Polyglots in the Wild - Today I Saw

General discussion about learning languages
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zenmonkey
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Polyglots in the Wild - Today I Saw

Postby zenmonkey » Fri Jun 24, 2022 3:25 pm

I’m in Texas visiting my brother.

Needed a haircut so off I went to a nearby barber.

While I was waiting my turn I saw a woman two seats over reading Fluent Forever. I asked her what she thought of Gabriel’s book and we got talking. Language Transfer, different idiolects, Anki, this place, etc. She was originally Swiss was working on Spanish, had Finnish in her quiver.

I was carrying my ASSIMIL Le Persian.

Her son came over and said “ Let me guess - languages or computers”.

It’s really not often that I meet a fellow traveler in a random place outside of language events.

What are your polyglot in the wild moments?
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Re: Polyglots in the Wild - Today I Saw

Postby alaart » Fri Jun 24, 2022 6:04 pm

There are quite a lot in university here in Germany. You would be surprised. I met them through language classes mostly, I'd say 5 languages is not that uncommon. Usually they are not affiliated with the language learning internet stuff or communities.

Look for either heritage speakers or foreigners taking language courses in your native language, they are good candidates.

One of my friends had Sorbian and German as mother languages, learned English and Russian fluently while growing up, then Chinese in university as a major. She also took classes in Japanese and Mongolian.
Another friend has Turkish and German heritage, so then English, again Chinese and Russian both in university.
We had a Russian girl studying in Chinese in German, she spoke at least Spanish and Korean - but I'm not sure to what degree. In the Portuguese classes I took there was a German girl claiming fluency in the big romance languages, I only spoke Portuguese so I can't confirm or deny that. Also there was a half Japanese girl studying Chinese in Germany. And Chinese and Taiwanese girls in the Japanese major in Germany. They usually have at least 4 languages.

In Japan some mixed heritage students studied a language like Spanish in university - they have usually around 4 languages: The heritage language (Portuguese, Tagalog, Korean or Chinese in the region where I was), Japanese, English - and their major language from university (usually Spanish or French).

Also people from China, Malaysia, India are good candidates to speak 5 languages sometimes.
For example my Indian-Heritage friend from Thailand speaks: Punjabi and Thai as a native speaker, then he learned Hindi and English - and he lived here in Germany, he didn't manage to learn German, but he is excused, his intention was research.
Another Indian heritage friend of mine had Tamil as his native language, but crew up in Malaysia - so Malay and English, so he had 3 languages from a young age. In that environment I imagine it wouldn't be too rare to see someone speaking quite a few languages.
My roommate from Hong-kong in Japan spoke: Cantonese, Japanese, Mandarin and Hokkien. So 3 Chinese languages: One from his fathers side, one from his mothers side and Mandarin. His English was horrible though.
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Re: Polyglots in the Wild - Today I Saw

Postby Le Baron » Fri Jun 24, 2022 6:52 pm

Picking up language-learning women in a barber's! I'd love that.

It's rare I come across more than 3 languages, but as above with alaart there are quite a few I've met who have extra languages lying dormant, usually related to mixed parentage. I met a woman I initially thought was Arabic who turned out to be of Kurdish origin and spoke Kurdish and also Persian and some Turkish alongside Dutch and German.

I suspect some people probably just don't mention it or think about it.
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Re: Polyglots in the Wild - Today I Saw

Postby jimmy » Fri Jun 24, 2022 8:25 pm

Le Baron wrote:Picking up language-learning women in a barber's! I'd love that.

It's rare I come across more than 3 languages, but as above with alaart there are quite a few I've met who have extra languages lying dormant, usually related to mixed parentage. I met a woman I initially thought was Arabic who turned out to be of Kurdish origin and spoke Kurdish and also Persian and some Turkish alongside Dutch and German.

I suspect some people probably just don't mention it or think about it.


if you don't know Arabic or Kurdish,I think it is way normal to confuse . While the pronunciation of these languages are very similar, the grammar makes the exact changes.
and yes it is way normal for a Kurdish to know Turkish and to understand Persian to me.

General Comment to thread: I did not understand really the reason why you oddified the issue.

Let assume that this case is probable. you fly from Turkey to hong kong, after a bit short time you not only come across some native Turks or Kurdish people but you also come across with some local products which are specific to Turkey and it wrotes on tthose products "Made in Turkey / Isparta"

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to me this is normal. (It is not wild)
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Re: Polyglots in the Wild - Today I Saw

Postby Querneus » Fri Jun 24, 2022 9:40 pm

I've never met a polyglot of the kind that reads Fluent Forever in the wild, outside events/meetups specifically catering to language learners.

I have met a number of people from India who knew three Indian languages and English, and maybe one of French or Spanish to some extent, and people from China or the Chinese diaspora (often Indonesia or Malaysia) who knew two varieties of Chinese plus English and maybe some French (maybe still remembering some Malay), but I'm not sure if they really count?
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Re: Polyglots in the Wild - Today I Saw

Postby IronMike » Sat Jun 25, 2022 1:16 am

When I was a captain in the Air Force and deployed, I had some linguists working for me. One of them had recorded DLPT scores of 3/3 in Russian, Serbian/Croatian, French and Somali. Another had 2+/2+ or higher in German and every Romance language that Uncle Sam has a DLPT in. Another had 3/3 in MSA Arabic, as well as 2+/2+ in two Arabic dialects.

This was not a unique situation in my decades of service. Quite impressive those men and women.
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Re: Polyglots in the Wild - Today I Saw

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sat Jun 25, 2022 5:30 pm

Once had a neighbor from Turkey who was fluent in English and had taught herself Hittite.
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Re: Polyglots in the Wild - Today I Saw

Postby cito » Sat Jun 25, 2022 5:43 pm

MorkTheFiddle wrote:Once had a neighbor from Turkey who was fluent in English and had taught herself Hittite.


Hittite?! Wow. It’s interesting though, almost all Turks I have met have had amazing English. Same thing with Greeks. This includes Turkish people I have met in the States and abroad. Definitely some selection bias there though :lol:
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Re: Polyglots in the Wild - Today I Saw

Postby jimmy » Sat Jun 25, 2022 8:14 pm

cito wrote:
MorkTheFiddle wrote:Once had a neighbor from Turkey who was fluent in English and had taught herself Hittite.


Hittite?! Wow. It’s interesting though, almost all Turks I have met have had amazing English.:lol:


oh that is very nice to hear that my Engish was amazing :) :) :) hahaha I did not know that.
in fact I am kurdish but speak the same English with Turkishes
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Re: Polyglots in the Wild - Today I Saw

Postby leosmith » Sun Jun 26, 2022 1:26 am

zenmonkey wrote:What are your polyglot in the wild moments?

Angry Girl was the first one I can remember (2006ish). I used to work with a Canto-Vietnamese guy who spoke 7 languages. We spoke a little in French, but mostly in Mandarin along with a mutual co-worker from Taiwan (2009ish). On my last job before I retired, I hung out with an Indian dude who spoke 8 languages - English, French and 6 Indian languages (2010-2012).

I've never been to a polyglot gathering, but I've been on tons of language exchanges, and occasionally meet polyglots who are really impressive. I met a Korean in Pusan, in his 20s, and spoke to him in several languages. I had a few languages that he said he didn't speak, but somehow he kept up with me in those languages too. Amazing guy - to this day I'm not sure how he pulled this off. Maybe he used that youtube polyglot's technique, which I knew nothing of at the time (just be able to ask/answer the 10 most common questions, or something like that).
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