Welcome to the page on "How to become a polyglot". Polyglot is a term used to describe someone who can speak multiple languages fluently. The ability to speak several languages not only opens doors to new cultures and communities, but it also provides numerous personal and professional benefits. If you have always been fascinated by different languages and cultures, and you have a desire to learn, then becoming a polyglot might be for you. In this page, you will find practical tips and strategies to help you achieve your goal of speaking multiple languages. From setting realistic goals, to finding the right learning methods, to immersing yourself in the language, we will cover it all.
Learning a language is the discovery of a new world, and polyglots can connect their minds to each of these worlds. Do you want to become a polyglot but don't know how to achieve this goal? This article will give you valuable tips on how to start this journey on the right foot.
Whether you're a beginner or already on your polyglot journey, this page will provide you with valuable insights and inspiration to help you become a confident, multi-lingual speaker. So, let's get started!
Upon gaining a strong command of this content, you might want to explore these related areas: Difficulties of languages, Numeration Tutorial, How to make a TSV file & Writing Implements.
Necessity[edit | edit source]
Someday, with the help of artificial intelligence, people will not need to learn any foreign languages. Is it true?
If you have heard about this idea, or you have asked it by yourself but somehow agree with this point of view, here is the argument from me:
If you were visiting a sick friend at the hospital, you would care for the one you visit, not the other patients. This is because of familiarity, which affects you mentally. Likewise, your proficiency in a language can determine your ability to perceive the speakers' minds.
Please try watching videos about Sid Meier's Civilization V leaders, you would find that only those who speak the language you know can touch your soul.
This is what the AI can't help you with. A language is more than a means of communication.
If humans were always depending on AI, we would lose our value.
Know Yourself[edit | edit source]
You may have such experience: Children are easier to hear crickets. This is because younger people can hear sounds in higher frequency.
You can have a better idea what to do after knowing your own advantages and disadvantages. As for me, I have found out that my reaction is slower than normal people. That explains why I was left behind after changing a maths teacher in primary school.
There are different learning styles. You can try to find out which type your are and make your plans accordingly.
Having a better understanding of your physical ability is what the owner of yourself should do.
Motivation[edit | edit source]
Why do you want to learn languages? It's a basic question, but it will determine your language proficiency in the future.
- If you mainly feel bored and want to do something in your spare time, then you could be a beginner forever. You just want to pass the time, while learning a language can be boring at the intermediate level and requires effort. Thus, you probably can't make real progress.
- If you mainly want to get a better job, then you can develop useful skills, but nothing more. Your goal is just around practical things, so you will not dig into the languages and explore the culture of the speakers.
- If you are mainly forced by other people, then it's a pity. I don't know how much progress you can make because progress is mainly determined by your attitude. There are many ways to involve people in learning languages, from which coercion is the worst.
- If you mainly want to touch the world, make friends and can seriously spend time on it, then you may well become a polyglot.
Choice of Languages[edit | edit source]
Which languages do you want to learn? You may consider the easiest ones, the hardest ones, the well-known ones, the rarely-known ones. It is all up to you.
If you ask me, my opinions: the most influential languages in the world; the most influential languages with close relation to my native languages; my preferences.
You can try Esperanto and/or other constructed languages because they are usually made to be easy to learn. They can help you to understand the skeleton of a language.
Many languages have a lot of loanwords, which means that if you know the languages being borrowed, you can learn the vocabulary of them quickly.
You will also need to know how long it takes to learn a language. There are an article by jason-oxenham-ceo and an article by Leon Ho to answer it.
If you want to learn two similar languages, compare their learning materials and start from the one with better materials.
Free or Paid[edit | edit source]
There are limitations of free resources:
- They may not be very reliable. Also, it is harder to find out its errors if you have only one material.
- You will lack proper training, especially on speaking and writing. You can find native speakers online, but few of them have teaching skills. You can chat online, but without payment, no individual and no group can keep you practising and point out all your mistakes. Only bots can do.
Many people become upset and quit it on their endless ineffective ways. If you pay and pay the right ones, you will save time, and even save your determination. Meanwhile, they are businesses, so they will also try to waste your money.
If you learn easy languages such as Esperanto, there is no much difference between the free and the paid.
Perspective[edit | edit source]
Pretend that you have forgotten how to speak. You will start to wonder how you can express your thoughts, like how to indicate yourself, other people or objects (pronouns and nouns), how to indicate an activity (verb and verb phrase), how to describe your observation towards specific objects (adjective), how to distinguish things happened, things happening and things to happen (tense: conjugation or adverb), etc.. So you have got to accept the new one thoroughly. Gradually, you can manage to think and express yourself directly in the target language.
Integration[edit | edit source]
Let's imagine a scene: You have a word list, on the one side are words in your native language, on the other side are correspondent words in a language you've never learned. If someone distorts it before you see it, you won't feel strange at all when seeing the wrong pairs. But if you already know these words, you would quickly find the problem out.
You could accept whatever interpreted at first, however, when you are familiar to them, you would not easily accept any change. This is because you have been integrated by native speakers. If you were more negative to your original culture, you would be even assimilated.
Most people have no idea what cultural diversity of the world is. They assume that the values in their hometowns as mostly universal. When they are abroad, they can experience the culture shock for sure.
Integrations on this degree can be done only by living there, not as a tourist, but an inhabitant.
Logic[edit | edit source]
Logic is important. It is not only required in reading comprehensions or listening comprehensions, but also in daily life. It is life-changing and definitely deserves to be taught in elementary school, but the rulers don't want you to be smart.
Example: In German, the masculine singular nominative article is “der”. If “der” appears in a German text, it means masculine singular nominative article. Right?
In logic, it can be written in syllogism:
- All German masculine singular nominative definite articles are “der”.
- The word in the German text is “der”.
- The word in the German text is German masculine singular nominative definite article.
This fallacy is called “undistributed middle”, which beginners of logic can recognise. It is one of many fallacies.
In reading or listening comprehension, if the text says “He likes apples” and the question is “Does he like pears”, the logical answer is “I don't know”; if the text only says “He has two cars” and the question is “How many cars does he have”. The logical answer is “no less than two”.
You could sometimes find that the question creators have bad logic.
There is an article about practising critical thinking and reasoning. To do this in a fun way, you can also try to dig into the stories of fictions. Examples are GTA San Andreas - In-Depth Analysis of Ryder and Was Dutch Always A Bad Person Or Did He Change? Full Character Analysis Red Dead Redemption Lore.
If you are still not determined to learn logic, let me try once more: It slows your brain's ageing.
Mistakes[edit | edit source]
Everyone makes mistakes and repeat mistakes.
The impression plays a big roll. By reducing the impression of mistakes, you can instantly feel the strangeness when a mistake is made, like hearing “a apple” after always hearing “an apple”.
In the ideal situation, when you make a mistake, it can be instantly corrected. In reality, there is often no such feedback, so you would keep repeating the same mistake.
If you keep a log of your mistakes and their types, they would be prevented easier.
If the native speaker can understand sentences with mistakes, should it not be considered as a mistake? This involves the philosophy of language. The conclusions are different, in the cases where you define being logical as correct or define being accepted as correct.
Native speakers will be discouraged from talking to you if you always make them feel unnatural. This is the most important reason to keep being as natural as possible.
Methods and Experiences[edit | edit source]
You need to be both the coach and the athlete.
As a coach, you should make plans that suit yourself; As an athlete, you should do enough exercise. An athlete should practise an action over and over again every day.
Do not rely on the “word of the day”, do not trust advertisements like Duolingo's. If you are a beginner, anything feels working for you. If you are serious about learning languages, you can find that they are just illusions.
You may have heard this tone: you will succeed as long as you work hard. This is a trap. You also need good methods.
There are generally two approaches in the language learning: one is learning vocabulary and grammar systematically and then do reading, listening, writing, speaking; the other is learning without learning vocabulary and grammar systematically and learn only through reading, listening, writing, speaking. The first approach is how a foreign language is taught at school, the second approach is how a native language is taught at home. They both have advantages and disadvantages. These two approaches are just like these: the first is becoming a car mechanic first and becoming a driver next; the second is becoming a driver first and not necessarily becoming a car mechanic.
There are some tips on
They are just some advice. I don't follow that “drink caffeine”, for example.
If you want to follow that "Take up a musical instrument", you can try the virtual piano, accordion or melodeon.
You can practise meditation as it is proved to be beneficial in many aspects. You will be able to focus on tables of declensions, pronouns, and so on, then recall them quickly.
There is a great finding called “forgetting curve”. It should be taken into consideration. Always prepare to forget and review.
Good scheduling is essential. There is an article and a picture showing how to schedule your day effectively. You can also practise the pomodoro technique.
You also need to learn actively. There is the Cone of Experience, it's not based on statistics, however. There are also things called active and passive learning, which should be considered. Contributing to Polyglot Club Wiki is also active learning.
Avoid learning easy-to-confuse things at the same time. You need to pick one of them – usually the more frequently used one – try to be familiar with it and ignore the other for some time.
Don't be afraid to ask. I have met people asking this question as well as myself: In a cliché of fictions, a character's last words are never fully spoken, so if the character had spoken in the language I am learning, would that be different, like saying the murderer's name before he dies? After finding the solution to this, I learned more than what textbooks told me.
Basic linguistic knowledge can provide you a better understanding. There is a playlist for it.
Best methods for learning nothing
Resources[edit | edit source]
If you have good tools, you will make your progress faster.
Essential Terms[edit | edit source]
These words are for language learning.
When you understand their meanings, you won't be frustrated by encountering unfamiliar terms from time to time.
Pronunciation[edit | edit source]
International Phonetic Alphabet is not very hard to learn, if you know the structure of oral cavity.
If you find it hard to understand such many terms, you can see the phonetics of your native language.
When dealing with sound changes, you might feel it hard to memorise the rules. Native speakers do so, because they tend to be lazy. You can just let it happen: ignore sound change rules and just pronounce what it “should have been”, repeat it faster. You will naturally understand why sound changes happen.
There are images of articulation places.
Vocabulary[edit | edit source]
If you do not have the determination of spending time on memorising vocabulary, you would be unable to speak the language freely.
I am fed up with the metaphor comparing vocabulary to food. In my own opinion, one's vocabulary is pieces of the world that one can depict.
Don't expect to memorise the vocabulary once and for all, prepare to review every word you've met, multiple times. A little tip that people should have learned in primary schools: read the word 3 times, then read its meaning 1 time.
Your confidence will grow following the growth of your vocabulary.
A word may have different meanings and it is the context that determines which one it is in the specific case.
Both are a “dealer”
Words in two languages are usually not one-to-one correspondent. Even if two words in two languages have the same meaning(s), their usages and frequencies are often not all the same.
According to Word Counter, you need to know around 40 000 (uninflected) words to reach a native speaker's vocabulary level. Assuming that the law of the vital few can be applied here, you need to master about 8000 words to communicate fluently.
To build your vocabulary, you can follow this way:
- Find a flashcard deck in considerable size and practise, in this wiki lesson or somewhere else;
- Visit the frequency list, find words that you are still not familiar with under a specific frequency, create your own flashcards and practise. Repeat this step with higher frequency threshold.
Alternatively, you can find a dictionary file with considerable number of words or scrape from the web, then try to convert it to TSV file, import it as a flashcard deck and practise.
To start from basic words, you can try the Swadesh list.
Dictionary[edit | edit source]
How to choose a dictionary? First, see which brands have good reputation; second, see what you need:
- if you are a beginner of the language, then a dictionary with 5 000-10 000 entries is enough for your current level.
- if you want to use for daily life, then a dictionary usually with 30 000-50 000 entries is enough.
- if you want the words as many as possible, then buy the thickest one, which usually have more than 100 000 entries, but you will need to spend more time on finding the entry you want as well as more money.
You may want to ask: when should I choose a dictionary with 10 000-30 000 or 50 000-100 000 entries? Well, if you want a bit more than these recommended numbers, you can try them.
A good dictionary should be able to explain a word with words that are more basic. This is what Wiktionary hasn't done.
There is an article on how to choose a dictionary.
You may want to memorise all words in a dictionary. Before that, a good command of the most frequently used words is more important. You can build your confidence before touching higher levels.
If you think you should obey the dictionaries, you've got yourself wrong. Do not worship the authority. It is because of that they can reflect the reality, they become authoritative. It is the people that defines what a dictionary should be, not the other way around.
On the other hand, if there are too many deviations, then the language will be in chaos. An authority is required to regulate the use of the language, determine what are the reasonable.
Etymology[edit | edit source]
Some materials tell you to memorise words with some interesting homonyms in your native language. This is superficial and won't help you to understand its underlying structure. Maybe it is effective, however, it also has a side effect: when using these words, you can't get rid of that funny stuff in your mind.
Word roots and affixes deserve their attention. There is an article about it.
This only helps you to understand them. To wield them freely, practice is still required.
Wiktionary has “Etymology” for many words in several languages.
There is already a list of English roots of Greek and Latin origin.
Definition[edit | edit source]
There are differences between “translation” and “definition”. Translation is for knowing the meaning of something in another language, while definition is for understanding the word. Usually, definitions are written in the identical language of its entries.
It requires too much work to look into the definition of every word. A better way is knowing the etymology, having a clear understanding of what the new word could mean, then learning it through a large amount of reading.
Adposition[edit | edit source]
Adpositions are easy to know and hard to master. For example, English beginners are usually confused about the use of “on”, “in”, “at”. Then you can consult a dictionary. You may find more than 10 meanings of such a word.
Dictionary definition is not enough at all. You can see which adpositions have the similar meaning, and pay attention to their subtle differences of usage when you are reading.
Collocation[edit | edit source]
Collocation is often neglected. A sentence with a wrong collocation is just like a wrongly buttoned shirt. The example on Wikipedia is good: It's natural to say “strong tea” and “powerful computer” but unnatural to say “strong computer” and “powerful tea”.
Again, a large amount of reading is required.
Number[edit | edit source]
When you learn numbers, you only know the rule of reading numbers, instead of knowing each number, because the numbers are too many. So you need more practice to get the hang of the rules of reading them.
Gender[edit | edit source]
It is a confidence blower for learners.
When you met it at the first time, you should have asked this question: why are there grammatical genders?
There are only hypotheses because there is no record about the creation of grammatical genders. When the ancient people were creating languages, they can easily find the differences of male and female. Maybe their animist belief made them consider everything is like human, too. As a result, anything has a gender.
Grammatical gender is a piece of history in the language, just like our names.
He always thought of the sea as la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money, spoke of her as el mar which is masculine. They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.
Flashcard[edit | edit source]
When you are creating flashcards for the first time, maybe you don't know how to create them to learn efficiently.
Meanings should be on the front side, word/phrase should be on the back side. When you see the meaning, you need to recall the word/phrase, in a process like this: words/phrases in the learned language → concept → words/phrases in the target language. This helps with your expression instead of recognition only, as well as recalling the word's synonyms.
Meanings should be brief. You can search a word in a dictionary, pick the first meaning and if any other meaning is large different from it, pick them as well. Don't write too much on flashcards. You will remember those meanings that are derived from its original one through reading instead of flashcard memorisation.
Another question: there are different levels of efficiency in Anki, what's the standard for choosing from them? In my opinion, according to the average speaking rate, recognising the word in less than 1/4 seconds for “easy”, 1/4 ~ 1/3 seconds for “good”, 1/3 ~ 1/2 seconds for “bad”, more than 1/2 seconds for “again”. For recalling, the time limits may be longer. You can use a metronome to understand how long it is.
If you feel boring practising flashcards, try opening some online live and watch it together.
Sentence[edit | edit source]
Sound natural[edit | edit source]
Sometimes you say something correctly in grammar, but it is unnatural for native speakers. The reason is that there may be multiple possible ways to express an idea and the unnatural one is not commonly used. Good grammar is just a necessary condition for formulating naturally. An example is, if you feel hungry, you usually say in English “I am hungry”, a subject-copula-predicative structure; in German, “Ich habe Hunger”, a subject-verb-object structure; in Korean, “배고파” or “배고픕니다”, a conjugated verb in plain or humble form. You may use uncommon structures, but people won't easily understand. This is why you should read and listen a lot, even if you are already good at the language's grammar.
There are also infinite possibilities of vocabulary creation, and the ones used by the native speakers are the meaningful ones.
Mr. Leuchtag: Frau Leuchtag and I are speaking nothing but English now.
Mrs. Leuchtag: So we should feel at home when we get to America.
Carl: A very nice idea.
Mr. Leuchtag: To America.
Mrs. Leuchtag and Carl: To America.
Mr. Leuchtag: Liebchen, uh, sweetness heart, what watch?
Mrs. Leuchtag: Ten watch.
Mr. Leuchtag: Such much?
Carl: Er, you will get along beautifully in America, huh.
To formulate sentences like a native speaker, you need example sentences. Tatoeba and services using its data is just what you need: Find a sentence in the language you know, try to translate it naturally, then see the translation by the native speaker.
There are also Anki shared decks of example sentences, some of which need to be adjusted manually. If you can't find a good one on Anki shared decks, you can go to Tatoeba's download page to download sentence pairs, open the TSV file with a text editor, divide it into smaller files and import to Anki.
Proverbs[edit | edit source]
Don't forget that proverbs are not instantly understood if translated into another language word by word; idioms are almost exclusive to the language. It would be a real joke if you translate “it's Greek to me” into Greek word by word.
Patrick: My brother Gerry's had word from Ray Boccino, his Italian contact, about a big shipment coming in near the fish market. The triads are expecting something and it smells fishy.
Niko: The fish market smells fishy?
Patrick: Shit, man. I keep forgetting you're not from here. Something smellin' fishy means that it ain't quite right. So, this shipment smellin' fishy means that it ain't gonna be what they say it is.
Niko: But, if it's going to the fish market they must be saying that it's fish.
Niko: So if this shipment is what they say it is, then it's going to smell fishy anyway.
– Grand Theft Auto IV
Parse Tree[edit | edit source]
To express your idea, you need words of different parts of speech placed in the correct order. That is to say, you need to know the structure of sentences. You can say you really know what a sentence means only when you know which part is playing which role. You can get to know the “parse tree”, try to draw them. There is a video about how to draw parse trees.
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo
Ambiguity[edit | edit source]
It is almost impossible to avoid ambiguities in natural languages. They exist almost everywhere. Here is an introduction to it. Usually people are accustomed to perceive in a particular way, so that they can efficiently ignore other possible interpretations than the common one.
Some languages are stricter than some others. If you really want to avoid the ambiguities, try Lojban.
Materials[edit | edit source]
Don't expect native speakers to always formulate correctly. For English, there are also a lot of non-native speakers making all kinds of mistakes on the Internet. As a result, choosing the right material to read is important.
In the old days, people learn a language by reading newspaper, listening to radio and watching television, because of their professional use of the language. Nowadays, people have known them better, and they have earned their titles around the world: “lamestream media”, «terminales mediáticas», « merdias », „Lügenpresse“, ”valemedia”, 「霉體」, “기레기”, 「マスゴミ」, etc.
For example, if I were working for a newspaper in a town and my boss ordered me to help someone to get rid of all dogs in the town, what would I do? I would publish articles like “Dogs are eating poops again”, “A dog has eaten up all the food in the fridge, trying to starve its owner”, “Dogs are hiding their hostile instinct against human and will release it anytime, scientists say”, “5-year-old child attacked by a dog, saved by Anti-Dog Association”, “Dog food companies grabbing money that should be spent to improve your life condition”, “Parents love this poop-eating animal more than their children”, “Dangerous disease discovered transmittable from dogs to humans”, etc.. I was just doing my job.
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself.
Information is not generated from the media, just like foods are not grown up in the supermarket.
To learn advanced vocabulary, you can try reading books that have been reviewed by many people.
If your time is short, you may go to social media. The platforms are trying to manipulate you and you may lose your path with your time wasted eventually. There is a book from outsider's as well as an article from the manipulator's perspectives. However, in some cases, you can find truth from them exclusively.
Public opinion is always manipulable. In the People's Republic of China, India is a rival and Pakistan is a crucial partner to access the oil from West Asia, so the media report all kinds of news to portray Indians as poor and uncivilised while not doing so on Pakistanis in the 2010s. In the United States of America, the public opinion towards Japanese was extremely negative during the 1940s and 1980s, when Japan militarily and financially threatened the United States of America and US-American media reported all kinds of negative news about Japanese; it was positive in the 1960s and 2000s, when Japan was a crucial partner to control Asia-Pacific region.
When getting information from media, please always ask yourself how many ideas from which sides you have received. In the USA, there are Ground News and AllSides, websites that break down the news coverage according to the media's stances. You can see what news – which may be true or not – you haven't seen because of your choice of media.
Your domestic media alone is not enough, because the bias can exist nationwide or even continentwide. For example, People's Republic of China invested a large amount of money in Africa, bringing development and exploitation, which are the two faces of the same body. PRC's propaganda emphasises the development, while Western countries' propaganda focuses on the exploitation.
What to start with? You can just pick some topics you know well, go to the corresponding websites and start reading. Because you are familiar with the topic, so you can expect what vocabulary you are going to see. You can try cuisine recipes, then retailers.
Reading[edit | edit source]
When you are reading, you may want to read every word through your mouth, which limits your speed. Your elementary school teacher may want you read word by word, with voice or not. It is inappropriate when you are already a teenager. You are potentially able to view the text line by line.
Of course, you should get all the important information of a text. Speed is secondary.
Reading aloud and reciting has its benefit: deeper your impression of the sentence structures.
Listening[edit | edit source]
According to the average speaking rate, you normally need to recall 3 words including their denotations and connotations each second, in English. In languages like Chinese, where a word can be represented by fewer syllables, you need to recall words even faster. You also need to pay attention to the sentence structure, otherwise you wouldn't see the forest for the trees.
Keep listening to audios that you can understand as much as possible. When you are familiar enough with the language, you can predict words when hearing the first syllables.
Before practising, you should have enough knowledge of the pronunciation, vocabulary, sentence structure and also experience in reading comprehension.
Proper names in the listening material, unless known, should be avoided as much as possible.
When you find something that you can't understand, and you don't have the transcript, follow these steps:
- Slow down the recording
- Recognise each syllable
- Recognise each word
If you still failed, try some similar phonemes (with different places of articulation and less likely with different manners of articulation), such as [m] for your recognized [n], [t] for your recognized [ʔ]; maybe you have recognized an open syllable as a closed syllable, or reversely; maybe the vowel is not pronounced clearly, then you should try to recall any word with the same consonants before and after it.
If still failed, the speech recognition can help.
Be aware that not every song's lyrics are grammatically correct, not every singer's pronunciation is standard.
Irregularity[edit | edit source]
There may be irregular rules in a language, which takes much time to be mastered but can be avoided in other languages. In fact, when parents are teaching their children, it is also annoying for both of them, until the children get used to it.
Keep calm and carry on.
Reality[edit | edit source]
You may have got a nice score in an exam, but it doesn't mean that you can wield the language as you wish. Many people feel confident until they go abroad. They just don't know how to express instantly and precisely in diverse situations, in real life.
There are people working on learning languages through virtual reality, but for now, enough money is required. Here is an article about it.
Mondly has AR for learning languages.
Dialect[edit | edit source]
To overcome the difficulty of communication, a dialect is chosen to be the base of the standard language. Those who can speak the standard language are considered to be well-educated and respected. When almost everyone can speak the standard language, almost everyone sees it as merely a tool. It is the dialect back home that make people feel intimate. The use of dialects goes up.
It is an reaction towards the modernisation, and it means a lot of content that are not taught on textbooks to be learned.
Arabic is different. If you talk in Standard Arabic with Arabs, especially in Sunni countries, they probably feel amusing.
Viewing Cultures and Civilisations[edit | edit source]
When I was a kid, I knew almost nothing and found that everything was attractive. I thought foreigners could float in the air like what I did in my dream. Now my horizon is more and more opened, and I've realised that everything is losing its splendour as I get more and more familiar with it. So do the exotic feelings. At the same time, my ability of imagination is also declining if I don't often do so. I used to prefer Movement 4 than Movement 2 in the Symphony No. 9 by Antonin Dvořák. Now I value them both almost equally.
Before and after watching a show, you will have different feelings towards its posters.
You can see the patterns in human history: If always at war, the civilisation will keep being combative and barbaric, without much chance to progress; if always at peace, the civilisation will become increasingly wasteful and decadent, until the lowest classes can't afford it and reset the society.
Difference between Civilisation and Culture[edit | edit source]
These two words are often confused, especially if you rely on projects like Wiktionary. Different countries understand these words differently and different dictionaries define them differently. There are still much common ground among them. “Civilisation” tends to be about achievements, while “culture” tends to be about aspects of life.
These two words concur in a lot of cases. For counterexample: The artificial intelligence makes the production easier, bringing the human civilisation up; makes the employment of human harder, bringing the human culture down.
Prejudice[edit | edit source]
A simple question: how do you form your impressions towards foreigners?
A simple answer: from news, videos, TV shows, movies, stories and those I sometimes see in the town.
Current Affairs[edit | edit source]
Some people may ask why they should care about matters on a far-away land, just like PewDiePie before 2018 being unaware of what an Indian national programme started in 2015, which received little to no attention in Europe, meant to him. That is even not butterfly effect, because its outcome is predictable.
PewDiePie's target audience is mostly in Western countries, so he was always focusing on Western topics, almost impossible to notice that programme.
Diversity[edit | edit source]
Cultures and civilisations are largely different. There is a Chinese proverb to describe it: In ten li are there different atmospheres, in a hundred li are there different customs”. Meanwhile, cultures and civilisations are also largely the same: no matter where you go, kids play together and make trouble, advertisements are overwhelming you, the injured tries to find the hospital, pension system is a swindle.
Cultures are so diverse that they are not all compatible with each other, just like that not any random people can be friends. You may strongly oppose some ideas in another culture. It doesn't mean you are a racist if you speak it out, however, you should try your best to avoid doing so in a rude way.
You can see the streets around the world: joyful people, worried people, rigorous people, lazy people, and so on. You can also see the political compass memes to feel the political diversity of a country, given that you can accept modern arts.
Stereotype[edit | edit source]
As a person in the information era, when I see stereotypes, I usually desire to reject them. Such examples are Company of Heroes 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), which distort the history and depict Russians as psychotic and dumb. They have been boycotted in Russia. In comparison, the 2019 TV series Chernobyl depicts all kinds of Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians in that period. It gained its popularity and was praised widely, even though it failed to reflect the history in several important aspects like the characters' personality.
There are some products that don't make people want to boycott, such as Code Geass, where China is simply depicted with old fashions like eunuchs in power. Because of its outstanding plot and the part involving China doesn't make people feel malicious, it is still popular in China.
Stereotypes are not all negative. An example is Street Fighter, especially its early versions, where every character and every background is made of a stereotype, and it is entertaining without being offensive. Another example is Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, where it mocks the USSR conspicuously and mocks the USA inconspicuously.
Elegance and Vulgarity[edit | edit source]
You may have heard about such disagreement: some people think vulgar works also belong to the art, the other don't. The art is something done for pleasure and the more pleasant it feels, the more valuable it is. Whether it is pleasant or not is subjective. If you think you can find pleasure from it, then it is art for you and not necessarily for other people.
Elegance is what people make other people feel good, which has been necessary to gain other people's support since ancient times. Vulgarity is what people make themselves feel good, which has been necessary to reduce their stress since ancient times. Both are necessary for people to live in a society.
Geography[edit | edit source]
How much does geography impact a culture? Apparently, it determines the products an ethnic group can produce. Those who are near waters fish, those who live in forests hunt, those who live on grasslands herd, and so on. There are interactions among ethnic groups, and from the interactions, their cultures evolve. Some ethnic groups control good location for commerce, some ethnic groups control good locations with high military value. All of these can further impact their cultures. Sicily and Afghanistan are both strategical locations, so they both suffered frequent foreign invasions, which forged some of the common elements in their cultures: self-determination, xenophobia, isolation.
At bottom of Kremlin's neurotic view of world affairs is traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity. Originally, this was insecurity of a peaceful agricultural people trying to live on vast exposed plain in neighborhood of fierce nomadic peoples. To this was added, as Russia came into contact with economically advanced west, fear of more competent more powerful, more highly organized societies in that area.
– Long Telegram, George Kennan
There are also impacts of geography direct on human bodies. Indonesia and Amazonas both have tropical rainforest climate, where the night is humid and hot, which means bad sleeping condition and leads to low spirits.
Social Science[edit | edit source]
You may have learned the geography and history of a country, but you still don't totally understand the culture of it. If you have been living in peace all your life, you may find it difficult to understand the mind of people who have gone through tough times.
“I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.”
– Gone with the Wind
You will need to learn other subjects like sociology and psychology. With knowledge of them, you will even find that you have a new understanding of your own country.
The society is like the computer: If you live with it for daily tasks as a common person, everything appears in order; if you have deeper knowledge of it, you would find that defects and loopholes are everywhere. Some “conspiracy theories”, “foreign propaganda” are actually the reality.
There is an Aesop's fable The Two Bags: Every man has two bags suspending on his neck, the front one is full of the faults of his neighbours, the back one is full of the faults of himself. No matter which nation, examples are never in lack. This is why foreigners' opinions are to be taken seriously, even if they don't know much about your nation.
You can suffer desperation as you see through the ugly side of most people, and the recovery from it may be difficult. For example, they say “We just hate your leaders, we don't hate common people like you”, then some calamities happen to common people like you, they cheer (2021 floods in Malaysia, 2021 floods in China, 2021 floods in India, 2021 floods in Turkey, 2021 floods in Europe, etc.). If that doesn't affect you, you can watch the full version of the 2016 film Wołyń. You may lose your confidence in humanity, a price for your curiosity to the world. If there are any extraterrestrial civilisations, those creatures won't behave differently.
Reasonableness[edit | edit source]
There is a people Yi, which lived an ancient life before the foundation of the People's Republic of China. In Liangshan, they consist of Black Yi, the aristocrat, and White Yi, the commoner. The White Yi are more hard-working because of their bad financial situation, and following the rapid development in China, they have gradually accepted the modern lifestyle, while the Black Yi are more willing to stick to their traditions, and are considered uncivilised.
There is a people Yi, which lived an ancient life before the foundation of the People's Republic of China. In Liangshan, they consist of Black Yi, the aristocrat, and White Yi, the commoner. The Black Yi are more educated because of their good financial situation, and following the rapid development in China, they have gradually accepted the modern lifestyle, while the White Yi are more willing to stick to their traditions, and are considered uncivilised.
Both paragraphs sound reasonable. They can't be both true. If you don't keep being critical, you can be duped easily.
Genetics[edit | edit source]
In 2007, biologist and geneticist James Watson expressed his worries about Africa's future based on IQ tests to The Sunday Times. He was discharged and was forced by the Western society to apologise publicly. In the 2019 PBS documentary American Masters: Decoding Watson, he insisted on his original idea. He was denounced and was striped from many titles by his old workplace.
That is an obstacle of answering the philosophical question “Who am I?”. If he had praised Africans for their physical competence, saying they are healthier, he would had no trouble. Many people believe it is worth it to prevent the human from obtaining some knowledge. The reality is, biological laboratories studying humans are functioning around the world. The rulers don't want the mass to participate in this topic, because it may drive the public opinions out of their controls.
The distributions of genes are different among ethnic groups, which also applies to different breeds of dog and other species. The important thing is not to deny such differences, but how to face it seriously.
Learn about genetics, so you will know the value of your own genes and treat it as the top privacy.
Ideology[edit | edit source]
In the modern time, all kinds of ideologies have been emerging. They are not limited to politics, but everywhere: programmer communities, reader communities, driver communities, etc.. You may have involved in clashes among different ideologies without knowing what their names are. They collide with traditional cultures and make the human society more and more sophisticated. Politics and religion are unavoidable if you want to have a deeper understanding of a culture.
In a lot of situations, people are told to “avoid politics and religion unless you are familiar with the one you are talking with”, which can be misinterpreted as to avoid talking about those topics. The true meaning is, if you are both patient enough toward each other's opinions, so you can understand each other's reasons for holding such opinions, then the talk can go well, but if one of you or both of you are not so, this will turn bad quickly, so if you are familiar with each other, you both have to be more patient due to the pressure from potentially jeopardizing the relationship that you both have spent effort to build.
To make the conversation around politics smoother, you will need to first agree on facts. If you don't agree on them, then you will need to explain why you doubt them, with facts. You must agree on those objective stuffs before talking about your subjective stuffs.
There is a book about how to hold a conversation: Robert's Rules of Order (Here is the last edition of the author's own ones). There is an article on debating.
As for me, if someone jumps on my face, I will have to fight back. One of the most common practice is responding in kind, because it stops them from talking more. If someone said “There are too many Chinese. Some of them should die” to me, I would say ”There are much more non-Chinese. Should non-Chinese die first?”.
Avoid emotion agitators, listen to all sides, especially the opposite side of yours, with as much patience as possible, then you will almost certainly experience the cognitive dissonance, which feels like you have been an idiot until now. If you haven't experienced so, you definitely should try this. The simplest way is to record your own voice and listen to it.
The theory of relativity is not far away from your life, and the first time you learn it, it overturns your understanding of the world.
If you read online discussions and decided to jump into the muddy water as you are irritated, prepare to lose it, just like gambling. Don't expect a decent debate.
Focus on broadening your experience, so you will be more likely to defeat your opponent. After learning much of the world, you would no longer insist on some ideas. You had defeated yourself.
Author[edit | edit source]
Other Lessons[edit | edit source]
- How to Customise Open–Source Language Games
- Elements of Traditional Architectures: Western Europe
- Best Job Search Websites by Country
- Meanings of Country Names
- Best Singers
- FLOSS programs with Anki support
- Helpful Anki Shared Decks
- Wiki Notice Board
- Ordering with Letters
- Listening material with transcript
GrimPixel, Vincent and Maintenance script