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How Becoming an Autodidact Will Make You a Polyglot (Quick Read)

Main image of the article about how becoming an autodidact will make you a polyglot.

Reading a lot of informing and academic-like articles can become dull. This is the reason why this week’s blog article will have more of a personal touch. You will read the story of how I started learning languages, and how becoming an autodidact made me a polyglot, opening the door to the world of languages for me.

I am not telling you my story because I want to show off. No. I am telling you my story because I want to spark the same passion in you. I want you to understand the inner processes of a polyglot in order to benefit from this understanding, my mistakes, and the experience I have gained. More than anything, I wish that you feel the same fire inside you, that you see learning a language as something that is fun to do, and that language learning develops into an enjoyable hobby for you!

This blog post is complementary to the blog entry about why intrinsic motivation is decisive for mastering a new language. But this time around, I will not write about my parents’ language journey but my own.

Thus, brace yourself and be my fellow passenger on this trip through a polyglot’s language journey! We will start this trip in the year 1999 when I began to learn English as my third language and my first foreign tongue!

Little Petar in Elementary School

My elementary school in Fürth.

Oh, wasn’t I a cutie pie? I remember my time at elementary school reasonably well. A little striver I was. A small, bilingual overachiever. Such eager beavers got invited to participate in extracurricular English lessons. And there I was, sitting in my first ever English class. A typical romanticizing story would have me tell you now: “This was the very moment I fell in love with learning foreign languages.” Well, it was not.

I perceived it as something I was obliged to do, similar to my private Serbian lessons. Don’t get me wrong. I did enjoy learning English as I found it to be a simple language. But it did not become my favorite subject until 6th grade in my German high school (in German: “Gymnasium”)!

A Little Less Little Petar in High School

In high school, I made two wrong choices I regret until this day. First, I had to decide whether to take Latin or French. Back then, I planned to study medicine and become a doctor, so I took the dead language of Latin.

Then, in 8th grade, I could have chosen to specialize in languages and learn Spanish. As all of my classmates chose the specialization in natural sciences, I did the same and lost my early shot at Spanish! At the end of school, I would have been able to speak five languages! Instead, I ended up speaking “only” three. Why?

Well, because even though I liked studying English, I never really liked the monotonic translation lessons in Latin. And if it weren’t for the fact that I was a geek, I would have never studied both of them at home so much. I never sat down to learn English or Latin because I loved languages. Rather, I did so as a consequence of the pressure I put on myself to have good grades. That explains why I dropped Latin in 11th grade.

But then, something miraculous happened.

My First Attempt at Learning a Language as an Autodidact

Spanish as the first language I tried to learn as an autodidact.

I have had the desire to learn Spanish all along. Its rhythm, words, and overall sound have always been gorgeous to me. Why the heck didn’t I choose it when I was given the opportunity?! Well, anyway. My wanting to finally start learning it made me buy the Spanish textbook I would have used at high school.

As I had no teacher, I had to study all by myself, which I did. I passed some chapters and their vocab. Nevertheless, as my motivation quickly dropped, the dust on my textbook began to thicken. The school-like learning in the form of passing chapter by chapter, exercise by exercise, and grammar lesson by grammar lesson was too dull to me.

Well, how did I handle this situation? What did I decide to do instead? I took Spanish lessons at my university!

My Conquest of Spanish – an Odyssey

Odyssey might be the perfect word to describe how I acquired Spanish in the course of six years. Way too long! In short, I took a bunch of Spanish lessons:

  • Three during my Bachelor studies in Germany
  • Two during my Bachelor studies in my exchange year in Serbia
  • Two during my gap year before my Master studies
  • Three during my Master studies

And after all of these endless hours of Spanish lessons, I was still unable to speak fluently! My listening, writing, and comprehension skill were on a B2 level. My speaking skills, however, were hardly on a B1 level.

What happened next was that I went for an exchange semester to Chile, where I finally mastered the Spanish language. Thus, I needed six years to do so! And then it finally happened.

My Second Attempt at Learning a Language as an Autodidact

Dutch as the second language that I learned as an autodidact.

In 2018, I found a job in the Netherlands. Even though the German neighbors are the top English-speaking country worldwide, I felt a vigorous and intense desire to learn Dutch. I was determined to stay there long-term and, thus, become part of the Dutch society and culture. Additionally, I was convinced that the Dutch language would open more career opportunities for me.

I reached B1 in Dutch in three months and was able to have fluent conversations. Yes, after three months only. The Dutch had a hard time believing me as foreigners in the Netherlands either don’t learn Dutch at all or need several years to do so. How did I do it?

By becoming an autodidact! Before moving to Amsterdam, I had two months to prepare myself. So, I downloaded Duolingo. I rushed through all the lessons. Then, I started to listen to Dutch documentaries and feasible listening comprehensions on YouTube. In addition, I developed the habit of having monologues in Dutch from time to time. And finally, I forbid all Dutchies at work to speak English with me.

I will not conceal that I also made use of the free Dutch lessons after work at my workplace (once a week), but I want to stress that they merely reinforced my knowledge instead of increasing it. Neither do I deny that knowing German helped A LOT in understanding and speaking Dutch!

Was this the ending of my story? Hell no. This was the beginning of my passion for languages!

How Becoming an Autodidact Will Make You a Polyglot

Polyglot shown.

My unforgettable experience with the Dutch language lit a burning flame inside me. If I was so successful in learning Dutch as an autodidact, why shouldn’t I crave for more? Why shouldn’t I learn six, seven, or even ten languages?

Maybe my desire was a bit too intense because it made me learn French, Russian, Italian, and even Norwegian all the same time. As you might surmise and expect, I had no success taking on so many languages at once. I have already talked about it earlier in another blog post.

Notwithstanding, I abandoned all languages but French. This situation was eight months ago, and I am confident enough to proclaim that I have reached a B1 level in French since then. Without a single French lesson. No French teacher. No textbooks. Pure self-study!

In my opinion, my journey is a suitable story to illustrate how becoming an autodidact can boost your language-learning game. The recipe for success is to find effective learning methods that you genuinely enjoy. The second crucial ingredient is to build a habit to study every single day. Find a myriad of suggestions here. Succeeding once and becoming an autodidact will make you hungry for more! I hope that you will experience the same as mastering new languages, and thereby entering new worlds is not only incredibly contenting but also intellectually challenging!

With this, we have reached the end of this language journey. For now. Thank you for being my fellow passenger on this exciting trip. Once I have reached a stable level in French, we will undertake a new journey. Where to? The Greek language! Until then, hold your ears stiff!

How Becoming an Autodidact Will Make You a Polyglot (Quick Read) – The Arrival of a Personal Blog

In this blog, you will discover a bunch of proven tips on how to crack the language-learning game! Just give me a bit of time. I hope you liked to read the background story of my language skills. Find your own motivation for learning a new tongue, get started, and become an autodidact too!

There will be a loooooot more articles coming!

I am actively posting content on PinterestInstagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Have a look if you just can’t get enough of “Veni. Vidi. Linguas didici!” I typically publish new articles on Mondays!

Are you asking yourself: “Who is this guy whose words I am reading right now?” You will find some information about me here.

Smart phone with language apps displayed.
#20 QuickTip: Use different language-learning apps in order to avoid getting bored and keep working on your new language on a regular basis.

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1 Comment

  • 3passion


    February 17, 2022 at 17:08
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