What is a polyglot?
Have you ever dreamed about speaking two languages? What about four? What about six?
It’s not impossible. In fact, there’s a word for it - polyglot.
A polyglot is a person who speaks multiple languages. "Polyglot" originates from the Greek words "polu-" and "glotta," which together mean "many tongues."
Polyglots aren’t geniuses or child prodigies. Some began learning languages from a young age, but many didn’t become interested until they were adults. Some were even terrible language-learners in school!
If they can do it, you can too.
How to become a polyglot? Here are 8 useful tips:
1. Know your reason for doing it.
There are no bad reasons, but there are some not-so-good ones. Unfortunately, if you set out to become a polyglot just because it sounds impressive or looks good on your resume, you probably won’t get very far. Becoming a polyglot takes years, if not decades, of hard work and constant practice.
Instead, do it because you love languages—you love learning, you love communicating and you love experiencing new cultures.
Pick languages that you truly want to learn. Don’t pick the ones that seem easiest or sound the most interesting—while ease and interest are valuable factors, they’re not enough alone. Familiarize yourself with many different languages by listening to songs and reading grammar overviews. Only choose the languages that really click with you.
2. Schedule your languages.
The wrong way to learn a lot of languages? All at once. If you try to learn five languages at the same time, you’re guaranteed to get them confused, and you’ll likely burn out.
Instead, pick up either one new language per year, or two new languages every two years. If you learn two simultaneously, choose two whose vocabulary and grammar wildly differ; if you learn Spanish and Portuguese at the same time, you’re likely to mix them up, but if you learn French and Chinese side-by-side, you’ll have an easier time keeping them straight.
As you add new languages, maintain the ones you already have by reading books, watching television shows and chatting with native-speaking friends.
3. Stick to a rigorous daily schedule.
If you want to learn many languages efficiently, then you can’t afford to be lackadaisical with your learning. You need to approach each language with specific goals, along with a daily, weekly and monthly plan for how to achieve those goals.
You should spend at least an hour a day on each language that you’re actively learning, and about thirty minutes maintaining languages that you’re not actively learning. The Rocket Languages modules are a great place to start: If you do one or two grammar and culture lessons a day, plus one audio lesson, you will be well on your way.
To avoid burnout, schedule time off! On the weekends, or one day out of every few days, don’t even touch your grammar textbook or your flashcards. Watch a movie, listen to music or play a video game in your target language instead.
4. Test yourself regularly.
I know, I know. No one likes tests. But they’re the most efficient way to measure your progress, especially if you’d like to pick up several languages.
Consider measuring your progress against international standards, such as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Rising one level every few months is a good pace, and you can easily find unofficial tests online to track your pace.
Naturally, this shouldn’t be your only marker, and you would do well to have other goals—such as being able to converse comfortably with a native-speaking friend within six months, or being able to watch simple TV shows in your target language without subtitles within eight months—but this is a good baseline.
5. Pay close attention to what works.
Don’t stick to a single learning routine just because you learned it in school. Instead, revise your routine constantly by paying attention to what works for you.
Did you find yourself picking up vocabulary fast when you read a book in your target language? Were you more engaged when you made flashcards than when you played a vocabulary game online? How about conversations—did you enjoy practicing speaking with Rocket Languages Interactive Audio Lessons?
Cut out what doesn’t work, and make more room for what does.
6. Avoid boredom by utilizing a wide variety of activities.
If you repeat the same activity over and over again, you’ll get bored. If you get bored, you’ll want to quit—not to mention the fact that you’ll plateau if you don’t switch up your routine.
To avoid this, keep your language learning interesting and fun. One week, study vocabulary with flashcards or Rocket’s Language and Culture lessons. The next week, break down unfamiliar grammar you pick up from a television show.
You can also try having conversations with friends at language exchanges, reading novels, listening to podcasts and cooking food from a target-language country.
7. Have an accountability partner.
An accountability partner is your greatest asset. This can be a native speaking friend who’s invested in your learning; they can answer your questions and check in periodically. This can also be a friend whom you’re learning with; you can encourage each other and share useful resources. When you want to give up, your accountability partner will remind you why you started this journey in the first place.
8. Look at other polyglots for inspiration.
Being a polyglot isn’t impossible. How do I know? Because dozens of people have already done it—and vlog about it! When you want inspiration, check out the language learning blogs and YouTube channels of people such as Egor Pak. They did it, and you can too.
Stick with it.
This journey away from your mother tongue isn’t easy, but it is rewarding to be able to speak at least one language other than your native language. Start your journey today. Think about which language you want to learn, sign up with Rocket Languages and get started.