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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.