Yearlyglot Defined: Its Purpose And Mission

So what exactly is "yearlyglot"? What is this site about? What do I stand for? Maybe I haven't been entirely clear. I realized that when something I thought was obvious turned out to be a complete surprise to someone. So today, I'm going to take a moment to explain a few things I stand for.

Regarding a year

To start, I know you're all bright readers, so I'm sure you already figured out that "yearlyglot" is a play on the word "polyglot", indicating that I learn one language every year. It's a lot less to type than "FluentEveryYear", and I think it's catchier, too!

And why one year? Because goals need limits. Too often, people set a goal without setting a limit. When there is never any pressure to actually succeed, the goal just drags on and on with frustrating, slow progress.

Languages can be learned much faster than one year, but that usually involves a commitment to heavy study regimes, or even traveling to the country where that language is spoken, in search of deep immersion. However I believe that 95% of language learners don't have the luxury of travel and immersion due to other commitments, and those same commitments also often mean that they don't have time for heavy study.

Regarding time

Therefore, one of the things that I'm always mindful of with the yearlyglot blog is that my advice is for those 95% of people — people who have jobs or school or families or other time-consuming commitments. My advice is intended for people who want to learn a language but don't think they have time.

One of my biggest goals with this blog is to demonstrate that you don't need "time" to learn language. You don't need to block aside huge segments of time in order to learn, and saying you do is just an excuse for the failure you're already planning to have. We all have enough time. I believe anyone can learn a language, fluently, in one year, without any additional need for time.

And I'm doing it. I'm not just writing words, I am actually learning a language in a year, every year, and doing it without spending hours every day studying. When I say that anyone can do what I do, I mean it. I am not special. The only thing that makes me different from anyone else is the fact that I truly believe I will succeed, so I plan accordingly and I behave accordingly.

Regarding travel

I'm learning these languages without traveling to the countries where they are spoken. In fact, in spite of how much I love to travel, I will never travel to a country where my target language is spoken during the year that I'm learning it — this way you can always know that I have had no unfair advantages.

Of course I do like to travel to that country after I've learned the language, because that's the whole point of learning a language — using it! I love going to new places and experiencing new things, and even moreso when I have the benefit of the language to help me.

This also gives me a sink-or-swim test to find out just how well I've learned the language. Is it as good as I want? Am I really fluent? I'll share those results with you too. (As you know, I have been in Italy for the past few weeks, using the language I spent the last year learning. I've already given a brief update on that, and I'm looking forward to making a more detailed report on my experiences when I return home.)

Regarding methods

I'm not selling a method. I'm not promoting a method. In fact, I don't even have a method. Each language is different, and trying to learn one language based on the rules of another is a silly idea.

I believe the idea of a method is the single most obvious flaw in products like Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, etc. Even more organic products like LiveMocha and Busuu suffer from this major flaw. The moment you try to fit Mandarin into the mold of what worked in Spanish, you have failed.

I do have some things I always do, but I do not have a formula or a schedule, and I approach each language differently. And with this blog, I have taken on the role of guinea pig, allowing myself to be a test subject for any idea — even if it's crazy — so that hopefully my readers can benefit from my experiences. As you have already seen, this year is no exception.

Regarding polyglots

I do not think that learning languages makes a person "cool", or interesting, or makes a person any better than anyone else. In fact, I think it's quite the opposite — if you're a socially awkward geek or nerd, learning another language is only going to make you a bigger geek, who is even more socially awkward.

If you're uninteresting, or irritating, learning another language is only going to make you uninteresting to more people, and give you the ability to irritate more people. In photography, we often say "nice camera, now show me your photos," and in language, I feel the same way. I don't care how many languages you speak, I only care about what interesting things you have to say.

I don't have any interest whatsoever in the "polyglot community" or having any status therein. Aspiring to be a polyglot is stupid. Learn a language to use it, not to show it off. I learn languages because I have a desire to use them, and the moment that I lose the desire to use a new language, my time as the "Yearlyglot" will be done.

If you look around the language blogs, you see several different blogs by several different people with different attitudes toward language and learning, but the ones that rise to the top all have one thing in common: they're people who are using the languages they learn. And that's perhaps the most important thing I have to say: I like your languages... now use them to tell me something interesting.


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Author: Yearlyglot
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  • Thanks for unpacking some of this for the casual observers who often visit sites and leave intimidated. I don't think people leave yours feeling that way though. Oh, and sorry about the Bears.

  • I took the liberty to make a new comment instead of keep doing those "reply-comments", so we can have more space to talk (the comments were getting too narrow). If you can delete the one I posted as a reply, do it, please, cause I haven't been able to do so.

    Here is what you said: "First, I did not say that learning languages is stupid. Don't put words in my mouth.
    Second, learning a difficult bicycle trick takes hours or days. Becoming a polyglot takes years. The amount of time spent on one useless endeavor is insignificant compared to the other.
    And finally, I didn't come to your web site to tell you how you should act. My defending myself is NOT the same thing as you judging me for my opinions. "

    And here is the answer i gave:
    "See, I was clear and you got angry anyway. I stoped trying to tell you how you should act, I just made a question to see what you thought. And learning a trick is indeed quite less time consuming, but let's suppose I keep find new goals for years. Would it be stupid?
    And I know you didn't say being a polyglot is stupid. I got it when I first read the post. I expressed myself totally wrong there, not my intention. I just got cofused and did'nt see what I wrote.
    But, the thing I am asking, in the end, is just that(and THIS is what I am really interested to hear from you): learning languages just for the fun of learning, just to spare time... is it that stupid? To aspire to be a polyglot only as more concrete goal for your time spending activity, is it stupid? And is it really different from any other hobbie we see out there?

    PS: Look, I am not trying to put words in your mounth. If I have done it in this comment, you can be sure it was an accident. I am only making the question, trying to understand what you really think and why you think like that.

    PS2: I didn't judge you by your opinions. The one time I really judged you, was a judgement based on the WAY you defend yourself, not on WHAT you defend. And, more than that, I only said stuff you already knew and that you had already shared in this very website (see "I'm An Asshole And 9 Other Reasons To Unsubscribe", reason 8).

    PS3: I really hope this whole thing not to become one of those internet fights. They are stupid, and don't get anywhere. All I want is to understand the way you think about it all, 'cause, you know, you have much more experience in language learning (and in life, probably, conidering I am younger than you)than I and, therefore, may tell me something worth knowing. Though I must admit that I would be very satisfied if I was able convince you I am right."

  • I understand what is promoted as the best way to learn a language:

    1) start learning meaningful sentences and structures rather than words in a vacuum you can't even put in a sentence
    2) people in their street conversations use 20% of the lexicon so learning the most important words and sentences is enough to understand 80% of the language
    3) it's important not to memorize concepts and words without a context

    That being said, how do I learn a language (I want to learn spanish) without using a course or book methods or CD lessons and how do I prevent the course/method/CD from sabotaging my results considering that they do the opposite, often, than what those three principles promote?

    Or maybe I can learn with a language with just a dictionary and few DVDs or even with just the net and free material?

  • Perhaps you used too broad of a brush in your critique of the "polyglot community." Not all of them are vying for status or just showing off. While aspiring to be a polyglot may not be your thing, characterizing it as "stupid" may be a bit harsh, don't you think? When I put together the Polyglot Project, the only constant I found was a genuine willingness on the part of those individuals to share their love of languages and methods with others.

  • Yeah, well, the Bears had a better season than anyone expected. They can build on that next year.

  • When you are learning a language, how many blogs do you subscribe to? How much would be a good idea to read?

  • Leuke samenvatting van wat je hier precies doet en waarom. Ik ben je gaan volgen vanuit de fotografie en hier omdat ik een trip naar Japan gepland had en die taal wou leren. De trip is gebeurd maar de taal leren niet. Iets wat mij toch nog steeds naar dit blog trekt is je geestdrift en doorzettingsvermogen. Het werkt inspirerend om jou een doel te zien zetten en die je dan op een gestructureerde en goed uitgedachte manier verwezenlijkt.

  • I particularly agree with your point concerning the fact that 95% of people simply can't afford (time or money wise) to travel to the country where the language they're learning is spoken for the purpose of immersion and that any teaching style needs to take this into account. Despite what he actually does himself, even Benny has acknowledged this and tried to come up with as many ways as possible for people to find native speakers without having to leave their home town.

    Also, learning a single language in a year is still pretty impressive, that to most people wouldn't really seem possible, so by doing even that you're pushing the boundaries of what most people think they themselves can do (which is a good thing). Personally, I really think that someone could get fluent inside of a month and I've got that set aside as something I'd like to prove one day, just once (with one language, doesn't matter which, maybe something silly and notoriously difficult like Icelandic or something, haha :D ), just so I can say that I've done it. Mind you, this is assuming you have unlimited time to devote to it and maybe a good bit of money for tutors/travel, but I think it can be done.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  • Yeah, one year is still pushing the boundaries of what most people think is possible. And moreso, in repeating that.I think one month is doable with a language similar to one you already know (eg, Spanish for an English speaker) but I think it would be nearly impossible with a very different language (eg, Turkish, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Thai), where you have a drastically different grammar and alphabet.

  • Well...mind you, I'm presuming that you're capable of and willing to invest like 10-12 hours a day to this language for 30 days straight, plus you're willing to spend whatever money you have to on tutors or travel (for immersion), etc. Basically full-on, all-out, no-expense-spared, no-holds-barred 100% effort, really pulling out all the stops and completely devoting yourself to doing it in 30 days.

  • I think one month to learn *how* a language is used is doable. To put it into useful practice, I think one month won't get you very far, other than very basic phrases and in pretty restricted/specific situations.

  • Dank je wel, Gert!

  • I'm sure is seems realistic to you after learning Spanish, but I just don't think you can understand what you're up against until you've learned a language with seven noun cases, three genders, multiple verb aspects, etc.Again, I think with your unlimited determination and resources, you might put in a strong showing in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, Dutch, German, Norwegian... You might even be able to do really well with spoken Chinese or Japanese, assuming you ignore the written language... But you're not going to get very far in Polish or Arabic in one month.

  • I think his plan could work with a Germanic language, or even a Romance language, assuming 12+ hours per day of study, and absolute immersion. But you and I both know that a person can't get too far in Polish in one month.

  • Ha ha, now you're just showing off ;-)

  • I usually have one or two about learning the language — vocab, etc. — and four or five about interesting topics — travel, etc. — but as the year progresses, I add more things that I find interesting.

  • Hahhahahah, I love the way you take the Google Translate technic that further as to answering comments. Well thought!

  • Perhaps you're a bit too defensive. I did not write a critique of the polyglot community. Read it again.

  • I'll be trying to learn as much Italian as possible in one month, but I think you're right, Randy. I already speak Spanish and mostly French, so Italian should be pretty easy, even though I don't have unlimited resources, and I won't be dedicating multiple hours a day to intense study.I've known people who took a full-imersion course and learned German in three weeks--enough to converse anyway.

  • Oh, Randy, then you probably didn't mean it like that. But you indeed used the expression "Aspiring to be a polyglot is stupid", which can be very offensive for those polyglots (or wannabe polyglots) out there.

  • Though he was a bit harsh, he meant the best. Learning languages is a real challenge, and you must realize that you either do it for its uses, or you do it knowing it is only a hobby, as useless as any other.
    I think that what he meant to be stupid is the fact that there are people who truly believe that learning many foreign languages really will change their lifes in some way, but it is totally untrue. As he said, you don't get such better social status or abilities by doing that, neither you get such an improvement in life if you don't actually intend to intensively use the learned languages.

  • I didn't say "being a polyglot is stupid", I said "aspiring to be a polyglot is stupid." The difference is intent, and I stand by my statement.No one is obliged to agree with me, but this is my blog and I'm not not going to change who I am or what I think just because people are sensitive or easily offended. If any polyglots or wannabe polyglots have a problem with my opinion, they are welcome to stop reading it.

  • I don't apologize for my opinion. ASPIRING TO BE a polyglot is STUPID.

  • Hahahha. Randy, Randy... You are somewhat right, but I still think it was a little... harsh, as he said. But, as you said it yourself, it's your blog. You can say what you want and if your way of talking is little rude in some points, and if you are a little rude sometimes, it's all about who you are and whou you want to be. You don't really seem to like different opinions (Imean, no one likes them, but you really seem angry - and I am saying you seem, not that you are).
    Well, the point is, you are right. Your blog, your ideas, those who agree, great, those who don't, get used to it. Or make your own blog.
    Other than that, I myself, stand to my own opinions too, and do not intend to change it either:
    1- You got it all a little too extreme
    2- You, indeed, as you once said on a post, are a kinda "arrogant, egotistical, know-it-all"
    3- this blog, nevertheless, is still great

  • Don't seem to like different opinions? The only way you can think that is if you're not at all paying attention. I love different opinions. What I dislike is being "scolded" by people who don't like MY different opinion.

  • Oh, right, right. This is getting nowhere. In the end, it is all about egos. And mine is much, much, much more... nevermind. I don't actually like discussions that much.
    One last thing that I have been thinking about. Learning languages is for some people just a hobby. Therefore, I think it is just as stupid and useless as playing chess, running, talking to friends... I mean, you do it to spend time, and, if you indeed have time doing that, great, it is already useful (and smart) enough. Especially if you don't stop to have a decent and agreeable and healthy life.PS1: You, certainly, will not agree. I don't expect that. I expect you to tell me if it is any more stupid than any other hobbie, though. Not in any aggressive way. Just state what you think, I am curious.PS2: I know I said I didn't like discussions that much, but I really wanted to see your ideas about this hobbie thing. I beg you not to get me wrong and not to get any angry at me. Igot you believe in something totally different and I don't wanna change your mind. I just wanna know it, your mind.Cheers.

  • I'm having a really hard time following you here. I can't tell if English is a second language form you, or if you just have really disjointed, poorly organized thoughts.Try saying just the question you want to ask me, without all the personal insinuations about my character. Maybe you'll be able to make your question more clearly.

  • Sorry, I am disjointed. I will try to make it simple, and I'm really sorry for being so confusing.
    Learning languages, as you say, is stupid. I don't get it. Would you say that hobbies (you see, stuff people do merely for the pleasure of doing, with no real utlility) are stupid too? And aspiring to be a polyglot, though it may prove itself to be useless, is anything more than an objective for an activity?
    Example: I ride my bike for spending my spare time. Would you say that aspiring to do a very difficult bicycle trick would be stupid?One more thing. I say you don't like different opinions. You say you just don't like to be scoulded for your different opinion. The problem is we are both doing the very same thing. In the end you are being scoulded by your different opinion to the same extent that you are scoulding me for my different opinion. I apologise, tough, if I ever made you feel like you couldn't have a different opinion.

  • First, I did not say that learning languages is stupid. Don't put words in my mouth.Second, learning a difficult bicycle trick takes hours or days. Becoming a polyglot takes years. The amount of time spent on one useless endeavor is insignificant compared to the other.And finally, I didn't come to your web site to tell you how you should act. My defending myself is NOT the same thing as you judging me for my opinions.

  • See, I was clear and you got angry anyway. I stoped trying to tell you how you should act, I just made a question to see what you thought. And learning a trick is indeed quite less time consuming, but let's suppose I keep find new goals for years. Would it be stupid?
    And I know you didn't say being a polyglot is stupid. I got it when I first read the post. I expressed myself totally wrong there, not my intention. I just got cofused and did'nt see what I wrote.
    But, the thing I am asking, in the end, is just that(and THIS is what I am really interested to hear from you): learning languages just for the fun of learning, just to spare time... is it that stupid? To aspire to be a polyglot only as more concrete goal for your time spending activity, is it stupid? And is it really different from any other hobbie we see out there?PS: Look, I am not trying to put words in your mounth. If I have done it in this comment, you can be sure it was an accident. I am only making the question, trying to understand what you really think and why you think like that.PS2: I didn't judge you by your opinions. The one time I really judged you, was a judgement based on the WAY you defend yourself, not on WHAT you defend. And, more than that, I only said stuff you already knew and that you had already shared in this very website (see "I'm An Asshole And 9 Other Reasons To Unsubscribe", reason 8).PS3: I really hope this whole thing not to become one of those internet fights. They are stupid, and don't get anywhere. All I want is to understand the way you think about it all, 'cause, you know, you have much more experience in language learning (and in life, probably, conidering I am younger than you)than I and, therefore, may tell me something worth knowing. Though I must admit that I would be very satisfied if I was able convince you I am right.

  • The key to learning quickly and effectively is to USE the language. I know this sounds counterintuitive — when you don't already know it, it's hard to imagine how you'd use it — but without using it, you don't know what you need to learn... and then you'll just revert back to books, and lessons, and dictionaries.

  • I'm really late to this party.I have to say it though - I agree with Randy. Wanting to be a poyglot for the sake of being a polyglot is not just stupid, but pointless and - I dare say - you'll never be good at the languages you want to learn, let alone master.If you had said "I want to learn many languages because I met these really interesting persons from X place(s), and I'd like to learn how to communicate with him/her on a deeper level!" or "I heard there was this really great piece of literature, and I want to be able to read it the language in which it was written!", I bet there would have been no misunderstanding at all on anyone's part.But wanting to become a polyglot for the sake of being a polyglot *is* stupid. And it's right up there with "What language should I learn so I can make more money?" My opinion, of course. Feel free to disagree.

  • Nice.

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