Language Log #1: Contemplating languages

I am a linguaphile. I am completely intrigued by languages. I love looking at the links between different languages, similarities and differences, language jokes and memes, and yes, I love learning languages.

What I am most definitely not: a talented polyglot.

There are many things that get in the way of learning languages properly, but they can mostly be summarised: I have a terribly short attention span, lose interest quickly, and have very little discipline. As a result I end up doing most things half-assed. Case in point: learning languages. I always envy polyglots who work at languages systematically and end up being very decent, if not fluent at them (although everyone has a different definition of fluency and that’s a topic for another time). Me? I’m decent at best, and at worst completely hopeless.

I want to learn all the languages and I want to be really, really good at them.

But at some point the reality of the situation dawned on me:

  1. You can never learn every language ever (and time is limited).
  2. Some languages will be easier than others.
  3. Some languages will be more interesting than others.
  4. Some languages will be more useful than others.
  5. #2, #3 and #4 are usually not the same language.
  6. You will regret not spending enough time on a language.
  7. You will regret dropping a language.
  8. You will regret not dropping a language.

…and finally:

  1. You will not become fluent in all your languages, and it doesn’t matter.

Taking all of the above into account, I’m having a small (but continuous) existential crisis when it comes to languages. Where to go from here, what do I really want to achieve?

Do I want to spend more time on my semi-solid languages (German and Japanese)? Do I want to focus on my freshest newest language (Korean)? Do I want to revive something old and given-up-on (Mandarin, French)? Or do I want to start from the beginning (Russian)?

Or do I want to do it all at the same time? (Spoiler: yes.)

Oh man, life is too short.

6 Comments

  1. I know, right? It’s especially bad when you won’t be satisfied with just knowing the basics. If I’m learning Russian, I fully expect to be able to read Tolstoy one day… and soon at that! On the other hand, we’re lucky that we like reading to start with. I feel like once you get good enough to read, it becomes kind of self-sustaining (granted you actually read which comes back to not having illimited time though).

    I’ve been guilty of having a few language flings as well (Estonian, Italian, Chinese and the beautiful Dutch of course!) I used to shop for my next language “after” Japanese. Such a fool hahaha. Glad to see your blog back btw!

    • I wholeheartedly agree with the reading thing! For me it’s one of the most enjoyable (but also most frustrating, not gonna lie 😉 ) ways to use a language.

      My main language frustration is, I guess, deciding when I’m satisfied. You never really stop learning of course, but when do you feel confident enough to consciously stop learning and instead just pick up things along the way when they come up? I haven’t found the answer to that yet.

      (Haha @ Japanese. It’s never-ending!)

      How is your Russian btw? I’ve just returned from a holiday in Georgia (Georgian is super fascinating btw) and I really really kind of want Russian to be my next language!
      Carola recently posted… Language Log #1: Contemplating languagesMy Profile

  2. Are you studying Korean too? I’ve been doing my best for a few years now (probably around low intermediate level for reading and beginner for everything else!). Luckily, there’s so much material out there, that it rarely gets boring – I just wish i had more time for it…

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