|pəˈtenCHəl| adjective [ attrib. ] having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future
ORIGIN late Middle English: from late Latin potentialis, from potentia ‘power,’ from potent– ‘being able’polyglot
|ˈpäliˌglät| [noun] a person who knows and is able to use several languages
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from French polyglotte, from Greek πολύγλωττος, from polu- ‘many’ + glōtta ‘tongue
Numerous theories exist as explanations for polyglotism. For example, it has been recognized that someone who is interested in languages, with a sufficiently developed intellect, and who optimizes his/her learning technique with experience, will become increasingly efficient as each new language is learned; therefore, such an individual is able to master new languages with less effort than the average person. Also, different languages overlap in the areas of grammar and vocabulary, and this makes it easier to acquire connected languages, such as English and French words (the overlap is much smaller between English and German, and other Germanic languages).
Languages are my passion, and they have long been my driving force. Whether it be an interest in poetry or linguistics, French or Arabic, Latin or Greek, I have always been fascinated by the phenomenon that is human language. When I was fourteen I remember taking up Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue and devouring it in one sitting; at age eighteen I begged my parents to let me spend a Gap year in Geneva, Switzerland, where I was determined to speak French naturally and fluently. My college studies were spent exploring the ancient languages of Latin and Greek, learning enough to whet my appetite without fully mastering the languages, yet all the more aware of the potential in a handful of words. I traveled to Northern France and studied French as a Foreign Language (FLE) along with historical linguistics and French morphology, and I finished off my undergraduate studies with a year of Modern Standard Arabic. My past year in France involved seven months of teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to adults and to children as well as an intense exposure to more linguistics, this time concerning the English language.
I have now moved back to the United States for the time being, where I will work as a Language Consultant, facilitating the language learning process for Americans who will soon be relocating abroad. This is the beginning of my own language-learning quest, however. After spending eight intensive years perfecting and nuancing my French, I am determined to learn to speak more than one foreign language and to study several simultaneously. My fiancé will soon be joining me, and English is not his foreign language.
In this blog, I will talk about my daily struggles and insights learning several foreign languages in a non-immersion setting, informally teaching ESL in the United States, and tutoring French to Americans.
I want to maintain fluency in French. I plan to study Spanish, Italian, and Portugueuse in a comparative way and in a variety of settings, after already having learned one Romance language. I hope to learn Classical, Modern Standard, and Qur’anic Arabic (which overlap) and the Tunisian dialect of Arabic, while having only mastered the written alphabet and phonetic system and needing to learn an entirely new vocabulary and etymological base. I aspire to speak German and am particularly interested in learning more about Germanic languages in general. Finally, I will brush up on my Latin and Ancient Greek, as a personal academic interest and springboard for my amateur experiments in linguistics as an autodidact.
I also anticipate sharing a lot about my new life in New England.
Why these languages? And how?
This is all an experiment and a lifelong goal. I am not expecting to become fluent in a language in a non-immersion setting, but I am interested in foreign language pedagogy and hope to move abroad again in the future. I realize that not everyone is able to live abroad or has a facility for learning foreign languages. I want to give ESL-learners pointers as well as tidbits to those interested in learning more about foreign languages without trying to speak them. Some languages are easier to learn than others, and some are less “useful” to know than others. I will treat each language as equally valuable as another, despite its peculiarities or the number of speakers worldwide.
With my passion for and longstanding interest in French and Latin, it is only natural to want to learn the other Romance languages, which are very familiar to me. Arabic belongs to an entirely different language family, but it is extremely important to me as well as a means of communicating with and belonging to the community of my Tunisian in-laws. And German has long been a personal interest, as I learn more about the history of the English language and get to know more about the fantastic German people and culture.
I have many resources at my disposition. In Danbury, CT, where I am located, there is a large Brazilian and Portugeuse community, as well as a substantial Hispanic population. I am hoping to find a one-on-one language partnership or teacher. I also have a wealth of free Spanish language books and the free resource of Duolingo and other sites such as Italki (which I will evaluate for your benefit). I think that a combination of book learning and private tutoring will allow me to progress in those two languages. Italian is the wild card, as it will entirely be based on Skype-based conversation or internet learning, signficantly aided by my revisions in Latin vocabulary and grammar. I will be attending a German language school for heritage speakers or learners in Danbury come September. As for Arabic, I hope to speak frequently with my fiancé and his mother via Skype or in person, and I have Rosetta Stone Arabic for Classical/MSA and the local masjid for recitation and traditional learning.
I invite you to follow me on my journey, a ‘day’s travel, a day’s work.’