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Glossophia: A Polyglot’s Guide to the Wisdom of Language-Learning

Semih Uçar

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Narrative Non-fiction

Koridor, 70,000 words, 2024

First proof and English sample translation are available.


This book is a journey into the extraordinary world of language learning. It is penned by a polyglot whose linguistic prowess spans an impressive 12 languages and whose unique ability has directly aided over 5,000 individuals in their pursuit of language mastery. Through personal anecdotes and expert guidance, readers will learn how to harness the power of determination and commitment to achieve fluency, transcending language barriers.


This book is a testament to the transformative power of linguistic mastery, offering a fresh, inspiring, and authentic perspective on the art of learning new languages along with heart advice that can help you flourish.


‘In this book, you will, of course, find my own language-learning story, you will find lots of very useful methods, lessons and advice. But you will also find very strong practical and psychological guidance which has been helping my students for many years to get to the finish line.‘



Interview


When and how did you become aware that you were a polyglot?


In my opinion, a person who is fluent in three languages can freely call themselves a polyglot. But in my case, it was a bit different. After I learned my 6th foreign language, I started to call myself a polyglot. And this was a turning point in my life. At this point, I decided to put language-learning at the center of my life. From then on, I started seeing it not as a hobby, but as a way of life, a “Lebensprojekt” (a life project), as it is said in German.



How and when did you start learning new languages? How do you know that you've learned a new language? How many languages do you know?


German was the first language I learned solely by myself. Before that, like almost everyone, I had English classes at school. However, since it was not a deliberate, conscious language-learning process, I’ve always considered German as my first foreign language. I was 17 then. I wanted to study in Germany because the best music academies in the world were in Germany. So I started to learn German, and just a year after that, I began working as a professional translator/interpreter in German courts. I know, it sounds a bit ‘too good to be true’, but that was the case, and what I learned while mastering the German language laid actually the foundation for my career as a polyglot, language teacher, and author of language-learning books. Because thanks to this experience, I knew I could learn any language very fast.


I’ve learned 12 foreign languages so far. In order to say, “I know this language”, I need to be able to read books (written for adults, not children’s books of course) in that language. That’s my criteria regarding foreign languages, as it is a much more accurate and honest way to evaluate one’s level in a certain language rather than taking speaking as a yardstick. And it is much harder as well.



How did this book project come about, and how did you shape it in a way that sets it apart from other language-learning books?


There are great books out there written by polyglots. I love them. I think I’ve read them all. All these books fall into two categories:

They either tell a polyglot’s language-learning story, a sort of ‘memoir’, or they try to teach some basic principles and methods upon which the learners can build their language-learning journey. These are, as I said before, great books but there is a problem:


You read them. You are now more motivated and informed than before. But as we all know from experience, being motivated and informed doesn’t help you much, especially when we speak about learning a language, a process which can take many years. Soon after you start learning a language your motivation fades away and you don’t know what to do with all these interesting stories you read and methods you learned from these books. Your old but not gold enemies, such as perfectionism, procrastination, impatience, learned helplessness, victim mentality, fear, self-pity etc., are getting louder and they soon seize the power again. And you stand there like a child who feels like he or she doesn’t love themselves.


Perhaps now you think I am exaggerating a bit but I am not. Learning a language or learning something which requires many years to master involves much more mental challenges, deeper psychological issues and inner conflicts than the majority of people and, sadly, the majority of language teachers think. Motivating people and giving them some useful advice is a good job a language teacher or an author of language-learning books can do but it is not sufficient. It is not sufficient to bring language learners to the finish line. For this, you need to go much deeper and be much more honest and concrete with your readers. You can’t be superficial. And that is, unfortunately, the problem with all these books: They fail to go beyond the formalities.


In my book, on the contrary, I tried to be as honest as possible. In this book, you will of course find my own language-learning story, you will find lots of very useful methods, lessons and advice. But you will also find very strong practical and psychological guidance which has been helping my students for many years to get to the finish line.



You are working on a sequel to this book, entitled The Meaning of Life in 12 Languages. Can you tell us a bit about it?


The book will cover 12 languages that I have personally learned so far. I will focus on one language in each chapter. Each chapter will probably be 15 pages long. In the book, the reader will find:

  • The (not boring) history of the language families and languages covered in the book;

  • Very interesting facts about the languages (e.g. Shakespeare made up some of the words he used in his works, Chinese has no real grammar system compared to other languages, Japanese have to spend 8 years in school to learn the basic 2000 kanji, etc.);

  • My memories while learning these languages;

  • My personal experience in the countries where these languages are spoken;

  • Educational sections: study suggestions, useful resources, answers to the question, "What I would do if I had to learn these languages now?";

  • Interesting similarities or contrasts between these languages etc.

I want to write a book that will make people curious about different languages of the world, a book that will both inform and entertain the reader. My goal is not to create a small encyclopedia of languages but to write a non-fiction book that can be read from beginning to end like a very entertaining narrative. I want the reader who finishes a chapter to want to start learning the language portrayed in this chapter and to have a solid basis of knowledge and experience to do so.

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