I used to ponder this question myself. But now I put the question to you! When did you first realise that you were a polyglot?
For myself, I realised when I moved to Italy and I was introduced at a party as someone who could speak English, Spanish, and French. Everyone wanted me to demonstrate my language abilities. So there I was, in front of 15 - 20 strangers, being asked to translate into the aforementioned languages what was being asked of me in Italian. I guess you could say it was one of my proudest moments so date
When I learned my sixth language: Catalan. In 2002, in only six weeks. My mastery in Catalan improved my Italian and improved my French.
I was told I was a polyglot by a French person on the train next to me when I was 14. It was he first time I had heard the word and I had him explain it to me because it was in French and I didn’t know it in English. I was on my way from Paris to near Lyon and later realised that the French use polyglot way more often than we do in English and they say you’re one when you basically speak another language well!
I don’t consider myself a polyglot yet.
I speak English, Spanish, and German, and would probably be fluent in Esperanto if I kept it up.
These are just my personal criteria: “poly” means “many” I don’t think two or three count as “many”. Four doesn’t feel like it either, so I don’t think I’d consider myself a polyglot until I speak a minimum of five languages at the level that my German and Spanish are, at least in the spoken aspect.
And even then I may hold off until I speak 6.
I also think that if you speak several Slavic languages, or several Scandinavian languages, those generally could count as separate languages. Maybe not cases like Dutch or Flemish, or Serbian and Croatian, but generally I think this is true. So If I learn Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, I’m counting them. It may not be the most impressive combination, compared to a woman I know who speaks Polish, English, Japanese, Spanish, and Mandingo, but that’s another topic.
Being multi-lingual: 2012, when I could chat and pray with people in German
Being polyglot: circa 2018, on Polyglot Conference in Ljubljana. I enjoyed speaking languages I know so far with people around the globe.
I don’t know exactly when I realized I was a polyglot, but it must have been around the age of 20. However, I believe there are two definitions of a polyglot. The first is a person able to speak many langauges (and of course there is much discussion around how many languages qualify as “many” [for me it’s 4] as well as what qualifies as “speaking” a language). The other, and the one I identify as, is that of a person who is truly passionate about language learning. I speak 3 languages with another one in the works. So, I wouldn’t even qualify as a polyglot based on the first definition. But my passion for languages and language learning is so strong, I believe it deserves a definition of its own. So, as impressive as I find the talented and hard working polyglots that have been able to learn 4, 5, 6 or even 20 languages, it is the passion behind it that draws me to those people more than anything else.
Around age 25 as I was learning new languages at work & spending all day in a multilingual envrionment.
When I moved to Europe (first Germany, now Sweden) and learned two languages to fluency to go with the two I already spoke. It became such an addiction to see how my world opened up further in both countries that I’ve made language learning an iron-clad habit in my daily routine. I still feel like I need to add one more language in order to officially call myself a polyglot.
When I was 15 I participated in an international youth project and during the introductions others were impressed that at that age I spoke three languages near-fluently. However for me it was a norm, as for many of my peers, so at that time I did not consider myself a polyglot. Being on language number five (going to six) I am still not sure whether I am a polyglot because it’s a new normal for me and my friends. We are just a curious and sociable bunch. In any case I agree that it’s the passion that counts.
Ooh, great question!
For me, I am hesitant to use the term “polyglot” in describing myself. There are too many different definitions for the word to even know if I qualify. I have heard and read that the term refers to two, three, four, six, or even eleven languages minimum. I have also heard that the languages must be to any proficiency, to conversational proficiency, or even all the way to advanced proficiency. It’s strange to me that there isn’t more of a consensus on the definition of this word. So, do I know enough languages to qualify as a polyglot? Am I proficient enough in those languages to call myself a polyglot? I’m just not sure where the threshold is.
Regardless of whether I may or may not be a polyglot, I have a passion for languages. I love exploring them, I love learning them, and I love using them. Rather than call myself a polyglot, I just think of myself as a “linguaphile” instead. This word’s definition is more clear and less debatable.
In short, I am a linguaphile and maybe-a-polyglot-depending-on-what-definition-is-used.
I don’t consider myself a polyglot and also sometimes wonder if I will ever identify as polyglot and what this entails. Where I’m from, it’s common to study two to three languages at school, learn one or two additional languages for travelling and many people are raised bilingually (at least partially). So, in my kids’ school everyone studies English and Latin or French and as a third language Spanish or Italian. Considering that most children have a migration background they also speak apart from German, their heritage language as well (Turkish, Chinese, Arabic, Polish, Russian, Telugu, Albanian etc.). Some kids might have two heritage languages. My elder son learns English, French and Spanish at school, has German as native language and Mandarin and Shanghainese as heritage languages. I don’t really know any monolingual people, so being multilingual is normal for me and nothing for which I deserve a label/badge (and though the term “polyglot” is neutral at first sight, it does seem like a badge to me that some people like to carry even if they only know some basic phrases in a couple of languages). I’m just a language enthusiast and always will be.
It’s interesting because I grew up with two mother tongues (Spanish and Catalan, as I am from València in Spain) and I don’t have any memories of myself not being able to speak any English, as I learnt English in a language academy since I was 5 years old. I started to learn German and Swedish without actually knowing about it in 2008 when I became addicted to “Verbotene Liebe” and “Melodifestivalen” (I was 14 years old). Soon I realised I could understand a bit more each time, but I wasn’t conscious that I was learning, I just saw it as a game. 2008 was also the year that I started following actively the Eurovision Song Contest and it was like a game for me to learn lyrics written in other languages (even languages like Russian, Greek, Hungarian or other languages that I didn’t speak). Finally, I think I realised that I was a polyglot when I decided to learn German and Swedish in 2011.
Growing up my family had an old set of encyclopedias. One of the books was a multilingual dictionary. I spent hours reading that book teaching myself the different words. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Moltes gràcies pel missatge, però no sóc hiperpolíglota i no parle sis llengües amb fluïdesa com posa a la vostra pàgina web. Ho sent.
Ah, aleshores sí. T’escric per email.
I don’t believe I’m a polyglot. Probably because I’m a native Greek speaker and this word feels “too strong” to describe myself. I guess everything carries a different, stronger meaning when it’s in your native language. Take swear words for example
While I love languages and speak more than three, I consider myself a language enthusiast; that’s far more liberating, even though this word also comes from Greek
I yearn to be a polyglot, but I am nowhere close. I am definitely, like others have said, a language enthusiast. I am working on 3(deutsch, español, limba română) in earnest and 3(Latin, nihongo, sanskrit) as hobby languages. I have heard that it is not advisable to try and learn too many at once, but I just can’t bring myself to drop any of them. I love the idea of being able to communicate with others in their native language and not have to use English all of the time. I plan to travel in the future and I want to speak to people locally and not just be a tourist.
I always knew I loved learning languages, but only when my friend invited me to a Facebook group called Polyglots (in 2014) did I find out that I might call myself a polyglot as well, being fluent in German (my mother tongue), Hungarian, English, French and Italian. I prefer thinking of myself as a “language enthusiast”; “polyglot” sounds a bit like something you have to achieve, maybe count, maybe be proud of. On the other hand, I do like thinking of myself as a polyglot in the sense of being part of this community calling themselves Polyglots.
I have a similar story: a Pole and a Hungarian were talking about me and they referred to me as a “polyglot”. However I was 39 at the time, so you attained the title of “polyglot” much quicker than I did!