The Entertainment of Being A Polyglot

From time to time, I find there are 5 entertaining things that may light up or...
The Entertainment of Being A Polyglot

Being a polyglot may be some people’s life goal. But for me? No. I happen to be called that by everyone the moment they start finger counting: “Let’s see, you, speak Vietnamese, 1, English then 2, French is the 3rd” bla bla bla… Right, they call me “polyglot” by that way.

From time to time, I find there are 5 entertaining things that may light up or mess up (a bit!) the life of a “so-called” polyglot. But trust me, life should be indulged with entertainment in whichever way you choose to live and it doesn’t matter how many languages you can speak.

1. You may freak out non-polyglots

You try to not mention anything about languages but all of a sudden, they hear you speak a strange language by accent with native speakers and a canned motif comes up then everyone looks at you blankly and starts to ask “How many languages do you speak?”

An example-life case that I’d like to mention here. At my current company, the first time the boss saw me, he didn’t talk to me a lot. Then after going to Singapore for 1 week and back to Vietnam, he started to look at me in a curious way: “I’ve heard rumours about you, you scared me!” Then he asked “How many languages do you speak?” raising fingers and ready, to count!

“Hi boss, you can be sure that your employee is certified for Vietnamese.” His fingers lost all the curious exhilaration. Hopefully my KPIs don’t include “lose boss’ conversation mood”.

2. You’re questioned if your life only revolves around language learning

Of course not. Actually my main hobby is dancing and I spend time dancing as much as twice the amount on learning languages.

It seems that your hobby lists get overshadowed by the languages you speak. And every time you say something, people will associate to a language community.

“I like NLB” “You mean you like Natural Language Behavior”. Oh Gosh, I mean I like National Library Board.

3. Recruiters: “Why apply for our company when you can be a freelance interpreter?”

My least favorite part of an interview. No, it’s about employment, nothing related to language learning. I can use languages everywhere but at work I might only use 1 or 2. Don’t underestimate how languages prevail in our daily life outside the office.

4. Priceless reactions

It’s a sudden gift that you might receive on the streets if a tourist or a local finds out that you can speak their mother tongue.

One day I was with my dad at a phở shop. There were two Chinese men sitting next to me, they wanted to order extra bowls and the servers couldn’t make it out when the men spoke English. I just spoke out in Chinese that I could help them translate in Vietnamese. The men seemed so astonished “喔你可以说中文”. Bingo. We had a great chat in Chinese and in the end, they even paid for my phở and dad’s as a thank-you for my having some basic Chinese language skills.

5. You associate THIS to THAT

Your imagination flies up to Mount Everest when you know more languages throughout time. Especially when a word has a very innocent meaning in one language but can become a dirty word in another language. Yeah, this is my favorite part because my imagination becomes a floating rocket flying out of this world and leading nowhere when I start chuckling thinking about a naïve-dirty word. Everyone thinks you’re crazy, nuts, weird but well, I’m happy that my imagination can run across language borders!

Thanh Thy Võ Trần
Countries have borders, but languages don't.