Polygot Language Circle

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Polygot Language Circle

Postby patrickwilken » Sat Sep 15, 2018 10:01 pm

Just had a strange idea, which people here might be able to answer.

Imagine a circle of people, each in turn talking fluently in a different language at C1/C2 level, who is understood by everyone else in the circle.

What is the maximum size of the circle? Which languages do people speak? Who are the people?
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Re: Polygot Language Circle

Postby Tne328 » Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:54 pm

Sounds to me like a question of what languages overlap geographically enough so that inhabitants of that area would reasonably understand all other languages spoken in that area, even if they did not speak it to C1 themselves. There may also be mutual intelligibility involved.

I would also venture a guess that those seated are meant to be either average persons on the street or educated professional workers, rather than language enthusiasts. The UN might be one place to try the experiment, but certain individuals might be the only ones with the "speaks A, understands B" ability.

I think a larger than average circle could be found on the Indian subcontinent.
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Re: Polygot Language Circle

Postby Ani » Sun Sep 16, 2018 2:46 am

I'm not sure this is really an answerable question .
Not everyone who speaks/understands a lot of languages is in the "polyglot circle"

If we have to actually assemble the circle, I'll somewhat randomly guess around 10 because getting very specific people in one place is hard :)
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Re: Polygot Language Circle

Postby Axon » Sun Sep 16, 2018 5:26 am

Oh no, it actually happened to me! Not the circle, that thing where the forum eats a post you spend a long time on!

Anyway, in short, my answer is that the maximum possible is fifteen, and they're all language enthusiasts, not interpreters or professors.

Remember, each person in the circle has to understand every other language. I could join a circle of three or four on my best days, but as I don't have C1 listening in four languages I'm out after that.

However, there are lots of people who can participate in circles of five, six, and seven. Comparative Romance, Germanic, and Slavic linguistics professors, for example. Surely we can find some who know FIGS + Portuguese, Dutch, and English, even without guessing about Slavic languages that could be learned.

Eight and nine gets harder. Perhaps some enthusiasts of European languages, or (in separate circles) some enthusiasts with Turkic languages or Chinese languages as mother tongues.

At ten and beyond, the chances of ten people being able to all understand the same ten languages get smaller and smaller. Sure, there are definitely people who have learned eleven languages to C1, but the problem is, have all these people chosen the same languages? I'd be willing to suspend my disbelief all the way up to fifteen. I don't think there are fifteen people alive who can play this game together.
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Re: Polygot Language Circle

Postby Ani » Sun Sep 16, 2018 6:06 am

Axon wrote:Sure, there are definitely people who have learned eleven languages to C1, but the problem is, have all these people chosen the same languages? I'd be willing to suspend my disbelief all the way up to fifteen. I don't think there are fifteen people alive who can play this game together.


My interpretation was that they don't need to have learned to C1 up to 15 languages. They just have to speak one unique language for the group to C1 & "understand" what the other speakers say. That could even potentially be B2 listening? I think that makes it a lot easier...
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Re: Polygot Language Circle

Postby patrickwilken » Sun Sep 16, 2018 6:47 am

Ani wrote:My interpretation was that they don't need to have learned to C1 up to 15 languages. They just have to speak one unique language for the group to C1 & "understand" what the other speakers say. That could even potentially be B2 listening? I think that makes it a lot easier...


I think that is right: C1/C2 for speaking; B2/C1/C2 for listening.

You need to get for a circle of N people: 1. N people who can listen up to at least to B2 in the same N languages; 2. and also that each person can speak at C1/C2 in a different language from all the others.

For example for a circle of three you could have: Ada (speaks: English C1; listens French B2 & Spanish B2); Bob (speaks French C2; listens Spanish C1, English B2); Claire (speaks Spanish C1; listens English C1, French C2).

My guess it is pretty easy to get to a circle of four or five, but after that things break down pretty fast. What would be the biggest PLC possible from people in the forum? Do we have six people that can speak the same six languages to a sufficient level? Eight? Ten??
Last edited by patrickwilken on Sun Sep 16, 2018 7:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Polygot Language Circle

Postby Ani » Sun Sep 16, 2018 7:00 am

patrickwilken wrote:[What would be the biggest PLC possible from people in the forum? Do we have six people that can speak the same six languages to a sufficient level? Eight? Ten??


Now this is a much better question!! Lots more fun :)

(You mistyped hypothetical-Bob's languages, but it's obvious what you meant anyway)
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Re: Polygot Language Circle

Postby patrickwilken » Sun Sep 16, 2018 7:04 am

Ani wrote:
patrickwilken wrote:(You mistyped hypothetical-Bob's languages, but it's obvious what you meant anyway)


Fixed. Sorry I blame the three year old and not enough coffee. ;)
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Re: Polygot Language Circle

Postby tarvos » Sun Sep 16, 2018 8:34 am

patrickwilken wrote:
Ani wrote:My interpretation was that they don't need to have learned to C1 up to 15 languages. They just have to speak one unique language for the group to C1 & "understand" what the other speakers say. That could even potentially be B2 listening? I think that makes it a lot easier...


I think that is right: C1/C2 for speaking; B2/C1/C2 for listening.

You need to get for a circle of N people: 1. N people who can listen up to at least to B2 in the same N languages; 2. and also that each person can speak at C1/C2 in a different language from all the others.

For example for a circle of three you could have: Ada (speaks: English C1; listens French B2 & Spanish B2); Bob (speaks French C2; listens Spanish C1, English B2); Claire (speaks Spanish C1; listens English C1, French C2).

My guess it is pretty easy to get to a circle of four or five, but after that things break down pretty fast. What would be the biggest PLC possible from people in the forum? Do we have six people that can speak the same six languages to a sufficient level? Eight? Ten??


You can get pretty far on this forum, and if you've ever visited the Gathering, I think I could find the people to make that circle ;)
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Re: Polygot Language Circle

Postby Axon » Sun Sep 16, 2018 9:38 am

I guess I was thinking you needed C1 listening to understand C1 spoken language. But that's probably not true, because at C1 listening you're almost always just consuming native material directly - so whatever you produce at that level is almost certainly not as complex. In that case I recant my figure of 15 as a hard limit, but I still think you're getting into incredibly slim pickings with anything above 12.

Is there any comprehensive overview of which languages are most commonly learned on this forum? There was that one poll a few months ago but I don't think it came up with much.

Also, for people who have been to a couple of gatherings/conferences - I gather that there are usually a number of people who aren't very active in the online communities but are nevertheless extremely accomplished language learners. How many of these unknown hyperpolyglots tend to show up?
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