Cultural values of cultural clusters


A tiny bit of knowledge regarding cultural intelligence CQ was detailed in my previous post and you can have read here – What I learned this week.

Understanding, using and increasing our cultural intelligence improves the way we relate to and network with diverse others. As we see a lot of migration, a lot of change regarding where people move to study or work or live or retire, we learn a lot about the specific country and customs there, but not all the times, we look deep into the cultural values of that place.

I believe what you will read next will help you not only know more about yourself, but also help you in being more empathetic with different people and cultures and with respecting one’s point of view and perspective. While I was reading through the book of Gaston Dorren (who is a polyglot), who wrote “Babel, Around the world in 20 languages”, I was able to get more insight into the different cultures of the world, how those people of other countries than me think and how their culture reflects in the language itself and it really opened my eyes to how unique and beautiful people are but also how little we actually know about the world. Cultural Intelligence highlights the importance of understanding different perspectives and then appropriately and effectively adapt our behaviour to obtain success. As an expat myself it is very hard to accept specific norms of the country I am in, because of personal and cultural value I grew with. But what you are about to read below will give a context or a form for better classifying your values, others’s values and then correctly identify in a new person or group of people or even in an organization these values. And why is this crucial? Because we, as human beings enjoy to feel at home wherever we are, we need comfort and familiarity. When we know our own values, we can better cope ourselves with others and we can expand on our self-knowledge even further, we can understand ourselves better and then it will become so much easier to cooperate, collaborate and work on our desired achievements.

There are 10 cultural clusters – Nordic Europe, Anglo, Germanic Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin Europe, Latin America, Confucian Asia, Southern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Arab.

Over the decades a number of scholars and researchers identified cultural value dimensions and general geographical clusters for these cultural value dimensions. As a disclaimer there is a wide range of variation in cultural values that individuals in the same cultural cluster may actually express. This means an individual’s personal orientation may not reflect the generalised tendency of a specific geographical cultural cluster. At the same time, research does reveal that a large number of people within these geographic clusters do share similar values. So it can be a starting point to begin understanding the similarities and differences between your preferred values and the cultural values of others.

Cultural clusters provide possible insight into where we may likely find the presence of a cultural value dimension. We have the opportunity to use cultural intelligence to determine if diversity or differences in cultural values might explain a challenge, a misunderstanding, confusion or miscommunication. Using CQ provides an opportunity to recognize difference and diversify in order to adapt our behavior which facilitates effective and appropriate interaction across diversities.

Cultural intelligence or CQ is defined as the capability to be effective across different cultural context, including national, ethnic, generational, organizational and other contexts. The culturally intelligent have a good grasp of overarching patterns that exist across various cultures around the world. It’s not that the culturally intelligent are walking encyclopedias who can spout off random facts about any culture on the planet. That’s impossible. But they have a macro understanding of cultural similarities and differences, something we identify as CQ knowledge – one of the four capabilities of cultural intelligence. CQ knowledge is the degree to which you understand how culture influences how people think and behave; it’s also your level of familiarity with how cultures are similar and different.

One way to improve your CQ knowledge is to learn the key characteristics of 10 global cultural clusters, which are large cultural groupings that share some core patterns of thinking and behaving. The countries and groupings of people within each cluster typically share a common history and they often share similar geography, language, religion or cultural values. The 10 clusters are simply a place to begin comparing one predominant worldview with another. As you develop a deeper understanding of the clusters’ similarities and differences, you’ll find yourself more adept at handling all kinds of intercultural situations. Why talk about clusters, and overall patterns and norms for people from various cultures? Because there’s value in something that cross-cultural psychologists Joyce Osland and Allan Bird describe as “sophisticated stereotypes” – broad comparative differences based on empirical intercultural research. Sophisticated stereotypes such as those that stem from understanding the 10 cultural clusters, are most helpful when they are:

-used to compare various cultures rather than to understand the behavior of a singular culture

-consciously held

-descriptive not evaluative

-used as a best first-guess prior to having direct information about specific people

-modified based upon further observation and experience

The cultural value dimensions

Individualism – Collectivism

An individualist is motivated by personal rewards and benefits. Individualist persons set personal goals and objectives based on self. Individualistic workers are very comfortable working with autonomy and not part of the team.

The collectivist is motivated by group goals, Long term relationships are very important. Collectivistic persons easily sacrifice individual benefit or praise to recognize and honor the team’s success.

The generalized geographic clusters of individualism may be found in Anglo countries, Germanic Europe and Nordic Europe. Geographic clusters for collectivism are often located in Arab countries, Latin America, Confucian Asia, Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Low and high-power distance – is a lot about authority and hierarchy.

A person with low power distance thinks the less formal the better. They prefer to forego formalities and are willing to respectfully question or challenge authority. Titles and positions of authority and leadership are not important to a low power distance person.

A high-power distance individual feels obligated to follow strictly the chain of command and is far less likely to question authority or leadership. Respecting and honoring the position of leadership is highly important in a high-power distance society.

An example is in Germanic Europe, a low power distance culture cluster, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband live in a very modest flat in Berlin. On the other hand, Southern Asia is a high power distance culture cluster. In Southern Asia using formal titles are very important and not to be ignored. High power distance mandates that people of higher status receive special seating at dinning or in a business meeting.

Low versus high uncertainty avoidance

The cultural value dimension of low or high uncertainty avoidance resides in the question of should we try to control the future or just let the future happen? How shall we deal with the future when the future can never be known for sure?

Low uncertainty avoidance persons act first and then get the information. They are very comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. Cultural value clusters of low uncertainty avoidance work hard to minimize rules and laws that infringe on people’s diverse perspectives.

High uncertainty avoidance often requires rigid codes of behavior and beliefs. There may easily be intolerance of unorthodox behaviours and ideas. Persons with high uncertainty avoidance appreciate explicit instructions. They often rely on procedures and policies to reduce the change of things getting out of control.

Anglo countries, Eastern Europe and Nordic Europe have a preference for low uncertainty avoidance. Latin Europe and Latin America emphasize planning and predictability or high uncertainty avoidance.

Cooperative and competitive dimensions

A person with a cooperative cultural value emphasizes collaboration, nurturing and family.

A person who has a competitive value dimension emphasises competition, assertiveness and achievement.

The cooperative versus competition cultural value dimension considers how you wish to achieve results and accomplish goals. A cooperative person believes the best way to accomplish an objective or reach an outcome is by getting people to work together. However, a competitive person believes people are best motivated to reach a goal when competition is involved in the process.

If we consider geographic cultural dimensions, Nordic Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa prefer cooperation. Germanic Europe and Anglo countries emphasize a competitive cultural dimension. In the middle between cooperative and competitive, we find Arab countries, Confucian Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Latin Europe and Southern Asia.

Short versus long term

This cultural dimension is based on how a culture views time and the importance of the past, present and future. Short term is the cultural dimension which emphasizes immediate outcomes and success now. Long term planning and success later guide the long-term cultural dimension.

Confucian Asia is in the long-term geographic cluster. It is interesting that China is said to be planning for the next 500 years while other nations have a 5-year plan. Anglo-countries, Arab nations, Eastern Europe, Nordic Europe, and Sub-Saharan Africa are in the short-term geographic cluster. Eastern Europe, Latin America and Latin Europe use both a short-term and a long-term dimension.

When we use a long-term dimension, we focus on the future. We value persistence. We easily delay social success. Personal and emotional gratification is delayed.

A short-term orientation cares more about immediate gratification. The past and present is more important than the future. A short-term orientation values the current social hierarchy. Meeting current social obligations is emphasized by a person with a short-term perspective.

Low and high context

In a low context cultural dimension encounter, the emphasis is on explicit and direct communication. In a high context experience, the communication is indirect and the tone of voice and context of the communication is most important.

The individual with a low context orientation values direct communication. He or she choose their words very carefully. Logic is important.

A low context person believes in clearly saying what they mean and totally meaning what is said.

A high context and indirect person will pay attention to what is not said as much as what is said. A high context person will notice the context such as where people are seated and how individuals are dressed. A preference for high context means you need to constantly read between the lines. High context persons speak indirectly to peers and tend to avoid conflict that is head on.

Geographic clusters that prefer low context and direct communication are Anglo countries, Germanic Europe and Nordic Europe. Arab countries, Confucian Asia, Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa emphasize a high context with an indirect communication cultural dimension.

Being versus doing

Being and doing is the extent to which you derive meaning from activity and being productive.

A high doing person wants to be productive on a day off or holiday. A doing culture emphasizes being busy and meeting goals. A being culture stresses the quality of life and work-life balance.

In a doing culture getting a job done takes precedence over personal relationships. You may miss a family member’s birthday celebration because you have work to do. You earn status through the work you do. Status is not based on your age, seniority or birthright. Deadlines and schedules are emphasized in a doing culture. Work-related emails are often answered 24h a days and 7 days a week if the person emphasizes doing over being.

In a being culture, status is automatic and difficult to lose. Status is often based on your age, birth and seniority. Relationships take precedence over tasks or getting a job done. Much time is spent getting to know someone before agreeing to do business with them. Greeting and farewell rituals are considered important. A work-related email is probably not going to be answered by a being orientated person if it is received during vacation.

Geographic clusters of doing cultural dimension are found in Anglo countries and Germanic Europe.

Being geographic clusters are located in Arab countries, Latin America, Nordic Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Universalism and particularism

The cultural dimension of universalism versus particularism is the same as rules versus relationships. Universalism is about the rules and standards. Particularism is about the unique specifics and relationships.

In a culture that prefers universalism, the rules and standards apply to everyone the same. In a culture that emphasizes particularism, there are unique standards and exceptions. Applications of the rules depend on the unique exceptions and the relationships of the persons involved.

A person with a universal perspective applies all procedures the same universally to ensure equity and consistency. A particular oriented person encourages flexibility by adapting to particular situations and making exceptions to the rule.

Rules and standards that apply equally to everyone are typical of Anglo countries, Germanic Europe and Nordic Europe. An emphasis on the specifics allowing room for unique adjustments to rules based on relationships is common in Arab countries, Confucian Asia, Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Asia.

Non-expressive versus expressive

The communication cultural value that prefers to emphasize non-emotional communication and to hide feelings is the neutral or non-expressive cultural dimension. The affective or expressive cultural dimension prefers expressive communication and sharing feelings.

The geographic cultural value clusters for the neutral or non-expressive cultural value dimension are Confucian Asia, Eastern Europe, Germanic Europe and Nordic Europe. Anglo countries and Southern Asia emphasize both non-expressive and expressive cultural values. Arab countries, Latin America, Latin Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa prefer affective, expressive communications and sharing feelings.

Monochronic and polychronic dimensions

A monochronic persons sees time as a commodity. It is quantifiable and there is limited supply of it. You can waste time.

The polychronic individual considers time to be limitless and unmeasurable. Time is a servant and a tool we use.

Monochronic and linear cultural dimensions emphasize doing one thing at a time, always being on time, events are scheduled to start on time, and work time and personal time are separated. Anglo countries, Germanic Europe and Nordic Europe emphasize the monochronic and linear cultural values.

Confucian Asia, Eastern Europe and Southern Asia emphasize both a monochronic linear and a polychronic non-linear as cultural values.

Polychronic and non-linear cultural values emphasize multi-tasking, find interruptions very acceptable, and easily combine work with personal life. Arab countries, Latin America, Latin Europe and Sub-Saharan prefer the polychronic non-linear cultural value dimension.

Individuals have personal preferences or individual value orientations. Sometimes individual orientations reflect one’s nationality or ethnicity or diversity but not always. Cultural value orientations can be grouped into general geographical clusters. Knowledge of these cultural value dimensions and 10 of the largest cultural groupings can sometimes give us insight into potential cross-cultural misunderstandings and challenges.

The 10 largest cultural groupings in the world are:

ANGLO – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States and etc

ARAB – Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and etc.

Confucian Asia – China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korean, Taiwan and etc

Eastern Europe – Albania, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, Russia and etc

Germanic Europe – Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, etc

Latin America – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and etc

Latin Europe – France, French-speaking Canada, Italy, Portugal, Spain and etc

Nordic Europe – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and etc

Sub-Saharan Africa – Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe and etc

Southern-Asia – India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and etc

These are simply places where you are likely to find a significant presence of the cultural values and are not to be taken as stereotype, they are created and researched to help us all better understand each other as we live in this globalised world, where many different people from a variety of cultures come together in the big cities.

Have you been able to identify which of the 2 options from the 10 cultural value dimensions you personally and culturally are? Tell me in the comments!

Blogmas 7 – Cognitive Distortions to Restructure by the end of 2019

People will do anything, no matter how absurd to avoid facing their own souls, once wrote Carl Jung. We are all biased with different thinking patterns and brain shortcuts that we created in time to have time to cope with life and change. Sometimes these cognitive distortions make it hard for us to progress in life, and the universe keeps throwing at us the same lessons in different formats, and we still don’t get it. So, this December, and Blogmas, by the end of the year, let’s work together to restructure those mental biases we all deal with.

There are 13 common cognitive distortions that I will be briefly explaining and you could work on one at a time until the end of 2019 to make sure you step into 2020 with a new fresh thinking.

1.Overgeneralising – You see a constant, negative pattern based on one event. Maybe you think that if you did not get the position you applied for, you are not good enough and you think there is no point in applying to a future job ad. But, you base your future thoughts and eventually behaviours around a single event. Step out of your mind and don’t take your thoughts so seriously.

2.Blaming / Denying – You blame others for your problems or mistakes OR you blame yourself when it wasn’t entirely your fault. You could say that you did not obtain that job because you did not have connections or because the company liked a specific type of personality or that you did not prepare for the interview. If you indeed did not prepare for the interview, that’s easily fixed, next time, you know what you need to focus more on, since you passed the CV screening. If you believe that the company or another person is to blame for your failure, think again, maybe you should consider that when you put the blame entirely on others for something you did not achieved, it could be that you are avoiding to feel the real emotions behind your lack of success. The real emotion behind that could lie in the truth that you did not prepare enough, did not have enough experience, did not have enough of confidence to show it, and so on. Always try to see beyond the surfaced emotion and train of thoughts.

3.Shoulds – you have a rigid code of conduct dictating how you and others should behave. You criticise yourself harshly when you fail to follow these rules. Should lists are so dangerous to the mind. They are transforming you into a perfectionist, into a critic and that’s not at all equal to self-love and mindfulness and good judgement. On the contrary, shoulds are infectious and must be replaced with something more kind to ourselves: the right to make mistakes, the patience to learn from one’s mistakes and the determination to challenge an existing no-longer serving belief, such as the “should theory”. Also, to gain more understanding on the topic, have a read here on the crossroads between should and must in the pursuit of happiness.

4.All or nothing thinking – You see things as absolutes, no grey areas. This ties very well with the one above. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and to understand that all things come and go. There is no white or black, as much as we would all want to shortcut things that we go through, and categorise it to make our lives easier, life is complex, so, so is our thinking.

5.Negativity bias – You notice all the negatives, but fail to notice the positives. For this one, sometimes, our parents have raised us with their own biases as their own knowledge to keep us safe from the world and to protect our future reckless choices by implementing a fear emotion in us every time we might get attracted by adventurous thoughts or behaviours. It’s ok to let go of that. Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo and even if a positive attitude does not spare you of negatives happening in your life, you should know, we need negatives too to develop the positives. There is something good in every bad, and something bad in every good. There is no white or black.

6. Catastrophising – You always expect the worst. As much as this could be a self defensive mechanism, and sometimes it turns out to be good to have this idea in your head, as you actually get surprised by life, and something resplendent is thrown at you, this should be rarely thought or used. You cannot always expect the worst. You are made up of an energy of your thoughts. If you only believe bad things will happen, guess what will you be attracting in your life? Remember, you are energy. I will share with you a secret. Remember when you tell yourself or to others: “Don’t forget to… something?”. Do you remember what actually always happens? You forget or they forget. Why? Because you have trained your mind into a NO suggestion. Do NOT remember to do that. Instead, use the phrase “Remember to do this/ I will remember to….”. Use it and let me know how it worked for you in the comments! Also, to change this thinking pattern, I will give another example. Let’s say you think – “I can’t stand this” – to restructure this cognitive distortion you could say “I am severely distressed, but I will handle it. I can manage it!”.


7.Labelling – You label yourself negatively. You always speak of yourself with use of negative words. Sometimes we do this, because we lack confidence in ourselves and we tend to use less than positive thinking and sayings so that whoever hears us, can actually demount our beliefs. But when you are alone, there is no one to tell you otherwise. You never believe the mirror, and if you did, it would anyway tell you the opposite of what you want to actually hear, because you are saying it to yourself, in the hope you can cling to something that can save your day. Again, as Carl Jung pointed out, “people would do anything, to avoid facing their own souls.” Stop using bad words, such as poor, inferior, unacceptable, imperfect, defective, faulty, careless, miserable, rotten, incompetent, inept, awful, appalling, terrible, pathetic, useless, lousy, deficient and start replacing them with superb, jubilant, adorable, alluring, attractive, blooming, celestial, classy, dandy, elegant, divine, enchanting, exquisite (my favourite word) fancy, fabulous, gorgeous, incomparable, irresistible, magnetic, mesmerising, ravishing, splendid, sublime, top-notch. Because you are all of that and beyond. You are beautiful. And you deserve to live your life knowing that.

8.Magical thinking – You think everything will be better when … (you’re thinner, smarter, richer, get a new job, etc). You will not be better if you live believing something that has a potentiality to not come true because you are not acting upon it. Even if you do act upon it, a lot of the times, this magical thinking relates to not really being practical about what could lead you in the spot you believe it’s going to transform you into this queen of happiness. Again, you should refer to the above, but do not believe your thoughts, and don’t take them so seriously. All things come and go in life, and practising mindfulness and gratefulness is more achievable (see my Blogmas 3 – link here and 4 – link here ) and can break down these thinking patterns of magically becoming something you think you want, when deep down, there is something else you need to focus on. Remember Carl Jung: “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.” What are you avoiding by making use of magical thinking?

9.Over-personalizing – You make things personal, when they aren’t. You believe other people’s opinions are facts. You think what other people do or say is in reaction to you. I used to be a daily user of this destructive habit. Working in a call centre, you get a lot of people annoyed at the service or product and they say things such as “You do not understand”, “You think you know it all”, “You must listen to me, I am the customer” and I would easily get demotivated, annoyed, angry and sometimes even believe of myself of being incompetent. But I guess, you need to go through it to get out of it. Just be aware of this cognitive distortion and distort it in your favour. Instead of thinking of yourself to do everything well because you cannot cope with another negative feedback, say something like “I would prefer to perform well, but it’s not a disaster if I don’t.”

10.Mind -reading – you make assumptions about what other people are thinking. And we all are culprits on this one. We make assumptions because we are judgemental. And this is hard to get rid of. To reach that though, you first need to acknowledge there is a problem. That way you are half way through. For this, you can train yourself when speaking to people by listening in a mindful way, being fully present, without trying to control the conversation or the person you are speaking to think your way or convince them of something and to be free of judging their perspective. Rather, try understanding their perspective and see through their glasses. What do they see? What would they want to hear from you? What would you like to hear if you were in their shoes?

11.Double standard – You hold yourself to a higher standard than anyone else. I am the personification of this cognitive distortion. I am a perfectionist and I am still figuring out how to restructure this distortion in my mind. A lot of the times, people experiencing double standard demand a lot of themselves, are severe to themselves if they do not stand up to their own elevated expectations of what they should have accomplished and they may surround themselves with people who aren’t that professional. Sometimes they do, but they immediately feel the person and when they see that everyone that they’ve met so far fails their standards, they might start to overgeneralize and more biases are born. Be careful what you tolerate, you are teaching people how to treat you. If you demand a lot of yourself, and show this to others, they might start asking more from you, because they believe of you being capable of delivering more than anticipated. This puts you in a position of stress and pressure to accommodate your standard to even higher ones, because for a person with a double standard, nothing is ever good enough.

12. Fallacy of fairness – you think things should work out according to what you think is fair. People do not have the same standard as you do. People have their own level of fairness and correctness and consciousness. I get a lot frustrated by the fact that people do not see things as I see them and this thinking pattern falls into this category because I expect them to think the same way regarding specific general topics, such as cleanliness, as an example. The truth is, people are unique and so is their viewing on the world, and so is their behaviour. What you think is trash might be someone else’s treasure and vice-versa. That’s how you need to think all aspects of life to heal this cognitive distortion. Also, do remember that “everything that irritates us about others, can lead us to an understanding of ourselves” as Carl Jung said.

13.Emotional Reasoning – you think your feelings are reality. In fact, they only portray your perception of the world. They are unique and they do not mean they are highlighting the reality around you. If you feel crap, it does not mean you are horrible. That’s just your interpretation of an emotion. Step out of that behavioural pattern and be kind to yourself. Appreciate what you have and who you are and who you are becoming. To reconstruct this cognitive distortion of emotional reasoning, you have to start thinking that your mental health is to be treated with the same importance as your physical health. When you think “I am worthless/ I feel worthless” do believe that YOUR EMOTIONS DO NOT DICTATE YOUR REALITY and say it to you out loud: “My emotions do not dictate my reality”.

Be patient with yourself as nothing in nature blooms all year round.

More words to heal you and start the transformation process until the end of the year: GATHER COURAGE LIKE WILDFLOWERS. (Jak Major)

Sometimes, when you’re in a dark place, you think you have been buried but actually you have been planted.

I would like to end today’s Blogmas with one word, this is EQUANIMITY.

Equanimity is a mental calmness, composure and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation. I believe that all these cognitive distortions are ways we use to cope with life and the experiences we face. We need mindfulness and lots of self-care to achieve this equanimity thinking pattern and I am confident with enough information and explanation and exposure to uplifting content, we can all be examples of challenging our existing beliefs and restructuring our most common cognitive distortions that stop us from truly come to terms with tranquillity and peace and our own unique story of life or career success.

Which cognitive distortion do you find yourself hard to overcome?

11 best and inspirational articles about learning languages I found online

“Language is not a genetic gift, it is a social gift. Learning a new language is becoming a member of the club – the community of speakers of that language”- Frank Smith. Now, I do not know who Frank Smith is, but when I found this quote online I truly integrated that. I recently joined a community of foreign language speakers on social media, mostly on Instagram and if before this decision, everything in my feed was more related to fashion, beauty and beautiful pictures, it’s now pretty much language and learning foreign languages content. It is more motivational than I really thought it would be and more fun than I expected it to be. Although I cannot possibly check all new posts, I feel really impressed and pleasantly surprised to report back that social media can make you feel inspired to do stuff than just make you drool on the pictures you see, leaving you feel like you are not accomplishing anything worthwhile in this life. Then I found this one: “The more languages you know, the more you are human” from another person I have no idea who he is, named Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. (note to self – to look those names up)

So these 2 quotes inspired me to search for more content on language learning to get insights, tips, tricks and share them here, but first, apply them myself. Here are some of the most inspirational and educational posts I found online on language learning to motivate you in your actions of foreign language learning.

1.I would like to begin with one short article that discusses some findings regarding how the brain learns a new word. And I quote:

Practising language is important. Every little helps. Just perception – listening – is helpful.

This suggests that even listening to a podcast such as CoffeeBreak on Spotify or similar ones, will help tremendously in you picking up the language faster. I can relate to this because while growing up I used to watch a lot of Spanish soap operas and when I started really learning Spanish in school, I was able not only to learn it faster but to also have this in the flow perception when learning anything new. It was not something I dreaded, even if it had to do with grammar because I simply loved the language. I was accustomed to it and it was easy to make my learning and language skills progress way faster.

the researcher … thought repetition is the key – but the brain learned best when it was relaxed and not trying to remember anything at all. {…} you remember because you go back to it again and again. {…} the brain has to determine what it is important and what’s not.

This really supports what I was mentioning above with the state of flow I was finding myself whenever I was having my Spanish classes, whenever I was learning on my own or watching something in Spanish. This means if you want to learn a language, you must do it because you really want to learn that target language, not because it is something someone is telling you to do, not because you imposed on yourself to learn a new language or a specific language. You must have a connection with the foreign language you choose to learn. That’s when passion blends with learning and if your attitude towards learning is relaxed, you are more likely to quickly become fluent.

Read more in this article.

2.This article was written by Amy Thompson who is an associate professor of Applied Linguistics at University of South Florida and she studies how learning languages can have cognitive and emotional benefits. 2 key concepts are discussed here: cultural competence and tolerance of ambiguity.

Cultural competence is opening people’s eyes to a way of doing things that;s different to their owns. Tolerance of ambiguity refers to the comfort level a person experiences when dealing with unfamiliar situations.

Analysing cultural stereotypes when learning a new language means also learning a new way of thinking and behaving, much like in this quote: “Learning a foreign language not only reveals how other societies think and feel, what they have experienced and value, and how they express themselves, it also provides a cultural mirror in which we can, more clearly, see our own society.” Chancellor Edward Lee Gorsuch. This chinese proverb says it all: “To learn a new language is to have one more window from which to look at the world.”

The second part of the post deals with the tolerance of ambiguity concept which the author pinpoints as follows:

Someone with a high tolerance of ambiguity finds unfamiliar situations rather exciting than frightening. {…} Conversations in a foreign language will inevitably involve unknown words. {…} Those with a high tolerance of ambiguity would feel comfortable maintaining the conversation despite the unfamiliar words involved.

To read the full article pop on here.

3.Can learning a new language boost your creativity? So, nowadays we see a lot of content, books and highlight put on creativity because as Einstein says it “creativity is intelligence having fun” and it’s more important to be creative than smart, or something along those lines. Learning something new requires our brains to adapt quickly and grab every method out there to get to the outcome desired. This goes the same way with language learning. It has been researched and the result is that learning a foreign language expands our divergent thinking. The author explains this:

At a very basic level, learning a foreign language requires us to construct and negotiate the unique architecture in which it consists. Each new language we learn presents us with new barriers when trying to convey meaning. {…} As your mind generates possibilities in order to negotiate these barriers, it engages in a potent form of divergent thinking – the very thinking that drives creativity.

Of course the method you use to learn the language can interfere in this enhancement of creative power and classic teaching focusing on memorising grammar structures and the focus on giving always the “correct answer” to problem solving is not going to achieve that outcome. The author is quoting Sir Ken Robinson as he is arguing the fact that the educational system has become so obsessed with avoiding mistakes that because of that “we are educating people out of their creative capabilities”.

More of your creativity related questions with regards to learning a foreign language are answered by the author in this blog post.

4.Things bilingual people do. This explores a different version of how bilinguals experience the world around them. It is as funny as it is based on science and research and it’s just something different to read to give you a little bit of inspiration. Marta Krzeminska, language passionate at LinguaLift blog writes about all things connected to language learning and learners. Have a go here.

5.From the same author I would like to also include a little info-graphic which should give you the push to include a little bit of language learning in your daily schedule. I was checking that out because I wanted to see how is the world, if you can say that, taking into account it’s just around 200 people the study was conducted on, incorporates foreign language study in their busy schedules. I am someone that prefers to embrace language learning throughout the day, for few minutes, for pleasure and not as a form of “I must learn this, it’s on my TO DO LIST.” That never worked for me. I have to find it fun and easy and relaxing. More insightful info to look at in the link Language Learning Habits.

6.Are language learning apps really that effective? I was actually asking this myself because the theory you have in mind is that you need a teacher, a classroom and a schedule and constant memorising. It’s not fun, maybe that’s why I postponed so much initiating a new foreign language learning. So, I have discovered a different approach mainly after watching this Youtube video, and then discovered some other polyglot Youtubers who kept mentioning about all these free apps which you can use to learn a language. My first thought was that it’s not sustainable. You need structure, grammar and a clear direction on what you are studying and how you are going to fulfil the learning material to make sure there is results soon and visible. An app would only and can only teach you so much as to words, vocabulary and help you memorise it better or faster. The article explores in my opinion the history of language learning, starting from audiolingualism, getting to the communicative approach and ending with the foreign language learning apps. The authors, all working at the University of Bath as course leaders are Mike Groves, Diana Hopkins and Tom Reid and I could not agree more with their findings related to the fact that the language learning apps can only work as an useful supplement when learning a new language but it is also a great tool to help literacy where that is not possible and give the option to everyone through free apps to learn a language and be able to articulate basics in a foreign language. In my own experience, learning a few minutes every day through the app is making me curious and excited for the next learning experience because I see progress straight away. And that’s because it’s few words. But if you consider the theory by which if you set yourself a goal and you dedicate 1 minute per day to that goal every day, simply because you learn fast and remember for the next day, makes you feel satisfied with yourself and keeps you going. It keeps you motivated and sooner than you realise you will extend the time from 1 minute to 5, and so on, until it truly becomes a habit and a passion, something that you enjoy doing rather than something you dread starting. So, in my opinion language learning apps are amazing, they are of course just a supplement as you could never really become advanced just by using an app, but most likely it helps shape the patterns to learning and it is motivating you towards bigger goals.

More reading on the subject of audiolingualism (the drill where students repeat sentences over and over until they memorise it and recognise it in practice), the communicative approach (which relates to: it’s better to speak broken grammar and good pronunciation than perfect grammar but wrong pronunciation, as in that situation you cannot make yourself understood) and the audio-lingual drilling can be found here. The apps I use for language learning are Drops and LingQ.

7.The mind of the language learner written by Steven Kaufmann (who created also the LingQ app for language learning), the linguist that can speak 17 languages explores in this article how the mind of the reader can be associated with the mind of the language learner by seeing yourself as someone that can learn, that enjoys learning and that is positive about the learning/reading.

8.Storytelling to learn languages. This is written by Luca Lampariello and he is a well known figure in the kingdom of polyglots and his insights and language learning observations are probably where most of the new arrived on the market polyglots get their information or learning tips they share online too. He is explaining this article that stories help us memorise vocabulary and so “It’s not a coincidence that one of the most popular techniques among memory experts is to build a story around what they want to remember.” as he writes. I mean, storytelling does everything that we need to acquire the language: stories are fun, full of vocabulary that has context for the new words, stories teach us how to speak the way the foreigner of that target language expresses himself or herself, configuring the grammar in a cultural immersion and linguistic environment. I also loved this article because Steve Kaufmann’s app LingQ is based on stories and reading and hearing the stories there helps a lot with pronunciation, spelling and both visualisation of the words in context.

I am leaving for the end the best of the articles I found online about language learning and one of them is about the importance of the digital language divide.

9.How does the language you speak shape your experience of the internet? written by Holly Young. This is probably one of the most interesting and inspirational piece of content relating to language learning and foreign languages online. I found reading it like a breath of fresh air in the large ocean of alike foreign language posts and articles found on the internet. It makes you think, it makes you wonder and it makes you want to do something about it. If you are like me, and you do speak a language that is only based in that specific country, you do want to preserve it, you do feel it is important that we keep the culture and not globalise everything because the official language online is English (thus highlighting more English learning than our own culture and native languages, simply because that’s the universal language now). The article explores how countries in which English or any other foreign language learning is a priority puts that city/town/maybe even country to being excluded from information as all information online is in English. Lacking English language skills makes one vulnerable to outdated information and inability to find new information in one’s native language due to lack of translation because everyone assumes that everyone knows or should know English. Here’s my highlights:

Inequalities in the information available for different languages online has implications for who and what gets represented – and by whom. {research based on word searches related to the language spoken pinpoints that 11% of people are multilingual on Twitter and 15% on wikipedia} Multilinguals have the power to be influential whether it is translating and bringing foreign concepts into different language editions on Wikipedia, or moving breaking local news stories to new language communities and different geographies.

Twitter has a particularly high number of Malay, Portuguese and Spanish users also tweeting in English.

The research of Andras Kornai at the paper Digital Language Death claims to present evidence of a massive die – off caused by the digital divide. Will the internet act as a catalyst for the extinction of many of the world’s languages?

Access to internet also offers the opportunity for linguistic empowerment : to document and preserve languages, to share teaching online to encourage new speakers, to translate important information for marginalised groups and to even create virtual communities of speakers where they may struggle to exist offline.

{the Endangered languages project} Is there a danger however that instead, new users, influenced by the volume of content in more dominant languages, will abandon their mother tongues online?

research suggests that speakers of smaller languages online will often opt to use the internet in a larger language, even if they don’t speak it well.

10.The only post you’ll ever need to learn a language in record time by Tim Ferris. I am not even going to dive into this one. This is what you will learn from reading it:

How to speak your target language today.
How to reach fluency and exceed it within a few months.
How to pass yourself off as a native speaker. And finally, how to tackle multiple languages to become a “polyglot”—all within a few years, perhaps as little as 1-2.

11.And finally, the last inspirational resource I discovered online about foreign language learning is contained in a series of articles written by Kevin Morehouse, named Language News from Around the World. As the title suggests, it’s like a newsletter with everything fresh. The blog has not been updated in a while but still, scrolling through older versions, I could still find great language learning content and more news around foreign languages.

To end, I will include some inspirational quotes that I really find motivating to help you initiate this foreign language learning habit. I trust it will be of use to you!

“Language reflects the soul of the people.” Paul Schibler
“The spirit of a language is most clearly expressed in its untranslatable words.” Baroness Marie ‘Freifrau’ von Ebner-Eschenbach
“With each language, you learn to free yourself from your trapped spirit.” Friedrich Ruckert

“With foreign words on our tongue comes also the foreign spirit into our world.” Carl Theodor Korner

Why should you learn a (new) foreign language?

Apart from the obvious, for the sake of it, (nah, just kidding!) because you love that specific language, because you like the culture and because it looks good on your resume, (if you actually can speak it fluently), I have other reasons behind why you should learn another or (if this is the first time you are learning a new language) A foreign language.

We live in a multicultural world. And we see more and more that more people with different cultural backgrounds move from one country to another. They do that to obtain a better life, career and improve their social status and when that happens, you inevitably are forced to learn the language of the country you move in. The people that move countries to study for short or long term also have this need and some have the desire to learn the language of the host country. There is lots of travellers, digital nomads and entrepreneurs that set their businesses up in other countries. All these people come with their own language and the people living in that country are interested in their culture too, they are interested in their language too and in everything surrounding the mystery of coming into one’s country.

It’s not just the people that come to live, work or study into another country that are interested in learning a new language or THAT language, it’s also the people that already represent the country that have an interest in the language of the immigrants. It’s a cultural exchange as much as it is a language exchange. It is not as much seen in the UK from what I hear from people, not many are interested in learning another language, but there are still new foreign language learners through the ones that do not decide to leave their country and emigrate, and they are interested in knowing the basics to better cope with immigrants and to visit other countries. Common languages in Europe for people to study are English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Italian.

Why do we even learn languages in school? There are many reasons behind this. Even if you think, it’s not something interesting or useful, you are actually wrong. If there is something worthwhile your time and effort in school, it’s foreign languages. What does learning foreign languages mean and why do we have to have it in the curriculum? Why? Well:

-To open our possibilities for work, first in our own countries, because businesses are collaborative with other countries and so, countries need to prepare its population for other companies or investors taking over, improving the life of its citizens with maybe better jobs, better wages, better conditions. You may think that the first reason behind the opening of our horizons would be to have this possibility to go abroad and make it easy for people living in a new country, but it is not. The first reason is to adapt to the local economy changing and adapting to a global multicultural economy. If all nations are to thrive, better multicultural communication must occur. That can happen if we speak each others languages, understand each others cultures and adapt to it. Speaking to someone in their own native language not only makes them more open to us (whether as an individual or a business) but also respectful of the idea that we are trying and we are interested. Because we care (if we think in this example, we are the immigrants – and think about yourself, if you meet a foreigner who can speak your language, you are more prone to respect that person). The same way for someone coming in the host country. Secondly, the reason learning a new foreign language can enhance our work options, is through the common aspect of moving to work and live in that particular country we are learning the language of. Learning each others nations languages means the nations can exchange people, human resources and business options for better profits. In the end, we are all thinking about a better more sustainable financial life.

-To improve the brain’s functions and memory because learning a new language it’s not just about language, it’s about memory and learning in general. The brain needs constant stimuli to grow more synapses, to help with memory and to enhance efficiency, productivity and prevent neuro-degenerative diseases that appear in life usually if the brain is not trained. Just as we train our bodies, we need to train our brains too. It’s a muscle, and you may have heard that by now so many times. In research, bilinguals have been shown to have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer disease than monolinguals. This suggests that learning another language does for your mind what exercise does for your body, enabling you to retain your language skills into old age.

-To communicate with other people and understand different cultures, thus helping people to become more tolerant, more understanding, better equipped to deal with future global challenges. I have heard many polyglots speaking about the impact their language skills and foreign language learning has had on their ability to cope with cultural differences and people in general. From my own experience, I can say the same thing. You become more tolerant, less judgemental and more understanding, more compassionate. This can only do good for us in life and improve not only our life quality with people, but these people’s lives with us. The way they interact with us is also a struggle for them, not just for us. The cultural background plays a fundamental role in perceiving and reacting to other people’s communication to us. That cultural background is reflected in the language that we all speak. The way we speak in our native language usually shows something about how our brains work, how we think, how we act, how we were thought to live. Every culture has that. Everyone’s language is important because it is impregnated in their behaviour, in their attitude in life, in their work life and in their daily experiences. So, if we all collectively are bilinguals rather than monolinguals, we will make the world a better place, simply because we will all understand each other much better, maybe not (as that may be impossible) globally or in a specific language, but at an emotional level. We develop our emotional intelligence when we are bilinguals. Imagine how much of an understanding and more meaningful human relations we can all have, if we are polyglots. And you do not need to speak another language at a proficiency level. And to be a polyglot, you do not need to know 10 languages. If it’s 3 languages already that you speak, you are a polyglot.

From my own experience, especially because I work in a call centre environment for a financial institution and I get to speak with people from all walks of life and with multicultural backgrounds, I can say, that I relate differently to people whose languages I know, compared to people whose languages I know nothing about. And what do I mean by that? Well, I have noticed that I am much helpful and enjoy interacting to people who are native speakers of French, Spanish, Italian rather than let’s say Indians or Chinese or Polish. Stereotypes also play a huge role, and when you really cannot understand people over the phone and their accent really cannot make you understanding of their situation (because a lot of the times, you think, if I live here just like you, why can’t you properly learn English too?) you tend to act or behave, think and respond like a monolingual rather than a bilingual. And it is a strange thing. I am not saying this happens solely with the examples given above, those are just examples and by no means I wish to say that I am finding it difficult to communicate with people from India, China or Poland. It’s an example, just as it would be if I said Javanese (yes, with V, there’s no spelling error there), Malay or Bulgarian. I am referring to languages to which I was not exposed and was not exposed to understanding their culture or lifestyle, therefore their language seems unimportant. And them not being able to speak it, makes them less able to be seen as important. And that’s where the trouble is.

We think that if someone does not speak our language (or the common language used to communicate, example here English) that person won’t be able to understand us, we won’t be able to understand them, because we do not know their native language, and (since they immigrated here) we need to distance ourselves from that person because we cannot communicate and we do not want to make it hard on ourselves to try to understand. It takes a lot of effort to understand someone else. To listen. That effort is something that our brains are not used to. Our brains are hard wired to learn familiarity and to react to familiarity in a way of by default type, with less processing thought, with little effort. Effort requires energy from our part, which when dealing with something unfamiliar, like in this case, a foreigner who is trying to articulate something in English, we do not want to deal with this. They should change THEIR attitude and learn it better, if they moved here, right? (common misjudgement) That’s what we have all felt at some point in time. THEY should make the effort. Not us. Well, that’s what will change when you become bilingual or study to turn yourself into a polyglot. YOU WILL CHANGE THAT IGNORANT ATTITUDE TOWARDS PEOPLE. And if we could all try this, we would be in a much happier place. Tolerance is not just about sexual orientation and gender issues. Tolerance is as per definition the ability or willingness to accept and embrace the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with. It’s understanding that we are all different and we are all good enough and worthy EQUALLY.

In my own experience, I have become tolerant because I knew more languages, but I also improved and enlarged my tolerance because I became interested in even more languages. I purchased myself this wonderful book named Babel, written by Gaston Dorren, a true polyglot that speaks Dutch, Limburgish, English, German and Spanish and reads French, Afrikaans, Frisian, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Luxembourgish and Esperanto and while writing Babel he attempted learning Vietnamese. Now, 2 of those languages, I was not aware they existed, until I read about him! So, there’s so many things we are not aware of and the fact that we are not open to new things, because they are not familiar to us, makes us intolerant. This book, Babel takes you through an exploration of the world through 20 most spoken languages on the Globe. That’s the book that opened my eyes more to the language of Asia mostly. When you read about its history, the people and the language itself, you make comparisons with your own language and you integrate that into an understanding which makes you more compassionate and you are better prepared to not only understand someone from that culture at a human interaction level, but their point of view, their English topic which would a lot of the times be representing the way they think and speak in their language, and that’s just fascinating to me. Remember this quote every time you struggle with someone, and I think of it each time I find it difficult to understand someone, especially over the phone:

“Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language.” H.Jackson Brown

I also think of myself when I speak to someone else. When you are a polyglot, and you are working in a country that is not that used to learning and speaking another language, you are seen as quite smart. Of course, I think of myself as smart, but you are seen as smart and sometimes a little bit different than if you spoke broken English. When your English is good you are appreciated but you are also gloriously making other people jealous of you and their behaviour towards you is a little bit mean sometimes. They do attempt to see if you really understand what they have meant towards you with their words or actions, or attitude. and when I experience that, I immediately think if I may act like that with other people whose background I do not relate to or are not that aware of. Being a polyglot and learning another or a new foreign language makes you very attentive to other people, sensible to their sayings to you, sensitive and perceptive of all subtle communication. You truly not just hear, you listen and understand the meaning behind their words much, much more.

If you learn another language or study to understand it, you will also experience a feeling of improved self esteem. You are able to communicate in other language. You are able to work, collaborate or study in a foreign language. You may be bilingual or a polyglot. You are amazing! Trust me, you are to be feared by other professionals, because knowing another language makes you more attractive to potential employers simply because having the foreign language skill you are an asset not just because of the language skill, but because of the meaning it has your knowledge for your attitude and work capacity in general. Tolerance to other cultures, means also the fact that you are more tolerant in general. When you expand one ability, you don’t just expand the ability to be tolerant only with people of other cultures, you expand your ability in general for tolerating new, emerging things that pop in your life. And that may be a schedule at work, a shift, a workload, etc. You are more adaptable. More flexible. When you are thought to be like that, you are believed to be more reliable, you are believed to have perseverance and you are looked at as more open to challenges, which is what every company needs, someone to do the job and not fade down in the face of difficulties. That’s why you need to learn another language.

And with so many and free options these days, there is nothing stopping you. A competitive advantage starts with the capacity – in EVERY SINGLE JOB MARKET – to be able to learn something FAST and be able to ACT ON IT, to go and work with the unfamiliar. Are you ready for that?

Any thoughts?

Thoughts on how I plan to learn multiple languages at the same time – Polyglot 101

First, we need to start with attitude and thinking patterns around learning a foreign language. I would like to start by addressing the perfectionism idea behind learning foreign languages, especially if it comes to learning multiple languages at the same time. There is this need people have to become perfect in their target language, or to be perfect while learning a foreign language or to do it right and hard and with the perfect effort to have perfect results. And that’s because we fear rejection. We fear we are not going to be good enough if we do not do it perfectly. This is going to be even harder to take in if the one you feel you are disappointing is yourself because you have set up incredibly non-achievable goals and objectives.

The reason that may actually be holding you back from learning a new language may be that you fear to be rejected by your own self, your own high expectations when it comes to performing, when it comes to bringing in results, because, hey, I have put this amount of efforts in self sabotage thoughts. If you are a perfectionist, you will feel that if I do not do this perfectly, I will not be good enough and I will lower my self esteem even more. If I am not perfect, I am not good enough, therefore I cannot do this or worse, I do not deserve this.

I do not want for this goal of mine to learn multiple languages at the same time to sound unrealistic for you, because that is not the point. Everyone has specific goals. I am not trying to compensate for the time in which I always wanted to learn a specific language but slowly had given up on that because I was feeling it was not useful. I am simply wanting to learn multiple languages because I know I can do it and because I really like these languages in which I want to gain fluency, at least at a conversational mode. Again, these languages are initially Italian and Portuguese and a little bit later on, Estonian. I also need to perfect my French. So the ones on which I will focus my attention will be initially Italian, Portuguese and French. Again, I do not want to be perfect or achieve mastery. And I know I will probably struggle and want to give up in the first month I decided to do this, but that will only happen strongly, if I set myself an unrealistic goal of mastery around these languages.

I am interested in letting you know that you can learn one language at a time or multiple languages if you want, even though everywhere on the internet I see that people and linguists say you should focus on one language. But that’s only if you wish to be advanced, truly advanced. So, I am sharing here tips and my plans on learning 3 languages (of which 1 I already have the skills and knowledge, but need practice – French, and the other 2 I can understand a little bit of) that I am already a little bit familiar with.

The trouble with perfectionism is that, first of all, it hunts me pretty well, and of course, I am not going to lie, I do wish deep down to gain fast and easy this fluency I am seeking, but, I know that it actually showcases an attitude of “I cannot be satisfied with nothing of what I get to accomplish”, because nothing is ever good enough, nothing is ever perfect, nothing is ever timed right, nothing is ever going to satisfy us. It’s a never ending formula of perform, perform, perform. The key is actually consistency when it comes to anything in life, and especially so when it comes to learning a foreign language, or in my case, with planning on learning multiple languages. There is also the fear of failure. If I do not get to learn this, then I will label myself as a failure, and then people will also see that, because I was not able to do this. But failure is normal. It’s human. As much as I do not like to encounter that, I know it will happen at some point in my journey, I will probably hit hard and who knows, I may come up with a blog post, Why you should not learn or set yourself goals to learn multiple languages at the same time. Which I really hope and will do my best, to not happen. Obviously, this article may make me sound or look perfectionist. Why would anyone need to learn more foreign languages, when you already know the universal one, English and 3 more, on top of that, that you can speak anyway good enough. And since the focus in life is “good enough”, then some people and maybe even myself if I was reading this, would assume that another polyglot has made you believe you need to learn more languages. You are not enough with 4 languages. You need to be perfect.

I do not need to be perfect. I simply like foreign languages. And Italian is thought to be the easiest language to learn. Portuguese is something I am familiar with because I can speak Spanish and these languages have lots of cognates between them, which I believe will make me learning them easier.

But without more rambling, let me tell you how I plan on learning these languages at the same time by pinpointing the second aspect I will take into consideration: Consistency & Persistence.

If there is something that is far more important than setting up the right language learning goals, it’s persistence. Without this, learning will never happen. How can you plan to be consistent though? With the right tools and the good time management.

what makes me feel successful

I do not want to feel like in school, I want this to be fun and for me to want to come to the activity of learning. To achieve this result, I need to have in action specific tools that will assist my progress. That is, sourcing for the best resources out there. Not grammar handbooks. Because I am not going to learn that much if foreign languages was only grammar study.

My tools will be self made tools consisting of: 1000 most common words of Italian, Portuguese and French with pronunciation; learning the most common verbs, learning 2-3 verb tenses to be able to speak of past, present and future activities, learning connecting words to be able to create sentences with proper usage of these connecting words, studying the connecting words, the conjugation and words that I want to know in that specific language (because I want these languages to be a part of my life from now on, and not happen what happened to me with French – no use, unable to speak it fluently), creating connections by listening to specific music in that language, understanding the culture, listening to podcasts in that language and translating the songs that I enjoy the most in all 3 languages, thus creating connections; then understand how people actually speak in that language by searching maybe Youtubers or blogs related to my passions and interests; try to read the news in that target language, consuming thus the culture and art of that specific language as it will create excitement and variety from the memorising stage. I also think using or trying language learning apps could help and I will try to use it to see how it works but I will not rely solely on that.

As my goal is a human interaction in the target language and not a perfect discourse, I believe everyone can, thus, learn a language easy and fast and without much stress or pressure to feel they need to be perfect. It will give space for mistakes, out of which we should be able to learn better after. A polyglot is after all someone that enjoys learning new languages for the sake of that language, culture, country and art with the focus on being able to interact with people, it’s not about becoming a linguist.

The last aspect about planning to learn multiple languages at the same time or any foreign language is connected to having fun. Making it easy for you to maintain persistence and that comes, always, with entertainment. In my case, discovering bloggers, youtubers, people that inspire me, from that country, reading their articles, following them on Instagram, thus listening to their stories, reading in their language what they write, keeping up with books from authors of that country or reading in the target language your favourite book can make it exciting and for me, it offers that feeling of “I cannot wait to be able to do this”. It’s a sense of accomplishment and as an example with my current foreign language, polyglot skills, when I hear people speaking in Spanish or French and they do not know I can understand them, because living in a multicultural city you encounter lots of people from all over the world, the feeling you have when you know what they talk about is like anything else in the world. It feels like, you knowing another language, you have the power to do more, to achieve more, to get along with anything that may come your way. It feels you can overcome any obstacles. That’s how I feel when I am able to speak multiple languages. Plus, you can also move anytime to that country and be able to be in a sense footloose. Free.

Do you have any tips on learning a new language?

How I was made into a Polyglot – 4 Languages

As a polyglot that has become a polyglot while still in school and with proper teacher studies, home works and schedules, it may seem a bit hard for someone to start learning a language by his/her own. Nevertheless, having language studies while you are still in school makes it easier to actually stick to learning it compared to having to learn it without any extrinsic motivation. In high-school, I learned Latin, Spanish, English, French and my native language, Romanian. Thinking about it now, that’s pretty impressive! My Latin skills though have dissipated completely, in part because I have not been able to practice it with anyone, and because it was not a language I was that interested in, in the first place. It was just something I was forced to learn due to my humanistic class type studies.

Photo credit @danielcgold

So, me coming up with tips and tricks and plans on how you can start learning a new language on your own, may not look very useful. However, I want to pinpoint the fact that I have maintained the level of all the other foreign languages and I can use them to have conversations, understand people speaking to me and reading in that particular language. I have maintained my polyglot skills because I have always been interested in being able to speak to and understand other people’s languages. My mom sent me to learn French initially in school, then after 2 years she decided I should do English and from the 5th grade onward until I graduated high school I had learned English and French at advanced levels. 2 more languages were added at the age of 14, 15 respective and that was Latin (5 years of study) and Spanish (4 years of study). It may look strange that I cannot speak Latin or understand it now even though I had been exposed to it more time than Spanish, and probably that stems from the fact that I love Spanish. Ever since I was 9 or 10 I was exposed to Spanish soap operas and that has hugely impacted my potential in Spanish learning and the fact that I was able to pick it up so quickly. I also loved so much speaking it at that time. I still do.

Photo credit: @danielcgold

This is just a little background of how I started with Languages. Basically, my mom wanted to give me a good start in life. She knew best. As all moms do. Now, while I was in school, of course learning foreign languages was quite academic and a lot of memorising had to take place in order for me to learn. It’s good it happened at an early age, because it helped a lot with my overall learning and memory skills. The main difference I would say for learning a language with teachers versus as a DIY is that you know you have to do the homework, learn and keep track of it. You cannot not go ahead with it. If you’re on your own, you need discipline. A lot of it.

Photo credit: @noemiphotography

I am not ashamed to say that I enjoy watching soap operas in Spanish and Portuguese (Brazilian version though) and because I watched a lot of that during my university studies, I had fallen in love with Brazilian. I was learning the language just by watching, hearing and memorising the words and their meanings from the subtitles. It was easy because it has a lot in common with Spanish. So in the summer of 2011 I had started a journey of exactly 2 months to learn Portuguese. I slowly but steadily had given up on it because other priorities have come up and because I was starting to lose my focus and my goal. 2 years before that, I had a crush on Japanese and only lasted for 1 month because everyone around me was telling me that it is useless to learn it and I should focus, instead on something I am passionate about which at that moment in time was Japanese, on things that really matter, such as my driver license (which I successfully failed) or my master’s degree. With Portuguese, I started feeling the same way, why should I learn a language that no company is actually in need of in my town? Why waste my time on this when I can pursue something that can bring me more monetary opportunities? Well, and this is future Georgyana to past Georgyana, because if there’s something you enjoy and feel attracted towards, you must follow it. I have made several mistakes like that one over the years. I could have spoken now around 8 or 9 languages if I had went away with MY hobbies and passions.

I was made into a polyglot but I could have been a better one had I kept my mind attached to my dreams. Now, when I want to learn more languages, I find everyone else around me is way ahead me. I have no time! But future Georgyana always highlights to present Georgyana that “That’s simply not true”.

And it certainly does not mean you cannot start learning a foreign language at whatever age you are now, even if it’s only the first foreign language you are going to learn, it is still not too late and it will definitely be much easier than you think it will be hard. I am in a way in the same position as you, I was made a polyglot, I was put into this and I believe it is a wonderful skill and a very helpful one too.

So, now that we have established we are on the same boat, let me tell you my plans on learning more languages, multiple languages at the same time and how to plan your learning so that you won’t feel as if you have to go to school, because we all know, we all did not want to go to school.

Photo credit: @unsplash

The main thing I noticed about me in learning languages is that being exposed to hearing it and to visual subtitles helped A LOT. That’s how I started with English, then with Spanish and Portuguese. By the way, I understand Portuguese a little bit, and also Italian (not sure how, but I think it is because of the similarities between the other foreign languages I know and my native one, Romanian) but would not be fluent in conversation. This means or this is what I believe it means, learning languages is going to be easy and fast if you get yourself exposed to it – be it, film, music, YouTube and even podcasts in the target language. That’s how I plan to become a polyglot.

I would not say at this point in time, I am interested in gaining mastery, because I think that comes with time and with focused interest in one language at a time, rather, I am interested in conversational, every day life and fluency: being able to speak, understand and have a nice good vocabulary, with basic grammar. I think that when you start learning something, whether that’s a new hobby, skill, activity or foreign language, you need to set a goal, an objective, a SMART goal. Specific, measurable, attainable, time framed. I would like to be able to speak fluently Italian, Portuguese by the end of 2019. I have another goal of refreshing my French fluency at the same level, as currently I have to think about words and I am quite slow in expressing myself, since it was not a language I have used in the last 6 years at least. Also, I would like to know the basics of Estonian. I am fluent in Spanish and I want to maintain this level and maybe improve on some vocabulary. Probably a lot of goals and too little time. But I am not looking to speak perfectly, I want to be able to understand and if I get to speak to people in the same way I am now able to understand and speak in Spanish, I would be extremely satisfied with myself.

Would you like to become a Polyglot or extend your foreign language skills?

What foreign languages would you like to learn?