One thing that got me into multi-lingualism was reading about other people who have successfully learned multiple languages. I was always fascinated by languages, but I never thought it was really possible to learn multiple languages unless one started as a child (an example of when conventional wisdom goes wrong). When I was studying abroad in France at the age of 19 (2008), I vividly remember visiting the UN office at Geneva, and wishing I could understand the 6 languages of the UN. I resolved that I would study Spanish and Russian.
Having returned to the US, I slowly began to study these two new languages, while continuing to improve my French, but I ran out of steam within a couple of weeks, and focused on only improving my French. I thought that I was too old to become multilingual. But then, I found communities of linguists and polyglots online. I learned from them, I saw that it was all possible, and my passion for studying languages was ignited. Now, I’m trying to contribute my story, hoping that others see that it is possible to become a polyglot, you just have to have the desire to do it.
Here is a list of great polyglots who have inspired me:
Professor Arguelles: http://foreignlanguageexpertise.com/
Professor Arguelles is a fantastic polyglot, with the ability to read perhaps 2 dozen languages. He has youtube videos of his techniques. His drive is obsessive and thorough, and he was my original inspiration. I don’t really follow his videos too much anymore, because they tend to be long, and I find that now I have my own methods that I prefer, and I would rather be studying languages than listen to him talk about how he learns them at this point. I still admire this man, but I find that I seek more balance in my life, then to be as focused as he is. He also focuses on reading (particularly literature), and I love speaking, listening, reading and writing.
Steve Kaufmann: http://www.youtube.com/user/lingosteve
Steve Kaufman is the founder of a good language learning website: LingQ. I love following his videos, and he is constantly using/improving the languages he knows or he is learning a new one. He is my favorite linguist to follow, because he has a life outside of languages, and shows how languages can help make one successful, and how it is possible to become a polyglot even when your work is not directly related to linguistics or language acquisition. I am not always 100% in agreement with him of course, but in general he is a great inspiration.
Luca Lampariello: http://thepolyglotdream.com/
Another one of my current favorites, Luca is an Italian Polyglot who isn’t trying to sell you anything (unlike Steve or Benny), and he doesn’t spend time stubbornly trying to convince others of his points, he just gives his honest opinions (which I find to be spot on) about language learning. He often mentions that there are no tricks or shortcuts to learning languages, you just have to love what you’re doing, and you’ll achieve a lot over time. I highly suggest his blog.
Richard Simcott: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAtWuQmdexs
Another one of my favorites, has a lot of wonderful videos about language learning. He has a great attitude in general, and it is always a pleasure to watch his videos and hear his opinions.
Benny Lewis: http://www.fluentin3months.com/
Benny is a VERY popular polyglot from Cavan Ireland. I enjoyed reading his blog while he was learning German, but I lost a bit of interest after a while, because he jumps around from place to place, and it seems to border on an interesting travel blog, more than a language blog at times (I still would encourage you to check out his page, as he is entertaining). He encourages people to learn foreign languages by speaking them from day 1, and makes a living from his blog and his book that he wrote: “the language hacking guide,” that explains how he has found success in languages. So while I tend to disagree with him at times, he is very motivational, and seems to have a great attitude towards life and the world, and I still drop by every month or so to see where he’s been and what he’s been up to.
A bit à la Benny, except he learns a language every year. I like that he will never pull any punches, and is willing to defend anything he says. He recently hasn’t been posting as much, because he found a job, and is currently enjoying life in general. This is why I am AGAINST his and Benny’s strategies of setting time frames, even though it makes for good reading. Finding balance in life is the most important, and if you can learn Portuguese in 3 months because you already speak several other Romance languages, that’s great, but if it takes you 4 years to learn Japanese, there’s no shame in that, just have fun during the learning process, and enjoy life as it comes at you! I don’t think anyone should stop going after a language after they failed to become fluent in it in a certain time frame (as long as the language truly interests you), however this approach makes for better reading for bloggers (people tend to have short attention spans).
Some other inspirational polyglots:
For Mandarin Chinese: http://www.youtube.com/user/gaoyoude1
Professional interpretor: http://www.youtube.com/user/sprachbegeistert
A great female polyglot: http://www.youtube.com/user/katrudy7
Polyglot from Kazakhstan: http://www.youtube.com/user/m32amir
Belgian Polyglot: http://www.youtube.com/user/loki2504
If you feel I’m missing someone who’s great, perhaps I’ve just never stumbled across their channel! Add them to the comments section below, please.