Polyglots who don't speak English comfortably?

Being polyglots, most of us are quite comfortable in English, and everyone at the conference that I’ve met so far speaks English at a C level (if they aren’t native). This post is mainly for the people at the conference who don’t speak English at such a high level, either due to lack of interest in English or a lack of necessity, and feel uncomfortable when they speak English.

I am curious: have you felt that your experiences in polyglot communities differs from those of someone who speaks English fluently? And if so, how? (I wrote this in English, but feel free to respond in any language you prefer!)

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Sorry, I can’t understand what you’ve written in your post.

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@Baguette means that there might be people in this polyglot community who only speak a little bit of English, but they speak other languages well. They might for example feel uncomfortable in the Moon Cafe where everyone speaks Englisch all the time.

Jolien

因為我的英文聽力不好的關係,我通常不會參加以英文為主的活動,所以我在這裡可以體驗到的內容也可能比能聽懂英文的人少一點,但其實我自己不太care這個情況。我在這裡的主要目的就是交有共通語言的polyglot朋友們,我已經找到了一些這樣的朋友,可以跟他們用我會講的語言交流就好,所以其他人用英文更多享受什麼也無所謂。

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我也很高兴能找到一些朋友们愿意和我聊不同语言!不然英文是很多人的共同语言,我还是比较喜欢练习其它语言。生活在欧洲,我发现很多年轻人和朋友们聊天习惯用英文。我每次感觉很尴尬因为我知道我们有其它共同语言,我为什么不明白为啥不用。在这个情况下我变得沉默,然后试试看可以换语言。但是我已经会英文。。可能我只是个变态呗。。呵呵

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This also crossed my mind, that the minority of polyglots here who don’t speak English would have a harder time with big events or talks, or even just hangouts, because the pool of common languages will inevitably shrink down to just English as the group gets bigger.

My original question was intended on a more deeper level. I wanted to know if they experience imposter’s syndrome, or feel out of place in polyglot circles, or if they ever feel burdened by their lack of English, since polyglots who speak little English are obviously part of the minority. I left my post a bit more open-ended though, because obviously my target audience would have difficulty understanding a question worded as such. (In fact, I realize the irony of posting such a question in English, but I don’t know what languages my target audience would speak, so I just tried to keep the original wording as simple as possible :sweat_smile:)

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On a more serious note, though, as an English native speaker I think English can often be taken for granted.

Most people attending these kinds of events tend to just say their English level is ‘very advanced’, although I think there’s quite a range of levels that I’ve noticed even among people who say their English is C2.

I guess there might be the feeling that, as we’re all polyglots who enjoy studying many languages, English as the general lingua franca is just ‘too easy’, or that every polyglot will simply speak really good English, though I don’t think this is necessarily the case.

I think English is a language like any other and the grammar rules/vocabulary still have to be learnt, that’s all I’m really saying.

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Haha yes, I was just joking earlier about Steph’s post but thanks, Jolien!

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Haha, believe me when I say that I was very much aware of the irony in writing in English, even before I opened the forum. I banged my head against the wall a few times trying to figure out how to make it easier to understand. :joy:

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Ich finde, man muss überhaupt kein Englisch sprechen: Wenn man gut Koreanisch, Dänisch, Ungarisch, Littauisch, Polnisch, Finnisch und Suaheli sprechen kann - was will man mehr? :slight_smile:

Jolien

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Cheeky monkey DJ
Very impressed with your language and enjoyed your input in all the sessions so far.
Espero mejorar mi Hungaro y portugues.

Not here but yes I’ve interacted with many polyglots in South Africa and Indonesia that only knows English on elementary level or even not at all but they all speak more than at least three languages of the region/country.

I think the catch is that these people that I’ve met generally do not engage in the larger language learner community because for them being polyglot is more often than not came into being due to necessity and exposure. They don’t learn those languages (e,g; Zulu, Xhosa, Hlangwane, etc or Buginese, Luwuk, Butonese, etc) in school, language course or application but simply through immersion and exposure in their daily life; either at work or in their surrounding. Naturally they may have learnt it before the heyday of the internet popularity and even if they are using social media, the space that they interacts in does not cross the language learning community.

There’s also this stigma at least in SA that you’re “illiterate” or backward if you don’t know English since that is the lingua franca and the most needed language to work in the service industry in the cities. I know one gentleman who is fluent in 6 languages (Sotho, Tswana, Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi and Afrikaans) but because his English is not fluent some people don’t consider him as a “true” polyglot because for some reason these same people only considers you as a “polyglot” if you speak a foreign language (French, Portuguese, Swahili, etc) and knows English because that’s the “gateway” to the world :roll_eyes:

At least for the gentleman that I’ve interacted with, he does not necessarily need English in his daily life but it does make his life harder when he goes to the municipality or interacting with native English speakers (who in SA often might not be fluent in other SA languages) as he need to think very hard. I was rather shocked when I posted his story about being treated unfavourably by the clerk when he needed to apply for his ID card in a SA language learning page as some of the comments are rather judgmental, telling (in a rather condescending manner) that the gentlemen should improve his English to get better service (fact; he’s entitled to ask for the service in Xhosa, his native language under SA constitution) or even asking me if he’s such a gifted polyglot then surely it’s his fault for not acquiring English during his early days, citing their family members that did so during apartheid time.

I find it very sad that (some) members of the polyglot community are doing gatekeeping on who’s fit to become a polyglot or not just based on his English and this shows the other barrier aside from technical/generational one for these polyglots to interact with the wider language learner community.

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The idea of blaming polyglots for not taking the opportunity to learn “the major global language” is pretty common and applicable to other areas of personal and professional activities, from job consultants telling you to absolutely use LinkedIn in order to be visible in the job market to employers telling you that without coding/programming skills you’re not a real IT developer. I’ve met many polyglots who don’t speak English but they usually speak French as another major language, and from what I have heard, they don’t particularly feel stigmatized, but this is probably due to the fact that they’re not a part of the communities where English is prioritized. There are very few countries in the world where English is not taught as a second or a third language, so unless there’s another important lingua franca used in the area, those polyglots must have had a good reason to prioritize other languages over English, similar to that of those who never learnt how to drive despite living in the area where cars are the main means of transportation.

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Personally I find english to be a language i dont want to speak in, if were polyglots like lets not speak the lingua franca… however, not sure if this is true, but i heard that the polyglot fallback language tends to be german… is that true?? what do yall think?

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I think our sample size of polyglots who don’t speak Englisch might be too small to make any conclusive statements, unfortunately. (I’m referring people who actively participate in the language community and/or love languages - as there are many people in the world who are polyglots by necessity and don’t view languages as something special.)

That being said, I myself tried to use other languages with people at the conference, and found that most of the time the language tends to be German. This was a bit of a surprise - I would have thought that I’d end up using French more, but I’ve found more German speakers than French, at the conference.

If you define “fallback language” as the language that polyglots use amongst each other when English is not an option, then that’s truly hard to prove. But if you mean that there is a tendency for polyglots to have a high level in German in comparison to other languages, then you may have a point. (I of course can only provide anecdotal evidence, and weak evidence, at that.) I remember seeing somewhere in MrWissen2Go’s videos that German almost became the lingua franca at some point, but WWII effectively killed off the possibility.

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Je n’ai pas vraiment eu l’impression de manquer grand chose à la conférence polyglotte en évitant l’anglais (et il y a d’autres évènements polyglottes en Allemagne ou au Brésil où la langue la plus utilisée n’est pas l’anglais).

Par contre, dans la communauté polyglotte en général, je sens que toutes les conversations se font généralement en anglais sur les réseaux sociaux (dans les forums, sur Instagram mais encore plus sur YouTube), sans doute parce que les réseaux sociaux ont été conçus pour qu’on veule toujours avoir le plus grand nombre de vues ou de clics. Beaucoup de gens parlent de leur apprentissage de langues étrangères en anglais même si leur langue maternelle est l’italien, l’afrikaans ou le français, sous le prétexte de vouloir rejoindre le plus grand nombre de gens possibles. Dans ce contexte-là, oui, j’ai l’impression de parfois manquer quelque chose. Je consomme parfois leur contenu mais je trouve ça dommage de pratiquer mon écoute de l’anglais alors que je pourrais passer du temps à pratiquer une langue qui m’intéresse vraiment à la place.

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Je suis totalement d’accord. Ce que tu dis, ca me fait souvenir d’un article (https://www.sinosplice.com/life/archives/2010/05/18/language-power-struggles) ca explique des challenges des multilingues de choisir une langue a parler. ca dit qu’on va parler pour quelque minutes, et en parlant on peut trouver la langue en commune la pluse elevée quon peut parler ensemble, et puis cette langue deviens la base de converser entre les duex ou plusiers personnes. cest un article tres interessant, il y a des examples plus dynamique que l’un dont j’ai parlé.

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C’est un article assez intéressant, merci de l’avoir partagé! En fait je connais trop bien la difficulté de rompre l’habitude de parler dans une certaine langue avec quelqu’un qui je connais depuis longtemps. Si on commence à parler avec quelqu’un en anglais (qui est souvent le cas entre les gens de pays différents) ça sera difficile de changer la langue parlée dans l’avenir. Par contre, j’ai recontré des nouveaux amis à la conférence, et j’ai parlé exprès en français/allemand/chinois pour qu’on fixe cette habitude de ne pas parler en anglais, qui a marché assez bien. C’est comme ça que j’ai fait le “playing the game by the rules” dans cet article. :smiley:

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Ich stimme @Baguette zu, ich bin selber nicht anglozentrisch, weder hier in der Polyglot Conference Global noch auf z.B. auf Facebook. Ik gebruik b.v. auch graag het Nederlands of mijn twee skandinavische talen, het Deens en het Noors. Quand je poste une photo sur Facebook, j’explique l’image en au moins 5 langues. Per me stessa è molto ultile utilizzare tutte le mie lingue.

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