The Most Important Question

This needs to be said.

Maintaining languages can be a stressful job.

It can be an extraordinary juggling act past a certain number and obviously some members of the language club get more privileges and time than others.

I’ve noticed that this is true for most polyglots that I have met. And my list reflects the fact that I am not as much interested in speaking lots of languages as much as doing what I want.

But the fact is, that ensuring that I don’t forget any of these languages, especially some of the more common ones that I don’t really see that I have “chemistry” with as much as with others (e.g. I’ve put a lot more time into Greenlandic than I have into Spanish), is wearing down on me…

greenland asanninneq

…to the point where I had to ask myself, “Jared, stop thinking about what others expect of you. Ask yourself primarily what YOU want…”

“Don’t think that you should go for the more ‘popular’ languages just because they would be more useful for you or your professionalism or the polyglot gatherings or whatever…”

“You can’t force attraction. Not in romance, not in choosing a job, and not in choosing a language either. If you are genuinely interested in learning a popular language, then do it. But if you feel that you are doing it primarily out of peer pressure than focus on something you LIKE!”

It is because of this that I had really kept some of my languages at a static level, sometimes even at a beginner level. It seems that I wasn’t really going forward with Russian or Polish (both of which I am quite poor at) and that I really wasn’t going too far with Northern Sami either. Faroese I am most likely to push forward into an Intermediate level, and Italian may remain in beginner mode as well.

If the need arises, or if the chemistry is sparked again, then most assuredly I will take it up without question.

As for the languages which I do not have a strong control of but am studying some time, my first priorities are Irish and Icelandic. Again, to arrive at these, I had to really ask myself, “what do I really want?”, and tried to block out professional goals and other things that would impact my own heart’s desire in making this decision.

The flashcarding and DuoLingoing for the other “flirting” languages will remain in place for the time being. The very least I can have is a good head start.

So, here are my resolutions:

  • Ask myself what I really want
  • “Date” various languages
  • Ask myself if there are any languages I should give up altogether (this will take more than a month to come to terms with)
  • Get Greenlandic to Fluency! This is NOT going to be easy, but it is my most specific goal right now. Already I seem to be speaking it a lot better in conversations with myself (and when other people ask me to speak it) with a noteworthy amount of ease. Weaning myself off my phrasebook would be necessary, and I have a new style of note-taking that I picked up at the beginning of the year. Aside from that, I really have to change my study plans because if I keep on doing what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks I’m not going to get anywhere close to passable as a Greenlander.
  • Get Icelandic and Irish on my list. And this means mastering the basics of grammar, phrases, being able to say simple things without flinching. Thanks to DuoLingo Irish is on its way, but Icelandic I sort of just started so I’m a bit behind.
  • If it isn’t too stressful, get Faroese to mid-level. But I think that I should really focus on the other tasks…
  • All the while, maintain the better languages with regular waterings of news broadcasts, television, music, and the like…
  • Prepare some sort of multi-lingual speech for my birthday. This is only a vague vision with no specifics but for those of you wondering my birthday is on November 20th.

Now it is time to ask yourself in your life: what do you want?

Have fun following your chosen paths,

Jared Gimbel

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