I often come across a situation where someone is in a social setting starts bragging about all the languages he or she knows. Then later on it transpires their knowledge is merely superficial and if you try to speak to them in any of the languages they claim to speak, they cannot sustain a conversation. This need to brag is odd. I am wondering if people somehow think knowing languages makes them appear bright.I prefer to keep an absolute low profile about the languages I can speak. That way you do not raise any expectations but also you remain modest about your achievements.
Maybe it’s prestigious in Europe since the languages were among skills of mostly nobiliary appurtenance in recent centuries. I guess, it isn’t regarded that way in regions like India.
I cannot remember instances of friends or people I know bragging about their language prowess. What I have come across though a lot in our company is foreigners saying, when asked about it, that they do understand quite a bit of German but cannot speak it. I find that often very questionable. I think if we understand a lot we cannot help but be able to speak at least a little.
On a personal level I generally find people bragging about something very off putting and that is also one reason, I guess why I dislike our Irish friend so much. If I think about it, he must be about the only internet language personality that I know that makes outlandish claims (e.g. when he refers to his C2 languages (I wonder which ones those might be)).
For me there is no point to hide my interest in languages. I know my friends’ hobbies and they know mine. But I am certainly rather self critical of my own language achievements and would never brag about it.
@Marianne10: “…I prefer to keep an absolute low profile about the languages I can speak. That way you do not raise any expectations but also you remain modest about your achievements.”
I agree 100% Why people should feel a need to be “looked up to” by others is a genuine puzzle to me.
I also agree with Friedemann: one of the things that I find most disgusting about our friend Mr Lewis, is his vulgar swaggering “look-at-me” approach. And as Marianne says, people like this almost always prove uable to do what they claim if they are exposed to any tough scrutiny.
@Friedemann: “…What I have come across though a lot in our company is foreigners saying, when asked about it, that they do understand quite a bit of German but cannot speak it. I find that often very questionable. I think if we understand a lot we cannot help but be able to speak at least a little.”
Well, the sentence structure in German can be a fairly tough nut to crack for speakers of most other European languages. When I was living in Germany, I can remember going through a phase (lasting several months) where I could understand a lot, yet still struggled hard to form sentences correctly in speech.
Friedemann quote: I cannot remember instances of friends or people I know bragging about their language prowess
Actually I was thinking about more superficial and professional social settings, you are right. Also I see it on lot on CVs.
JayB “Why people should feel a need to be “looked up to” by others is a genuine puzzle to me”
I also find it embarassing if people accidentally discover this and then decide to broadcast it…
With regards to the Irish guy, I continue to believe he suffers from NPD. He could have chosen anything he was vaguely talented at and he would have blown it out of all proportion. From what I can see of him, he ticks all the boxes for NPD. Incidentally Madonna is said to be one such sufferer too…uhhh if Madonna had chosen languages for which to achieve iconic status.
But perhaps the Irish guy will move onto something else at some point. Film directing is related…
@Marianne10 “I often come across a situation where someone is in a social setting starts bragging about all the languages he or she knows. Then later on it transpires their knowledge is merely superficial and if you try to speak to them in any of the languages they claim to speak, they cannot sustain a conversation.”
Isn’t saying that you deem another person’s knowledge superficial just another form of bragging?
That said, if someone asks, I tend to separate which languages I know and which ones I’m actively studying or have studied in the past. Fact is, a lot of people that haven’t studied another language don’t delineate, and when a friend or relative pipes up that I speak Turkish in some random group converstion, for example, I have to quickly add that I’m studying the language and don’t consider myself a speaker (yet).
Isn’t saying that you deem another person’s knowledge superficial just another form of bragging?
No this is an evaluation of a claim that someone has decided to volunteer and emphasise.
I find that a lot of beginner language learners (and this could be more the case among English speakers, but I can’t say for sure as I haven’t spent much time in other countries) don’t really have an accurate picture of where they are at with their language, and how far they actually still have to go to become “good” at it. But if they knew, they might lose motivation, so it’s probably a good thing.
But yes, I often hear this “I can understand it, but I can’t speak it” claim. From what I can gather, it usually means they CAN’T understand radio news or movies, but they CAN follow the basic gist of many household conversations, having usually grown up around a language. I have now started getting used to the fact that most people are not really interested in language learning (or at least not in a committed sense), so I try not to take their misstatements too seriously. I suppose if you’re a committed musician and you meet someone who’s learning an instrument as a very passive hobby, and says that they are quite “good”, you would probably refrain from hitting them with the cold, hard, (and not necessarily relevant to them) truth…
I don’t personally go about bragging about whatever knowledge I have. I actually never even mention to regular people (those not into language study) that I know another language other than my native one. People tend to be impressed, but they also seem kinda doubtful whether you’re saying the truth or just bragging. I also don’t like to get into the inevitable “what do/did you learn that for?” argument.
Thinking about it again, it is possible it is not actually bragging. It could potentially be the case that these people genuinely think they speak all these languages. I remember one specific incident which was a customer event held by a company. One customer representative arrived later than everyone else and had thus missed out on the introductions. He was new to the company he was representing. Then he immediately went on to say how busy he had been recently with trips to Brazil and Argentina. “I go there a lot you know as I speak Spanish and Portuguese. And my girlfriend is French so I go to France quite a bit. And so I get use all three languages all the time”. As the evening wore on, another customer suddenly burst into Spanish to him and he apparently did not make the switch and did not immediately understand. In fact he was not able to speak much Spanish beyond ordering food.
This, however, could well be a layman who does not know any better and he actually thinks he speaks the language as he can clearly communicate (when he is in a specfic situation).
And another one: a Polish girl in the US was talking to everyone about the fact she could speak Arabic and Chinese (plus a whole host of other languages). Someone happened to speak Arabic and began a basic conversation but she did not understand it. Then back peddled and said she had only studied it for a few months. The same was the case for her Mandarin. Interestingly though, the people who sussed her out were from Europe. I think in the US people are probably more forgiving.
Then you get exaggerations on CVs. Fluent in x and z languages. Yet when you test a candidate at an interview they are A2 at most and will certainly be found wanting if he (yes he!) were to use that language in a work situation. I do not mind exaggerations on a CV but when it is a requirement for the job it is time-wasting.
If you meet for the first time someone who is not really interested in foreign languages, it will be better to say to him or her “I speak …” to drive home your ability (although your level is not very high). In my experience, most people don’t know well the details such as the difficulties of mastering languages. So emphasizing your language ability is one of sales points to impress others.
I’ve never said such a kind of claim, but if someone believes my claim and tries to speak to me in any languages I claim to speak, it will be a good opportunity for me to immerse me in a real environment even if I cannot sustain the conversation.
In other words, in my view, forcing oneself to claim such a merely superficial ability would be a challenging task in order to have a good opportunity to speak with (in this case, often listen to) native speakers in random situations.
Dillemme - That is a really interesting point of view. If I understand you correctly, you mean claiming you have a better level than you acutally have can be a way of forcing yourself into situations where things become challenging which in turn forces you to raise your level even further. Actually this is what Benny Lewis advocates. He advises people to just go out there and say to tonnes of people you are going to learn that language. He sees this as a way of putting pressure on yourself and inject yourself with discipline. I think this part of his method has merit.
Imyertseshem - You come across as direct and upfront. No bragging there. Rather steely determination I would describe it as.
Yes, that is exactly what I want to say. Maybe I have ever read this kind of article in Benny’s newsletter…
The worse is the people who make language learning a competition,and those who hold their self-worth to a higher degree than other by the amount of experience they have in the community.
I liked this one “as I prefer my conversations to not be limited and boring” Might use it myself at some point. However, that is putting undue pressure on yourself, isnt it. Although I suppose learners of many languages are probably per se rarely boring.
The rest is a mouthful to get through if you are a layman. Either bullshit or dedicated. they might think.
You fit right in there with the Dutch with that attitude. Direct and upfront. when you added a**** I immediately thought you might be that clugston guy. You are not, are you :-)?
When I say pressure I mean you just stated you are not boring. Then people will expect a lot.
You have got a healthy attitude apart from being obsessed of course. But it is good to not be bothered about what others think.
Both Clugston and Benny are actually really bothered about what other people think of them. In a way I like Clugston for his direct approach and he takes no prisoners. If he were not a linguist he would be great for a programme like the Apprentice where you need people who are entertainingly aggressive. Benny is a bit sad really.
Vonk - You raise a point about bragging. For some reason Rawley, Arguelles, Luca, Steve and Richard Simcott to me are not bragging. Aren’t they a bit modest as well. Or is it just that they are open and honest in what they can and can’t do? Whereas the Irish guy is a braggart because he is exaggerating and you have a feeling it is about himself. I also think Tim Doner does come across a little like that, wanting to reap credit but not being 100 percent transparent, but that can change and it could be inexperience.
It is just a fine line. Maybe it is a feeling.
Imyirtsheshem - I find Benny is certainly enthusiastic but I always feel he is enthusiastic about himself. He gets a thrill out of himself about the things he does. He is not the type of guy whom you could have a drink with and he would be giving you loads of personal tips on how to learn languages. He would be speaking about his experiences and the focus would be on him. He would not try and hone in on what might work for you. Richard Simcott and Luca might.
With Clugston the focus would be on the subject. He might be annyoing but he is one who freely shares his knowledge. Academics do adhere to their own beliefs and hypothesis for a living. And that is where is coming from.
Vonk - “the man from Eire” good one. Not giving him airtime then.
Tim Doner is so young and needs to tone down but he is learning.
I agree with you as to the acquired master of all trades status of some. Social skills come into it too. After all, that is where languages are most useful.
LOL, I agree with vonk. @Marianne, I agree with you over all but I think anyone putting themselves on you tube is “bragging” showing off at least a teeny bit, regardless of how “humble” they come across. Most of them are language fanatics and are extremely proud of what they accomplished and they have to tell someone, lol. What would be the motivation of some guy to put some clip of him speaking 16 languages on youtube? Bragging/showing off is just human nature, some people can back it up and others like the one Marianne was mentioning couldn’t.
I think Marianne is right about our Irish friend having NPD, one of the biggest clues is a very fragile ego and complete inability to handle criticism. I remember how hot he was getting when Friedmann wanted to have a conversation via skype with him speaking German and he went off the handle. Having delusion feelings of grandeur are another, getting to a C1 level in mandarin in 3 months, the guy needs a good psychiatrist and getting him on the right meds. If you claim to be able to speak a language fluently you should welcome a chance to speak to a native otherwise I think your a fraud.