Thursday, September 20, 2007

Keep up or Catch Up? - What's it take to be a polyglot?

Tim Ferriss is getting ready for a media tour in Germany. So he's reactivating his German. Says Tim, there's no need to maintain languages if you've attained reasonable fluency, because it will come back quickly when you're ready to use it again.

Comes the question: What's a polyglot? Are you a polyglot if you've known five languages and can get them back in short order, but can't summon them right now? I think part of it comes down to how you relate to language - whether language is a tool for travel or something more. For the linguist, of course, language acquisition and language maintenance go together: languages aren't merely tools for talking; they're an important part of one's mental environment. For people whose language goals are more utilitarian...

In the meantime, Tim's tips might help you get back one of those missing languages, even though you'll have to figure out how to maintain it on your own.

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