“Polyglot, how I learn languages?” – Book of Kato’ Lomb

Frankly, I don’t really know what a book’s review seems to be. I simply want to share my own point of view also my feeling about the book “Polyglot, how I learn languages” of Kato’ Lomb.

Generally, I like her way of acquiring languages. Her point of view is practical, reasonable. She shares with the lectures her experiences, her methods to learn languages. In her point of view, knowing a language, or even a lot of them and teaching language are different. “Every language is a conventional code system. (…)  a language resembles the traffic code, which is permanent and easy to understand.” (p.41)

I can feel her joy of learning and playing with words, rules, and sounds between different languages. She said: “As far as being phonetic is concerned, English gets the worst grade among languages.” (p.43) ” German grammar is difficult. (…) The world of its verbs is made more colourful by its numerous prefixes. The
same is true for Hungarian. However, both languages are
of a fraudulent nature.” (p.46).

She affirms: “The goal of this book is not to substitute but to complement
this most common way of language learning, considered classic. (… ) I would simply like to tell how I, over 25 years, got to the point of being able to speak 10 languages, translate technical documents and
enjoy fiction in six more, and understand written journalism
in 11 more or so.” (p.49).

For her, learning and working with languages is always an inexhaustible
source of joy.” (p.50). “Whenever I am asked how I was able to succeed in many
languages in a relatively short period of time, I always make
a bow in spirit to the source of all knowledge: books. My
advice to learners can thus be expressed in one word: read!” (p.64).

She gave some advice from his own experiences in a list called “Ten Commandments” or “Ten requests”:
Spend time tinkering with the language every day—if
there is no more time available, then at least to the extent of
a 10-minute monologue. Morning hours are especially valuable
in this respect: the early bird catches the word!
If your enthusiasm for studying flags too quickly, don’t
force the issue but don’t stop altogether either. Move to
some other form of studying, e.g., instead of reading, listen
to the radio; instead of assignment writing, poke about in
the dictionary, etc.

Never learn isolated units of speech, but rather learn
words and grammatical elements in context.
Write phrases in the margins of your text and use them
as “prefabricated elements” in your conversations.
Even a tired brain finds rest and relaxation in quick,
impromptu translations of billboard advertisements flashing
by, of numbers over doorways, of snippets of overheard
conversations, etc., just for its own amusement.
Memories only that which has been corrected by a
teacher. Do not keep reading texts you have written that
have not been proofread and corrected so as to keep mistakes
from taking root in your mind. If you study on your
own, each segment to be memorised should be kept to a size
that precludes the possibility of errors.
Always memorise idiomatic expressions in the first person
singular. For example, “I am only pulling your leg.” Or
else: Il m’a posé un lapin—He stood me up.
A foreign language is a castle. It is advisable to besiege
it from all directions: newspapers, radio, movies that are not
dubbed, technical or scientific papers, textbooks, and the visitor at your neighbour’s.
Do not let the fear of making mistakes keep you from
speaking, but do ask your conversation partner to correct you. Most importantly, don’t get peeved if he or she actually oblige you—a remote possibility, anyway.
Be firmly convinced that you are a linguistic genius. If
the facts demonstrate otherwise, heap blame on the pesky language you aim to master, on the dictionaries, or on this book, not on yourself.”

Modelling the maintain of languages

Becoming polyglot, it’s hard, but staying it, it’s harder. How a polyglot maintain his level in every language?

The first video that I saw about this topic is of Robin MacPherson. His video sounded meaningful for me because I always asked myself how to not forget a language learned. In his video, he explained his 4 approaches to maintaining the level. In other words, he tried to find down some models to do it.

After that, I read the website of Dr Alexander Arguelles, and he explained: “The practice of Polyliteracy requires many hours of systematic hard study every single day of your life.  Keeping a chart to record your division of hours is essential to balancing your progress. ” He showed also his sample systematic study chart.

Many others explained their own way to maintain their level too, but until this moment, it doesn’t seem very clear and no one is able to figure out exactly how it works. They just tried by their proper way to practice one of them each time in the day in order to do not forget the languages.


About listening

I’ve seen some online conferences of the Gathering for Polyglots recently organised in Bratislava, Slovakia. I’m interested in this event a few years ago and have spent a severe time to watch videos and tapes of people. It was a very interesting event which gives an annual occasion to language lovers talking together about their adventures with many languages. This time, something about listening sound meaningful to me.

After Dr Stephan D Krashen, a lot of listening and reading are the most effective way to acquire languages. In other terms, increase the input all the time before taking care of output (speaking and writing). The polyglot Vladimir Skultety proposed also the intensive listening. That remind me of my brother who listened English in our childhood all the time. He even dreamed about the English because he listened to it too much and repeated it all the time too :). J.A.Hoge talked also about deep listening in his method of Effortless English.

So, obviously, we have to listen in two ways when we learn a language:

  • Listen all the time even without really paying attention to the content, which creates an environment of the language learned (radio, film, audiobooks, etc).
  • Listen intensively: That means you take time to concentrate only on listening to get the meaning, after focus on the structure, words, pronunciation then imitate and repeat until you master it completely

A corner for my learning language’s time

Sometimes, I feel a little upset without really knowing the reason. Every time like that, if I think of my learning language’s project and I feel a lot better. It’s quite strange but it’s like that. So, I decided today to start this blog “For learning language” in which I could find a little corner for myself, and also share some useful resources that I use for my learning. And I’m very happy to start the first post tonight, opening a new state of my journey for languages.

Today, I’m so excited to know about Kato’ Lomb, a famous Hungarian polyglot. She was able to use 16 languages, between them, she could translate fluently 9 or 10, even without any preparation. To be able to use a lot of languages, it’s not so rare nowaday, but in her time, and mostly to have the ability to maintain at a high level all these languages, it’s so “crazy”! So I decide to read one of her books, titled: “Polyglot, how I learn languages” that I found the pdf version in her page on Wikipedia.

Hoping a pleasure time for the lecture!