After reading a bunch of articles about hyperpolyglots this past week (for work, too!), it got me to thinking about the languages I’d really like to have a good grasp of one day. So, I put together a list and, well, even I was a little surprised at some of the languages that came up.
According to Wiktionary, the number of languages that separates a polyglot from a hyperpolyglot is six. And, according to this 2012 BBC Magazine article, eleven languages is a significant cut-off, as people who speak more than this are very rare. I’ve been learning languages in school since I was eleven and as a serious hobby (though off-and-on) for the last ten or so years, and I’d say I have a really good grasp on two-three of them (including English 😂), but I still thought it’d be fun to put together a list of the eleven languages I’d like to know really well.
I was kind of surprised by the ones I’d want to learn.
(Note: all these goals are related to CEFR/National Exam levels because I think that’s a really easy way to quantify the level of skill I’m after. In reality, a lot of my goals are simpler: be able to read a book, have a conversation, etc., but I don’t want this to turn into like a 10,000 word thing, so we’ll stick with the CEFR stuff for now!)
Yeah, okay, this is my native language, but it’s still one that obviously counts towards the final number. I’m pretty good at it, I think.
I’ve been learning German since I was twelve, have lived in German-speaking countries for two-and-a-half years, and though I still hesitate to say I’m fluent, I don’t have that much trouble understanding most things (so long as I’d understand the content in English, of course). Are there still areas I need to work on? Obviously. But I enjoy using German and do kind of miss living in Austria too. 🖤
My Goal: C2-certification/fluency.
I learnt some Mandarin in school and then started it seriously at university; by the time I’d finished university, I feel like my speaking ability was pretty good, even though my reading/writing was lagging a little bit behind. After a few years post-university, my skills have dropped, though I’ve worked hard on them this past year. I’ve loved all the time I’ve spent in China and want to go back at some point; I also just enjoy lots of different Chinese entertainment–TV shows, etc. Hopefully, I’ll be able to actually read books at some point in the next couple of years 😂.
My Goal: HSK 6 (which I think is actually sort of B2/C1 equivalent, so C1 would be better).
Ahhh, Spanish. So, lots of people from the UK go to Spain on holiday all the time, but I actually didn’t go for the first time until I was living in Austria… and it was amazing! Honestly, Madrid is probably one of my favourite cities in the world. Spanish, though, it’s like my white whale of languages. I drift away from it and come back and one day I’m sure I’ll have a truly good grasp of it, but for now I’m sort of dangling somewhere around beginner-intermediate, without any idea of where I’m heading. With all the time I’ve already spent on it, plus how useful Spanish is and how much I want to travel around Spanish-speaking countries, I’d like to get to a pretty high level one day.
My Goal: C1
So, like a lot of people, I did French at school, and I got a good grade at GCSE and then decided to just not study it any more. I picked it up again this year for the Free and Legal Challenge (FLC), and I’m enjoying getting back into it. I haven’t really explored much of France but I’d like to, as well as other French-speaking countries–plus maybe spending a bit of time learning some Canadian French could be fun, too!
My Goal: B1/B2
I’ve been ‘learning’ Korean for like a year, which means I’ve been watching some TV and not doing much of anything else. I love the sound of Korean and I enjoy what I’ve learnt of it so far, I just have to remember that it’s going to take an awful lot of time to get to the level I’d like to be at. I also haven’t been to Korea yet, but when I go for the first time, it’d be nice to know I have a halfway-decent grasp on the language.
My Goal: TOPIK II Level 4–TOPIK II Level 6
So, when I was first applying to university, I actually applied to study German and Russian at my first-choice uni… which I then didn’t get into, because my German grade wasn’t good enough. (But, hey, I got a first overall, so don’t worry too much about your A-Level grades, kids–honestly, most grades have very little to do with how well you can use a language, though university is better than school most of the time in that regard.)
Anyway, Russian’s just been lurking there ever since I decided to study Mandarin instead, and I’m not quite sure why I never picked it up, I just… didn’t. I’d like to learn just a little, to see how it is in reality, but I like the sound of it, and the history, so it’d be a super interesting language to take on.
My Goal: B1/B2
I was studying Basque for a while, but it’s a language I’ve dropped for now to focus elsewhere. It is kind of difficult to find resources for, sadly, but I’d like to get to a conversational level just because, as a language, Basque is absolutely fascinating, but also culturally very important and I’d like to visit the Basque country and be able to use Basque as well as Spanish. I do hope there are some more interesting coursebooks etc., out there somewhere, though!
My Goal: B1/B2
Yeah, I’d kind of like to learn Japanese, too, though it’s nowhere near as high up my list as Korean or Mandarin. Again, Japan is another country I’d like to visit, and I’ve dabbled with Japanese before and enjoyed it. I know this would be a massive time investment, though, although I’m not sure what level I’d like to get to with it. It’d be really fun to be able to play games or something in Japanese, though I don’t know if I’d take it that far.
My Goal: N3-N1
Hindi is kind of a wildcard; just a language I’d like to spend some time with at some point. I don’t know all that much about it, honestly, though I’ve learnt a few phrases from different apps, and I’d like to learn some more.
My Goal: A2/B1
This is a new one, and it’s all come about because I’ve also been researching the Māori language at work this week (it’s Māori language week next week, if you’re also interested in learning more about the language). It just looks really interesting and, with all the revitalisation work that’s been happening in New Zealand, like it’s doing a lot better than it has been doing in more recent years.
Considering I don’t live in New Zealand and don’t know when I’d get a chance to go, this is a much lower language on my hitlist, but dabbling in it a little seems like it’d be fun and also worthwhile. (Since it’s the Year of Indigenous Languages this year, it might be worth having a go in the next few months, too!)
My Goal: A2
12. Scottish Gaelic
So, one side of my family is from Scotland, so in a way I am connected to Gaelic, not that any of them speak it, as far as I know. I had a go at learning a little during the last LangJam (though that was derailed when I got news about my new job and imminent move! 😬), and that was fun, though the fact that everyone who speaks Gaelic likely also speaks English does hold me back a little. Still, it’s another indigenous language and I’m sure I’ll try learning some more at some point, though I might have to do a bit of a search for people to speak it with!
My Goal: A2
And, my final wildcard: Swahili. I’ve actually tried to learn Swahili before but abandoned it for languages I was more likely to use in the short-term. Still, it’s a language I cycle back around to every couple of years. The issue is, always, that I’m not sure when I’d use it, but I think it would be a fun language to know because it’s different to any of the others I’ve listed and would introduce me to an area of the world I’m definitely not familiar with.
My Goal: A2
That’s it for my hitlist–though I’m sure we’re all aware I could probably add another 5-10 languages on top! I’m definitely always willing to try out other languages, but I think I’m going to keep this as a kind of list of things I’d like to learn, moving on up as I reach a decent level in each one.
Tell me what’s on your language hitlist! How many languages would you like to know (you can’t say all of them! 😂)