That's true. I feel like the polyglot sell is most successful in monolingual countries, and they get away with it because those who are learning languages get patted on the back in a way i would imagine those in countries where most of the population are multilingual such as the Netherlands probably wouldnt.

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Flickserve
17 hours ago, Lu said:

I'd say B1 level. Far from perfect mastery, but a working knowledge, being able to explain mostly anything as long as both you and the listener are patient.

 

17 hours ago, Publius said:

I'd say B1, the minimum requirement for obtaining a UK work visa.

 

I don't think I will get to B1 before I die. 

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Lu
11 hours ago, Tomsima said:

because those who are learning languages get patted on the back in a way i would imagine those in countries where most of the population are multilingual such as the Netherlands probably wouldnt.

I do get 'Chinese? Wow, that must be so difficult!' a lot (don't we all), but this has not lead to 'learn Chinese quick' schemes, to my knowledge.

 

Just went to check on Duckduckgo whether that is still true and lo and behold, I found a Dutch polyglot. His Chinese is not bad at all, but then, he has been at it for eight years or so. I didn't delve in to see whether he makes any outrageous claims about learning Mandarin.

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Shelley

@studychinese I do not doubt that there are Polyglots, my grandfather was Professor of languages at Bonn university in and around the 1930's. He could speak ,read, and write 7 languages, and read and write a further 7. At the time of his death he was translating Shakespeare into Arabic. He was Turkish/Greek by birth and most of his languages are from around the Mediterranean and Europe. 

 

My mother was bilingual, having been born in Germany of my British grandmother and my Professor grandfather, and spoke very good French. She spent some time in the 1950's doing simultaneous translations at the United Nations (English/German) She even had elocution lessons to remove her German accent which wasn't very desirable in the 1940's.

 

My two proficient languages are English and French and i am learning Chinese and will be learning Chinese till the day I die.

 

I give all the above information to show that I have good reasons and data to back up my belief that people can be multi-lingual.

 

There is no question in my mind that true poly- and even hyper- glots  exits. My only question is how do we measure their proficiency and at what point do we say someone knows a language.

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studychinese

@Shelley I am sure they exist, too. The apostles of the New Testament famously spoke many languages. I'm not saying that multi-lingual people do not exist. I myself am multi-lingual.

 

What I am saying is that these 'polyglots', especially on YouTube, are deceiving people as to their 'fluency' and the efficacy of their study methods. Let me give you an example but read this first - 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gell-Mann_amnesia_effect

 

When people hear a 'polyglot' speak a language that they themselves cannot speak, they assume that the speaker must be good at that language. However whenever they hear the so-called polyglot speak in a language they do know, the polyglot's ability is usually considered wanting. You see this all the time. Like the Gell-Mann amnesia effect, people forget how bad these polyglots are in the languages that they can assess, and assume that they must be good in the languages that they cannot assess.

 

So when we are talking about someone that is a self proclaimed polyglot, we are talking about a situation where probably about 99% of people that claim the distinction are either lying about it or deluded. I don't see the point of nuance here.

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陳德聰

It’s interesting how I come to care less and less about how other people are not good at a language the better I get at it. To me this somewhat supports the jealousy theory, or something close to it. I used to get quite peeved about certain polyglots, often because I could tell they either weren’t as good as me in the languages I could assess, or at least not nearly as good as they claimed, but I didn’t have the ability or authority to confront them. I am now, somehow, totally indifferent to it. Like by all means pretend you are good at this stuff; it will never change the reality of whether or not you are actually as proficient as you say you are. If the ignorant masses want to take someone’s word for it that they are proficient in a language without any objective measures, frankly that’s also their problem.

 

11 hours ago, studychinese said:

Summary: anyone that calls me a charlatan is a bully. My objective claims should not be held to objective standards.

I think a more apt summary is: haters are a total waste of time and energy.

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studychinese
21 minutes ago, 陳德聰 said:

To me this somewhat supports the jealousy theory, or something close to it.

 

I wouldn't trade ALL of their languages for my Chinese. That would be a very, very bad deal. Jealousy isn't my motivator. When someone is doing well, I feel happy for them. Its inspirational. To me what they are doing is an affront to truth and actual language learning. Sure, you can diss the "ignorant masses", but these people are the majority of the population. And if you don't present these ignorant masses with an alternative narrative then they will never have an opportunity to correct their ignorance, will they?

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Jon A

Why do any guys of you care?

 

Perhaps they are frauds.  What of it?  Does it change your life in any way?  Does it diminish your own learning and your own accomplishments?  It is a tempest in a tea pot.

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Publius

populus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur...

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Shelley

@studychinese it seems I misunderstood on which side of the argument you stand.

 

 

@Jon A Hello and welcome, I don't actually care and yes it makes no difference to my language learning but it is an interesting discussion. 

 

I just think there needs to be some sort of testing that can prove one way or another the language level of people claiming to be polyglots.

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DavyJonesLocker
11 hours ago, Jon A said:

hy do any guys of you care?

 

Perhaps they are frauds.  What of it?  Does it change your life in any way?  Does it diminish your own learning and your own accomplishments?  It is a tempest in a tea pot.

 

agree it doesn't affect me at all as i have been around the block a few times, but I can see how it can negatively affect language learners that have been struggling for years even a decade or more, to learn one language. Thus reading about someone who self proclaims mastery of dozens is very demotivating for them.

 

in any case, like anything in life if you put yourself out there and make large questionable claims you should be able to back them up (i.e. tests) and expect some criticism in absence of evidence . That's why we have qualifications, certificates, exams, tests and so on 😉

 

 

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Jon A

You all mentioned Benny Lewis earlier in this thread.  Benny takes the B2 exams whenever he finishes a “mission”.

 

What more do you want?

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陳德聰
2 hours ago, Jon A said:

You all mentioned Benny Lewis earlier in this thread.  Benny takes the B2 exams whenever he finishes a “mission”.

 

What more do you want?

Hi Jon, welcome to the forums.

 

There is a 16-page long locked thread already on the forums where anything and everything that ever needs to have been said about Benny Lewis--and quite a lot of things that never needed to be said--can be read and re-read to your heart's content if you do not want to read the 6 pages in this thread where people talk about what objective standards they think could/should apply to polyglots.

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Shelley

"Chinese Project (2012)[edit]

Lewis made attempts at learning both Japanese and Chinese to levels of fluency in the space of three months. He admitted he found these the most difficult languages he had attempted to learn[7] and only partially achieved the goals he set himself for these languages. That said, he did achieve some success in learning these languages.[37][38][39]

Lewis announced on the 4th of Jan 2012 that he would undertake a project to learn Mandarin to fluency, specifically stating a goal to attain C1 level in the European Language level Framework in the space of three months.[40][41] After endeavouring to learn the language, he was assessed by a Chinese language teacher after 5 months (28 May 2012)[42] who assessed his ability in detail, stating that his spoken ability was "very impressive" at a B1:lower intermediate level and that his listening skills were "very good". However, his reading and writing abilities were assessed to be at a level below B1 and after 5 months, he failed to achieve the level of fluency (c1 Level) he had stated he was aiming for at the start of the "mission".[43]"

 

The above from Wikipedia, he did not pass B2 or even take the exam.

 

End of Benny Lewis in this topic from me.

 

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Lu

I thought of this thread last week when I met a real-life Chinese polyglot. I was there with 20 people from almost as many countries, so that was a nice testing ground. In addition to Mandarin, he spoke (at least) Dutch, Italian and Georgian, and he told me he also spoke German (which I believe) and a number of other languages (but I forgot which). It was neat. We made a little conversation, his Dutch started out very rusty but got better with every sentence. We talked about how cool it was that he knew Dutch (of course), he asked whether he was the first Chinese person to speak Dutch to me that week, I said he was, he said he was honoured. I did wonder about his 听力, not sure if he understood everything I replied to him.

 

I heard him talk to the Italian woman a few minutes later and noticed that he used the same line about being honoured to be the first person to blablabla. It seems he had one short conversation he could handle well in those many languages, and that he didn't actually speak them in a meaningful way. But it was still neat. I was especially impressed by the Georgian, how do you even think of learning that? My take was that language learning was a hobby for him and he got a kick out of impressing people this way. So, good for him.

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重大雷雨

I like this thread.  The beginner "polyglots" are annoying.  They are just another incarnation of Instagram models, "world travelers",  programmers proficient after a 3 month python course and other types of bullshit artists who are trying really really hard to impress people without any ability to back it up.  If you do not have the equivalent of at least 2 years intensive study for a language, you are not fluent.  Do not be fooled by the person who claims to be fluent in Georgian, but just traveled there for 2 weeks.

 

Unless you want to devote your entire existence to language learning, you will not really be good at more than 2 languages in addition to your native language.

 

It is funny that this is happening at a time when the most sensible people refuse to learn anything other than English.

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DavyJonesLocker

The internet gives  rise to a lot of BS claims with no backup . I see it everywhere on all sorts of  forums. I'm on fitness ones and you would swear everyone has a 6pack and bench's 140kg and are performance enhancing drug free. You mention programming. I did my Microsoft exams a way back VC++ and took years and years to properly learn OO and C++ yet as you say people messing around with VBA for a month were also deemed programmers. 

 

You should see the amount of supposedly gurus in finance on YouTube They don't understand the very fundamental principles of Finance (my profession)

 

Like as these other topics , I firmly believe practically no one passes HSK6 from scratch in one year Sure there will a few but the ratio out of the hundreds of thousands of students that take the exam every year is tiny I'd suggest. And the kicker is HSK6 doesnt put you anywhere near fluency. Almost all claims of rapid fluency is generally flawed IMO. There is always hidden information conveniently left out like being an ABC, already fluent in Cantonese , secretly studying for years etc 

 

No matter how gifted you are it's the same with all topics, programming, fitness, engineering or whatever. You need the passage of time to experience different situations, learn by your mistakes , digest information.

 

I remember it was years as a C++ programmer and then many more years as finance specialist, until "I got it".

 

Finally I know many like to discuss what is the definition of fluency . I take a much simpler approach. Live a day  like an ordinary Chinese person. Can you go to a restaurant , read the menu, read a bog standard novel on the subway , browse a random set of topics on weibo, get a haircut**, listen to random stuff on youku, watch a bit of telly, channel hopping , browse shopping  apps, wander around the supermarket reading labels . If you can all these mundane tasks without having to look at PLECO a million times (like me haha) you're pretty much fluent.  Remember a 14 year old could do all of the above I'll bet . This takes years on end. Now try do that in multiple languages.....

 

 

**Edit: haircut may seem a random one but i had just come back form the hairdresser and I couldn't figure out how to say hair wax instead of hair gel. Most men would know this basic request in English so it shows me that I still struggle with every day life here in Beijing

 

Edit 2: The impetus of my post is not necessarily to call anyone a charlatan but rather to encourage learners that who arduously try and learn a language for many years (like me), not to be dissuaded by these supposedly gifted language learners.  I meet people who have lived in china for ten years and more but feel very much discouraged and downhearted by their progress in Chinese. Thus they have a tendency to downplay how much they tried or just keep quiet about their tremendous efforts, for sake of embarrassment

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Lu
13 hours ago, 重大雷雨 said:

Do not be fooled by the person who claims to be fluent in Georgian, but just traveled there for 2 weeks.

Well nobody was claiming that, at least not in or after my post. I actually made a point of pointing out his skills were pretty limited per language, while he did speak an impressive array of them.

 

And let's not go into the 'what is fluency' debate again, perhaps? We've talked about it a lot already.

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