The Confession Of A Self-Claimed Pseudo-Polyglot
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Politics and Activism

The Confession Of A Self-Claimed Pseudo-Polyglot

Other things deserve my attention way more than the whimsical fantasy of me trying to be a walking translator.

The Confession Of A Self-Claimed Pseudo-Polyglot

This is something that I have kept to myself for a long time, and on the occasion of my very first Odyssey entry, I think it’s time to finally get it off my chest once and for all.

To a lot of my friends and family, I am known as the “kid who can speak, like, 7 or 8 foreign languages.” At first, I felt a certain pride and a sense of accomplishment whenever someone knew about my “amazing” linguistic abilities, but then I started to get a little annoyed. There are many reasons as to why I hate being solely defined by my linguistic capabilities.

But first, I think it necessary to explain how I got to be known as the polyglot kid. I was born in Poland but I only stayed there for 2 years (excluding the first few months after my birth) and spent the rest of my childhood in my parents’ hometown in Vietnam. During my time in Poland, I went to a local public elementary school where I was given no other option but to figure my way through the entire school year without any knowing a single Polish word.

And then Junior high happened. I attended a French international school in Hanoi, Vietnam, where I picked up three more languages: French, English, and Chinese. It was around this time that I started to discover an inner turmoil that stemmed from my desire to be fluent in all the languages that I had acquired up to that time, while trying to learn new ones, all to live up to the expectations that other people had for me as well as those I had for myself. All my classmates seemed to have an easy time juggling two, three languages at the same time, and so I thought if they could do it, why couldn’t I?

I wish I knew that I did not have the capability to complete such a feat, no matter how hard I tried. I just did not have it, and even to these days, I still don’t. My brain was too tired trying to find a perfect balance between four languages that it did what it should have done a long time ago: it began to shut down.

I could no longer concentrate in class; my stuttering started to worsen and I found it extremely hard to orally express myself in French and even in my mother tongue Vietnamese – languages that I used to be so fluent in; my writing skills also suffered due to the inability to think in the language I was writing in. I constantly found myself in a state of anxiety and agitation, as if I was going to have a mental breakdown.

Therefore, it ought to make sense now that I say my reputation as a polyglot is not only misleading but completely and utterly inaccurate. I do not speak 7 or 8 foreign languages. I do not speak 5 or 6. Not 4, not 3. Only 2, and last time I checked, speaking 2 languages is not considered polyglot, but bilingual.

I work my butt off every day to keep my brain from giving up and deciding to let go of everything that I have accumulated over the years to master these 2 languages. It pains me to know that I am nothing like the person I project out to the whole world to see, and to know that a lot of people’s first impression of me as a “polyglot” is false.

But what is most tragic about this is that I have spent almost all my life feeding myself unrealistic fables about how I was better than other people because I could speak all those languages, and pretending to be someone I am not.

Thanks to these melodramatic lines of confession that I realize something important, something worth telling: I don’t have to be a polyglot who can fluently speak and write every single language in the world to impress other people and myself.

Sure, it’s nice to be able to do that, and believe me, those who possess this coveted ability have the right to brag and showcase their talent to whole world to see. But I don’t have that, and I must accept it. The only thing that I can control right now is to focus on what I already have, not on what I wish I could have.

Maybe in a foreseeable future, just maybe, I will get what I want and be that person that I was, am, expected to be. But in the present time, I have other things that deserve my attention way more than the whimsical fantasy of me trying to be a walking version of Google Translator.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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