The term “polyglot” has no precise definition specifying how many languages one must be fluent in in order to be considered as a polyglot. However, there is a compromise among linguists and language learners about what it takes to be a polyglot. You must be able to communicate fluently in more than one language. You should be able to write and speak them fluently, but those languages should be different from each other. For example, knowing different dialects does not, according to most people, give you the right to be considered a polyglot. However, even in this case, this is subjective evaluation.
Multilingualism and polyglotism require attention, time and effort, but there are some methods you can use to facilitate learning and speed up the process of getting information.
Some people find it necessary to learn several languages at once, but others prefer to learn each language step by step, language by language.
So, you ask, how can I become a polyglot? And here are our tips.
Tip 1: Learn one language at a time
For the vast majority of people, learning one language at a time is the most effective way to become a polyglot in the long run. If you’re learning different languages at once, you may find that you’re unable to retain all of your knowledge and as a result you quickly lose important aspects of the language from your memory. Focus on the simpler or more related languages and gradually progress to the others.
Tip 2: Attend language classes
Language classes are really one of the most effective methods of learning. Attending them regularly will allow you to put your new knowledge to the test in a natural “face-to-face” situation. You can make friends in the group and practice the language with them. Don’t worry about having to search for such courses. You will be surprised at how many language courses there are in your living area.
Tip 3: Open apps for the language you study
Many elements of language learning are covered by the Internet or mobile apps. There are online dictionaries, flashcards, language games and innovative systems.
Here we can’t miss to mention the Langavia Personal Dictionary app, which allows you to keep your own vocabulary and learn new words efficiently. The application supports the learning of almost any language (over 1,300 languages and dialects), so you can easily find the language you need. So it is a perfect choice for those who want to become a polyglot, because here you can keep all your dictionaries for all languages you learn!
Tip 4: Read the same book in multiple languages
Recommended if you are already familiar with a particular book, such as “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter”. Try to read it in multiple languages. When you read, you can relate what you read to your previous understanding of what happens in the storyline, and also analyze how you understood it in other languages.
Tip 5: Practice all languages as often as you can
It is important to practice regularly. Learning is based on repetition, and the more often you repeat information, the better you learn it.
Tip 6: Use your inactive time to practice
We’ve all noticed more than once how we idly flip through our facebook feeds, but the truth is, we can simply turn that idleness into productive study time. Use those precious minutes productively! For example, reading and repeating your flashcards while waiting for the bus or on the subway!
Tip 7: Join a language support group through social media
You can find a lot of great language learning forums on social media. There are hundreds if not thousands of them. The best place to look for information is on Facebook or any other social networks.
Tip 8: Plan which languages you want to learn and why
Making a firm decision about the languages you want to learn will help you not to get to the end, and not to give up on the idea after the first failures. After all, failure is part and parcel of learning! It’s important not to lose your motivation during this time. Explore your options until you are confident in your decision.
Tip 9: Use the Laddering technique
Laddering is the process of arranging previously learned languages in a conceptual order or hierarchy. Your first language might be English, your second might be Italian, and your third might be Chinese. Suppose you want to translate a word into Chinese, but instead of going straight to that language, translate it into Italian and then into Chinese. This reinforces each language on the “ladder”. But sometimes it can probably lead to misunderstandings between languages. That’s why you always should be on the lookout.
Tip 10: Find a language partner
Finding a partner to study with is a fantastic way to improve your learning. If you can find someone who has the same or comparable language learning goals as you, that’s very cool.
Tip 11: Set a schedule for practice time
Regular practice promotes improvement. The stricter your regimen, the more likely you are to achieve your goals. If you follow a frequent practice schedule, after a while you will find that you stick to it automatically. This will serve as a foundation for your language learning efforts.
Tip 12: Be ready to make lots of silly mistakes
Knowing how to deal with mistakes is essential to any learning process. For those who aspire to be polyglots, it’s important to be prepared for lots of fuss and confusion. It’s all part of the process, and the approaches you choose to overcome these difficulties will help you learn more effectively.
Tip 13: Listen to songs, watch movies or any media in the foreign language you are learning
A fantastic strategy for mastering phrases and slang is to study media in the many languages you are learning. The similarities and differences between the many languages you are learning will become obvious to you, and you can compare them to your native language. Movies, newspapers, songs, and youtube are all great choices. Collect material in all the languages you are learning so you can use it as needed.
Tip 14: Try the language shadowing technique to practice pronunciation
This strategy requires you to listen to as many audio recordings as possible in the languages you are learning and then repeat to yourself what you have heard. Try to repeat at the same pace as the original audio text, speak the words quietly. This will help you feel more comfortable while speaking in a foreign language. And it will bring you much closer to polyglotism!
Tip 15: Use the immersion technique when learning a new language
Writing, speaking and listening more, and doing unusual things like switching your phone language between several languages are all effective strategies for immersion in a new language environment.
Tip 16: Create a benchmark plan on when to start the next language
Figuring out whether to move on can be tricky, since you’ll have to start learning the next language before you’ve fully mastered the previous one. But it’s important to think about it beforehand. Following a pre-designed plan will take the worry and stress out of the process.
Tip 17: Join a language exchange community
It’s hard to overestimate how important it is to study with other language learners in a supportive environment. The more you immerse yourself in other people’s experiences and thoughts, the better your language will be. That way you can share problems, tips and ideas with each other, and at the same time practice your new language. For a polyglot it is essential to have friends in different languages.
Tip 18: Get a phrasebook
Always keep a translator on hand. You can refer to it instantly at any time and quickly learn how common phrases change in the languages you learn.
Moreover, as we mentioned before, it’s a good idea to keep your own dictionary (the Langavia app lets you create one). When you want to learn a new phrase or just a word, just add it to your personal dictionary and use the play-game exercises to memorize these added words afterwards.
Tip 19: Listen to language podcasts
The availability of language learning materials such as language podcasts, which provide an almost limitless supply of different techniques and approaches to language learning, is constantly growing.
Tip 20: Try memory techniques to help you remember words quickly
Depending on how your memory works, there are different methods to improve it, including visualization and mnemonics. Explore ways to improve your memory and you’ll find a wealth of information to help you learn many languages.
Tip 21: Be passionate and have fun
If you’re not interested in learning a lot of languages, you should reconsider what you’re doing. Becoming a polyglot requires a significant investment of time. But the further you progress, the learning process becomes easier. All in all, it’s undoubtedly a very exciting activity, and polyglot skill will be a great help in whatever you choose to do with your life.
Practice often to improve your abilities and communicate with other people who are fluent in the foreign language you study, even if it's difficult for you.
* Here you can find this FSI research.