Polyglots or Polygloats?

Not so long ago I wrote an article What do you understand by fluency in which I criticise the pseudo-polyglots, as I like to refer to them. There were two people in particular I had in mind when I penned this short piece; however, I didn’t reveal their names at the time for various reasons. Today I would like to advise you against falling for these gentlemen’s dubious guidance, especially if parting with your hard-earned cash is involved. I find their practices highly immoral and, quite frankly, I despise the fact that they lie with impunity to their readers, leading them into thinking their tips will facilitate learning a foreign language in an incredibly short period of time.
Recently I've become aware of more and more pseudo-polyglots who claim to be able to learn languages within relatively short time spans. This idea appeals to people of the 21st century where everything must be instant. Some are even stupid enough to pay money to the aforementioned pseudo-polyglots for their precious tips on fast language learning. (…) I don’t understand what happened to good old scepticism and critical thinking ability. Are we humans just becoming increasingly gullible?

First polyglot under scrutiny…
Benny, also known as @irishpolyglot, has a popular blog, the url of which reads fluentin3months. That really is amusing when you consider the fact he has never actually learnt any language to a level anywhere near fluency in 3 months – read the list of languages he speaks and you'll find that he learnt them for much longer than that (e.g. German, he studied at school for years, even though he claims he couldn't speak it at the age of 21. It was at this point that I dared to question his skills and, I think, with good reason).

His definition of fluency is more confusing than all the seasons of LOST put together and couldn’t be further from the actual definition that can be found in a dictionary, which, I suspect, Benny does not possess. I wouldn’t even waste my time reading the utter rubbish he regularly thrusts down the throats of the hundreds of people who visit his website; however, there is something about him that won't permit me to just walk away without a fight. You’ll be as surprised as I was to find about the fact he also makes people pay money for his e-book.

I confronted him online several times not only on his website where he banned me after my first comment, but also on Twitter and another person’s blog where he called me a troll for touching on subjects not related to the actual article on which we were commenting. But tell me, where and how should one approach Benny if everyone gets banned and blocked for aiming words of constructive criticism at him? The article you’re reading now is therefore intended to be a warning for you. I don’t have anything to gain from writing it – I certainly don’t ask you to pay me for it. What he does is against my beliefs and all I’m trying to achieve is to open up people’s eyes. As many people as possible.

To see the article of his on which I commented - click here. I’ll leave you the link to his website and let you judge this pseudo-polyglot for yourself. Is the $57 he wants for the book money well spent? I’ll let you judge this yourself too...

Polyglot – illiterate in several languages?
The other pseudo-polyglot I wanted you to become aware of is @yearlyglot. I haven't wanted to talk about him in the past for personal reasons, but now I have no qualms about it. Unlike his colleague, Irishpolyglot, Yearlyglot promises his readers that one can learn a foreign language and speak it fluently after just one year! Perhaps this miracle takes him a bit longer than 3 months as he seems to get distracted by several languages at once – this year’s mission of his is Turkish, however, as he claims on his blog he not only learnt Polish within the last 2 months but also started speaking Macedonian… after reading just one article about it on Wikipedia! His e-book about learning Italian costs $26. I’m not happy to reveal more than necessary about the aforementioned gentleman, however, more attentive Twitter followers will probably know that we met up in Poland. What remained a secret until now is that I had to assist in the simplest of activities such as buying tickets and ordering food due to his poor language skills. Now listen – I heard him speak Polish once, namely when ordering a coffee in a restaurant. This involved him saying "Jedna kawa, proszę". Yearlyglot, however, didn't mention any of this at all on his blog. Imagine how surprised I was to read as follows:
While in Poland, I was able to buy food and drinks and train tickets. I was able to ask for directions and understand amounts and times. I found my way around and even gave directions to some Poles. When I didn’t understand something, I was able to ask in Polish for its meaning, and usually understand the explanation.
None of this is true. Furthermore, Yearlyglot eschews conventional learning techniques and says:
"Stop buying books. Stop studying." A little bit of study never harmed anyone, especially if you want to do more than order a cup of coffee.  Perhaps, this guy should learn a bit more about the grammar of his own language too. It’s a "definite article", not a "definitive article". Once I had pointed out his mistake he not only kept arguing his point but wouldn't even bother to check if what he said was correct and nonchalantly asserted that I was the one making a fool of myself. Sadly for him, it was the other way round and... the greatest ignorance is to reject something you know nothing about.

Are we really this gullible?

So, why are people taken in by the polyglots? Well, we like to take the course of least resistance. If there is an easy route we'll take it. The polyglots want you to believe that you can bypass all the hard work by way of purchasing their e-books and shave years off the length of time that it would normally take to speak a language fluently. I wonder if they can perform other miracles too? How about turning water into wine, or failing that, reasonably priced petrol?

It's all smoke and mirrors though. Their claims are usually grossly exaggerated. Either that, or they neglect to tell you about their related learning experiences or about their epic failures.

What really irks me about these self-professed polyglots is that they seem to think they are some sort of oracle when it comes to language learning and they won't even consider the possibility that conventional learning methods are not only valuable but perhaps even better than the methods they advocate. According to Yearlyglot, flashcards are a waste of time as he states on David Mansaray's blog. What about if you make the flashcards yourself? The mere act of making them is helping you commit the words/phrases to memory, how can that possibly be a waste of time? You should use the methods that work for you. Don't allow yourself to be dictated to by the sort of people who seem to revel in the fact that they can speak several languages badly.

This is not a personal attack. These, I believe, are just a couple of examples of pseudo-polyglots. Be wary! There are plenty of others out there, along with the guys on TV selling useless kitchen gadgets or instant weight-loss schemes, waiting to get into your wallet. I'll leave you with this thought - if something seems too good to be true then it probably is. The same applies to learning. If you put in the effort you'll reap the rewards and pseudo-polyglots' assistance won't be missed.

59 comments:

  1. @Ewelina Gonera, after Superman renounced his US citizenship, I pronounce you my new super hero! As a reader of various language-learning blogs, I too, have not found believable the claims of these many pseudo-polyglots. Their claims of fluency and what fluency means are slippery, confusing and have more exits than an interstate highway. Their video proof of their speaking ability sounds more like Johnny Depp memorizing Pirate dialogue, or Al Pacino speaking Spanish in Scarface. That is, temporary and meaningless. Ewelina, thank you for standing up for truth, justice, and the language-learning community.

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  2. I agree. At the start of his German mission, I met Benny and he was already speaking German conversationally without pauses. At the end of his mission, we met again and his level didn't feel much improved. Studying for exams means you're treating the symptoms but not the heart of the issue.

    I claim to speak 9 foreign languages, but not all of them fluently, and the only one I learned in 3 months was Dutch (German is my native language).

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  3. Finally some reason in this madness!

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  4. Thanks for sharing the comment here publicly! It really emphasizes how irrelevant your rant was to the topic of **adults vs children learning** (referring to promises I NEVER make on the blog, back to the Czech mission that I had explained to you about many times before etc.)

    I am very clear on the blog that I remove irrelevant and abusive comments. Yours was a perfect example that had nothing to do with the topic at hand.

    My definition of fluency is that I can live my entire life through the language as I do English. You have only scrutinised my Czech video, which I was clear was me reading for a documentary. It's illogical to draw conclusions from that when I don't claim fluency in Czech! There is a publicly available interview of me on Spanish radio. Do you listen to that and really doubt I'm fluent?

    Otherwise most of this article is a repeat of the many arguments we've already had that I've answered. Your whole beef seems to be with not ever reading my blog (as you admit here as being a waste of your time) and drawing all conclusions on my site's URL.

    I never claimed to reach fluency in 3 months; my site is about aiming high, and the fact that I do it several times a year.

    @Judith Actually you met me an entire month into my German challenge when I had made most of my progress in the spoken aspect of the language and started focusing on studying for the C2 exam. You did not meet me "at the start". I'm surprised to see you here actually, you were praising my German at many times in person and on forums.

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  5. Benny, I met you on April 13th first, that was 2 weeks into your challenge. It has been bothering me for a while that you claim to have known little German when you were in fact already conversational, knew all everyday grammar including tenses, 2000+ words of vocabulary and so on. Your mistakes were typical for a B1-B2 student, things like not knowing noun genders, using wrong prepositions, sometimes expressing things in more basic words than the situation called for.

    I did notice progress on that - you greatly decreased the number of mistakes, and somewhat improved your vocabulary, without however acquiring the kind of native-like expression that is expected at the C levels. Your German was still much a translation of what you'd say in English.

    Yes, you made progress, though not enough to justify jumping 2 ranks on the CEFR scale let alone the entire scale as you imply. Yes, your German is very good for a foreigner. No, there was nothing miraculous or unexpected about it, nothing to make you an expert on what's right and wrong in language learning any more than anyone on HTLAL is.

    If you sold your experience for what it is, you wouldn't see so many negative comments directed at you.

    I realize part of this may be a cultural issue, because advertising in the Anglo-Saxon world and especially the USA relies on hyperboles, while people everywhere else are put off by this.

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  7. Judith, it's incredible that you think I knew 2,000+ words of vocabulary! If it was two weeks (although I don't remember it being that), then I had reached B1 level based on scraping together what I could remember from school (which as I maintain, was not enough to get by with comfortably on arrival) and the intensive work I had done my first weeks, which involved spending 5 days with a German friend of mine who stayed with me and intensively got my speaking and taught me an incredible amount. You are not appreciating the work I put in before meeting up with you.

    I never imply my advice is worth more than others, and I agree with you that there is nothing miraculous about what I do, that's the message I'm trying to get out to people and encourage them to try similar things. If you still feel bad about this I would appreciate if you emailed me about it.

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  8. I suppose it's fortunate for you, Ewelina, that I'm more honorable than you are. You may slander me all you want... I still won't tell the world about any of those things you don't want getting out.

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  9. @Cesar M. @Sprachprofi @phyrex Thank you for your contribution. My faith in humanity is restored now that I see there are still people out there with a bit of common sense. Especially your comment @Cesar M. brought a big smile to my face for which I’d like to thank you.

    @irishpolyglot Trolling much? Don’t worry, nobody’s comments get deleted on my blog.

    @yearlyglot Anyone with even a trace of intellect can see that I haven’t touched on personal business of yours, but if you feel like sharing mine with the world bring it on, as I have nothing to hide. Do it in several languages too, please.

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  10. No need. Like I said, I've got more class than you.

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  11. @yearlyglot You're the one with no class, to even mention you know things about me, we both know that you're talking about my family business here and this really is just pathetic - you're simply letting everybody see you in your true light! Is putting your language skills into question so personal to you so that you have to come up with such disgraceful threats? Lastly, why do I even need to speak English to you? After reading your blog I was under the impression you had learnt Polish (in a mere 8 days!) Or perhaps I’m just being delusional again?

    @Sake Zaraz pojechałam... Po prostu nazwałam rzeczy po imieniu.

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  12. Aby zobaczyć, kto cieszy się przewagą w sporze wystarczy przeczytać niezwykle błyskotliwy i rzetelny tekst pani Eweliny. Jestem dumny ze studentki, która już wyprzedziła wspomnianych poliglotów w rozwoju językowym i posługuje się angielszczyzną na poziomie, którego brak w ich prostackich, nieokrzesanych komentarzach. Wątpliwa to przyjemność czytać ich brednie.

    Pani Ewelino, jestem pełen podziwu pani talentu ale i onieśmiela mnie pani nonszalancja i bezpretensjonalność jako że te dwa elementy stanowić mogą zabójczą kombinację w rękach kobiety. Kiedyś już rzekłem, że będzie pani wielką osobistością. Myliłem się wtedy bo pani tą osobistością stała się już dawno. Pozdrawiam i do zobaczenia wkrótce.

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  13. It's ironic that you point out Randy's mistake of calling it a definitive article, but I seem to remember you getting confused about the difference between English / British.There is also a difference between learning a language and learning it fluently.

    You also seem to forget that Benny hasn't claimed to reach fluency in 3 months in any language I know of. As far I know, it is just the name of his blog.

    Blogs like Benny's and Randy's have been set up to discuss, get together and share ideas. There is no point attacking them like this.

    To be honest, your post seems like a desperate plea to get noticed. You must feel like you're missing out on some attention. For that reason, I'm not going to be reading your blog.

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  14. @Ewelina - In your last paragraph you said 'this is not a personal attack', when it quite clearly is an attack on two people. I'd feel attacked if you described me as 'illiterate in several languages' or 'self-professed'.

    @benny - I've looked at your website and read a little bit about you and from what I can see, you offer an alternative way to learning that might be suitable for those who find languague learning in a traditional method difficult. Rock on dude! I for one remember how shockingly bad my German lessons were at school and it was nearly enough to put me off language learning for good. Your 'offer' might be just want some people need.

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  15. @Włodzimierz

    Nie będzie pan sobie w stanie wyobrazić jak bardzo pana komplement dodaje mi skrzydeł. Mam ogromne szczęście spotykając na swojej drodze osoby takie jak pan – prawdziwe autorytety, pokłady wiedzy i źródła motywacji. Również pozdrawiam!

    @gizmo1984 @Tefl Secretagent

    I pointed out Randy’s mistake because he was leading people astray by saying things that weren’t correct. Why is it that he won’t admit what a fool he has made out of himself? You call this person somebody who helps others learn? To be frank I’d rather cut my head off with a rusty knife than have a teacher lacking such basic knowledge of linguistics yet preaching about language learning. It’s really just ridiculous. As for Benny not claiming to reach fluency in 3 months, let me just ask you this question…. Have you seen his website’s url? LOL!

    Randy and Benny had it coming to them and I’m proud of what I’m doing, revealing the truth about them and it’s not my fault some of you feel uncomfortable about it. I don’t, unlike them, force my opinions onto you. I give you the wherewithal to work it out for yourself, in Randy's case by means of some insider knowledge. I leave it to my readers to make their own minds up. Euripides once said: “Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish”. This is precisely what’s it like talking to Randy’s and Benny’s followers.

    Also, what’s really interesting is that when you speak to Randy in person he has nothing good to say about Benny whatsoever, but he’d never make such comments in public. He’s a two-faced, lying wannabe but I’m not afraid of saying things in public even if it means me being ostracised for it. Randy also sent me a personal message in which he slings unrepeatable, vulgar words at me as well as threatening to reveal personal information about me, proving my point about how low of a human being he is and how he couldn’t bring himself to say this publicly. Did I expect any better from him? No.

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  16. Eh. Take their blogs for what they are - individual blogs. No need to get bent out of shape over it.


    As gizmo1984 says, they're a place to exchange ideas. I've never had any of my comments deleted from either blog, so I really can't put myself in your shoes. I don't agree with everything either of them has to say, but I don't dismiss them out of hand either. They both have some good things to say too. The internet, like life, is not black and white, although I suppose it's easy to fall into the trap of judging it as such.

    I also don't believe that the majority of their readers rush out and buy their ebooks, but I honestly don't know.

    I agree with Sprachprofi that the hyperbole doesn't do any good, but honestly, doesn't every single audio/text course hype their method as the greatest thing too? No single source is going to get you to fluency, no matter what the definition of fluency is. Not a single one.

    If you really want to have at someone, take a look at some of the commenters on both blogs. I'm thinking of one person in particular who posts on both blogs and does nothing but spout "OMG, absolutely! Yup, you are so right!", without really saying anything else. Laugh at that person, or feel sorry for them. Either way, they're the ones that really need outing, because they can't seem to think critically.

    Overall, I like the message you're putting out to be wary of self-professed polyglots, but it just seems like you've got an axe to grind against these two, either for being banned from their blogs or because of something that happened in Poland (don't know, don't care).

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  17. LOL! This is fun. I'm going to sit and eat popcorn while I watch how far this insanity goes. Brilliant!

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  18. Just to settle the matter in a democratic way, lets all take a vote

    I've started a poll about yearly and Irish on my blog
    http://doyouspeakpolish.blogspot.com

    You can see it at the top. So far it's two votes 'Yes' these blogs live up to what they claim and two votes 'No'

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  19. @tefl secretagent... that's not a vote, it's a popularity contest! ;)
    @ewelina hmmm at your comment on @irishpolyglot's URL, here we are on EnglishFocused, now that the focus has shifted a bit (only temporarily I hope) I might turn in an article about my Polish-learning experience...

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  20. @Ewelina

    You certainly aren't on your own in how you feel about these two blogger/polyglots.

    I've been learning Polish for nearly 2 years. I live in Poland with a Polish family and spend as much time as possible using the language (Which isn't 100% of the time, as I have an English speaking job). I have found the language very hard in comparison to say Spanish or German. It takes a lot of practice, and when Randy posted he had learnt Polish in 8 days from a book and was able to survive and use the language quite happily in Kraków, I'm sure you can imagine how I felt. I found it somewhat insulting,disheartening and it made me feel incredibly stupid. Even after 3 months (Benny's magic number) in Kraków, I still had a hard-time understanding and talking to people, although at this point I could have basic conversations, buy train tickets and read simple texts.

    Randy mentioned his knowledge of Russian greatly helped him, but I can't understand how anyone can get to a decent level in Polish in only a few days. That's like saying a Russian could learn Polish in 8 days. He also claimed he could understand nearly everything being said to him (80%) at a slowish speed, and was even able to give people directions. I've pretty much lost all respect I've had for him, and I used to read his blog a lot. In fact, he offers no conclusive proof on his website at all that he even speaks any of the languages he claims (Posting text on Lang-8 and reading to a camera is not proof in my eyes).

    I'm uncertain about Benny. In my view, he should be "Benny the motivational speaker" and not "the Irish polyglot". Although he claims he has never said that he learnt Czech etc.. in three months, his blog-title is still very misleading. Although I have no doubt (unlike Randy), that he is actually a polyglot. I also found the A0-C2 German mission and absolute farse, and I'm sure anybody studying German will agree.

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  21. This is all very funny. Tell me, Antek. What would a peson have to gain from lying? What would I have to gain from faking it?

    Sure, maybe you will suggest that it's to sell my ebook... But why write about Russian? about Polish? about Spanish? why do all the work of writing posts 3 times a week, and learning Turkish, and being a fake polyglot just for the handful of sales I get from an ebook only intended for people who learn Italian?

    There's no point! There are other, more popular polyglots, so I'm not getting fame. There are faster, and easier ways to make money, so that's not it either. There are much better ways to make friends or to meet women, so that's not it. So tell me... since you're so convinced I'm a fake... WHY? Why would I bother?

    What's unbelievable to me is that I've never hidden my contact information. Not a single day. Since the very first post went up on my blog, I've made my email, twitter, skype, and other information public. Yet those who call me a fake have never once tried to contact me.

    This is all silly. You're all hilarious. And I really don't mind you talking about me, because even as you all sit here criticizing me and calling me a fake, traffic on my web site is soaring. You're making me more popular than ever. I love it. Please... don't ever stop!

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  22. @yearlyglot

    Maybe it helps feed your big ego, who knows? In any case, it doesn't hide the fact that you lied and told your readers that you managed to speak Polish whilst in Poland, when according to Ewa, you didn't. Where's your proof? What have you gained by lying? You are deliberately making out to be someone you are not. Judging by your remarks and childish threats, you're just a wannabe out to get attention. I've seen the way you behave when somebody doesn't agree with something you say, and you spit your dummy out like a baby (e.g. The arguments on your site over flashcards). And if you don't mind us all talking about you, why are you on here splurting your bull anyway?

    Why don't you prove us all wrong? I'm happy to speak Polish to you on Skype, or even better, get a native friend to speak to you?

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  23. @Will harper: Yeah I agree but it's fun trying to watch who'll win, so far it's pretty even with 15 votes each way.

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  24. Antek....

    Dude, I already told you, I have never hidden my Skype info. If you want to test me, stop jammering on the keyboard and call. I never EVER claimed to be fluent, but I'd be happy to struggle through a conversation with you if it would prove that I *did* pick up enough Polish to survive on my own, and that it's much more than one would expect in 8 days.

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  25. @Tefl Secretagent If it was fair, you'd post the link in other places, and not just on the comments section of a forum for people who hate us. Given the current conditions, I'd say an even split is an amazing endorsement!

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  26. @yearlyglot not everyone hates you here, as I'm trying to prove my polling the issue.

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  27. Good article Ewelina, and good luck in your language studies. Language learning takes time and success depends on enjoying the process.

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  28. Hahahah! It's not a party until Fake Steve Kaufmann shows up!

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  29. To start with, I’m sorry I can’t seem to keep up with answering all the comments as I’m doing some Uni work at the same time! I’m all yours now though… for another couple of minutes anyway!

    Dear @Antek, nobody can learn a language and speak it fluently after such a short time span and you should never allow yourself to be dictated to by anyone or let them upset you. If you truly could get by in Polish after just 3 months of studying then believe me you’ve done much better that the ‘’polyglot’’ in question. I feel for you because I was also disappointed after reading this infamous blog entry of Randy’s. I must, in fact, admit that I’ve been planning to write an article about Benny and never even considered including Randy in it until I read all of his lies about his trip to Poland. This was precisely when I lost all my respect for him and decided to make my case so that I can, perhaps, open other people’s eyes as well… He now asks rhetorical questions about why would he lie and risk his reputation. Well, that's my point, he's vehemently trying to defend his reputation. For the sake of argument, what if his whole reputation is built on lies or at the very least exaggerated facts? He says in one his lasts posts ‘’fake it ‘till you make it’’. How ironic is that? I’m the one with nothing to risk here, my blog isn’t even popular. In fact, I was expecting a lot of criticism from the pseudo-polyglots’ blinded fans and I was pleasantly surprised to find I have supporters among people I’ve never heard from before. It was worth sticking my neck out for that reason alone. For that I’d like to thank you all.

    @yearlyglot I really don’t care about the poll and I can’t see why you got so excited about it but please feel free to send the link to all your blog mates who you'll no doubt beg to vote for you – the same ones you talk so badly about behind their backs.

    @Steve Thank you.

    As for @TEFLSecretAgent I’ve got something mildly amusing for everyone to share. His identity is no longer secret. Here’s the person who defends the pseudo-polyglots and claims to be an English teacher. Bear in mind I’m only a Polish student of English whereas he is a native English speaker… Enjoy the giggle!

    http://yfrog.com/z/gzevl0j

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  30. You're obviously very intelligent, and have done well to get to where you are in English, but you take it too far attempting to correct people on a platform like twitter.No one uses standard English on there and most people only go on it to relax and wind down for the evening . They don't worry about stuff like that.

    With regards to the URL, it's just a brand name. The same way if you buy Rosetta Stone, you won't be getting the actual Rosetta Stone.

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  31. @Ewelina

    Thanks Ewelina, your article seems to have sparked a discussion on the LingQ forums here:

    http://www.lingq.com/learn/es/forum/1/10667/

    Looks like many people are fed up with the lies and false claims. Which gives me hope that eventually these sites will have a slow and painful death.

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  32. Reading your blogs and thinking about the topic of the language fluency I understand the point of view of every person commenting this post. Everyone is trying to defend their opinion, just like in the regular daily life. Polyglots must prove their methods are succesful for many reasons (not only promotion of their books but also self-satisfaction). On the other hand we see here persons putting a lot of effort in learning a foreign language and knowing that reaching fluency is a long hard work. Personally I agree with the second group, although I wish there are some miraculous learning methods - my/our life would be so much easier if they existed!

    I also watched some videos on the irishpolyglot youtube profile. I find especially interesting the video where he's interviewed in German (I know German much better than English, C1) and need to comment it.

    You're grammar was not so wrong, however you used rather popular and not very complicated structures.

    I can't say your pronunciation and accent were good. Most German would understand your words with no big problems but it sounded like a beginner (ok, maybe 3 months)level, aftre all your native language is English - it belongs to the same language group and gives you some advantage. So you just sounded better than French, Turkish or Russian coming to Germany.

    Your vocabulary was really poor. Yes, you can describe some object if you don't know the word, but with your skills it would propably extremaly hard. You also used many common phrases e.g. "Mir hat es gefallen" which just fit in many situations, This is a good way to hide some lacks, my brother often did it :)

    Why did I write it all? Because you said that you passed 4 of 5 parts of the exam on the level C2 (the highest european level of language skills)! THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE! NOT WITH YOUR SKILLS presented on this video. I can agree that you could propably make the certificate on the level B1 , it's hard to say it for sure 100%, the film is really short, but long enough to state the facts: you overrate your German skills. In this moment it puts the shadow on all your other statements.

    Of course it's some impressive if you learned German to this level in this short period of time (if it's true). It showed that you're just more skillful than the other people. It didn't show that you have some miraculous method of learning. However I still can't call it fluency. Fluency is (in my personal opinnion) communicating in situations of the daily life not exhausting totally your partner. You propably need to learn some more time to reach this level. I wish you to success that! Good luck!


    p.s. I don't get it... If I were you and just failed one part of the repytable exam I would learn a little bit more and come to the exam again or just make a cerificate on a lower level. There are Goethe centres all arround the world, not only in Germany. You can give here some arguments (personal/work issues, no matter) but it just seems weird to me...

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  33. @Grzesiek

    It all depends on how you define fluency. His video seems fairly impressive and I'd be made up if I could speak German to that level after only a few weeks. The german I learnt in highschool was pretty much dismal. I'd define being fluent as being able to understand nearly everything that is being said, and being able to reply and express myself clearly. I agree though, he's crazy not to continue and get the C2 exam, I know I would.

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  34. @howtolearnrussian

    I’m sorry to be so blunt with you but, what you say beggars belief. One does not just switch from proper English to illiterate ramblings depending on what time of day it is. In fact, you shouldn’t even need to make a conscious effort to write correctly, it should come naturally to you and if it doesn’t… well, maybe you should get back school then. It’s especially bad in this case because @TEFLSecretAgent is an English teacher. Come on, don’t you just feel sorry for his students?! I get the impression like I’ve opened some sort of Pandora’s Box here and more and more people who claim to be helping others learn crawl out from under their stones and completely embarrass themselves with practically every word they say. Personally, I’d feel ashamed if a foreigner laughed in my face and picked up on mistakes I made in Polish.

    As for @irishpolyglot and his URL I also disagree as Rosetta Stone as a brand name is not misleading in any way whereas ‘’fluentin3months” is an aspiration that even he goes on to contradict (see his comments above). It borders on immorality and I’m surprised you can’t see this.

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  35. I wouldn't say spelling a few words incorrectly was equivalent to illiterate ramblings.People make mistakes all the time. On things like twitter, people can get very careless about the way the write and don't care about the mistakes they make. This is because it is an informal setting.Their English will be far better if they are at say, a formal dinner party or business meeting.Social networks are hardly an indicator in linguistic competence.

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  36. "Personally, I’d feel ashamed if a foreigner laughed in my face and picked up on mistakes I made in Polish."

    Really? Then I hope you're embarrassed, because I've still got the page in my notebook where you tried to pass off some grammatically incorrect Polish on me, and I called you on it.

    Grow up, Ewelina. Nobody's perfect. This is a childish tantrum. If you want to discuss something intelligently, start a new thread and do it like a responsible adult. All the name-calling, mocking, and personal attacks only serve to make you look petty.

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  37. Someone has started a discussion thread on PolishForums.com http://www.polishforums.com/general-language-17/super-fast-language-learning-strategies-internet-polyglots-51362/
    A few interesting points raised

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  38. It’s not as if anybody’s going to believe you considering the fact that you couldn't spot a mistake in Polish even if it whacked you in the head due to the fact you don’t speak any Polish. As for being childish you are the one making pointless, unproductive comments (such as those that can be seen above) as well as messaging me with vitriolic, idle threats and name-calling. You called Steve fake but didn't come up with any justification for why you’d say this about him – is this what you refer to with ‘’discussing something intelligently’’? Get a grip…

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  39. Uh, I believe at this point I'm required to say, "I know you are but what am I?"

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  40. The amazing thing is that this post has generated so many responses when it was clearly just a shout for attention!
    What gripes me is the clear grammar mistake in the sub-title no one has pointed out.

    'Because the word is more than just a tool' - The use of 'The' here implies that I am aware of a specific item the noun references, but I am not. Better would be to use 'Words'.

    But this is just my opinion as a school teacher who only speaks English!

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  41. @Luke Just to satisfy my curiosity, what subject do you teach? I suspect it's not English, since when has subtitle been hyphenated? As for shouts for attention, I presume that you threw in the exclamation mark to be ironic? Anyway, that's enough questions for you. Re: your comment about, "The word is more than just a tool", please allow me some poetic licence, maybe I'll change the slogan to "Words are more than just a toolkit" just to appease the more pedantic of my readers.

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  42. @ewelina... or how about "Words are more than just a sequence of letters"?

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  43. Oh, Ewelina, I thought we had agreed to let bygones be bygones and then I checked back here to find you’re still insulting me. You call people pedantic when after you mock my English from Twitter? Pot...kettle...black.

    The fact is Ewelina, I could talk about how I was updating my Twitter whilst drinking beer and using my mobile but I won’t because I actually teach all of my students to use the correct style and tone for the correct situation. Nobody uses the same English in a business report as they do on Twitter (apart from you). Most modern English textbook series include some parts about writing in text speak or Twitter speak so maybe you should brush up? The fact is, that whilst you are undoubtedly a good speaker of English, your production lacks any kind of regionalised colour or tone. I love to read blogs where I can tell, without asking, that the writer is from a southern U.S state or the highlands of Scotland.
    Your English, is at best, wooden, sterile and bland.

    Don’t worry too much about my students because I’m specifically an English language lecturer at university in Poland and this year I was given the highest possible grade when my lessons were observed. I have a nice little piece of paper from Finnish government which commends my abilities too. I’m proud of my teaching achievements for the relatively young age of 26. You go to university in Poland don’t you?

    I’m impressed you’ve wrote a blog article which has garnered so much attention. Would I want the same on my blog? No, because from your post and behavior there’s at least one person that will never come back to read again and I suspect there are more. All in all, your behavior has only motivated me more to champion the efforts of @yearlyglot and @irishpolyglot. I’m going to link them on my blog, back link them everywhere, change my forum signatures to direct to their sites. Hell, I might even recommend them to all of my students. All just to spite you. Not that they need help, if you look at their Alexa ranks you can see they are far more popular than you.

    I’m sure you’ll sit back and think of a really witty, yet ultimately benign response. Maybe Will Harper will show his face again? (a few minutes after you post), but the truth is, I won’t be here to read it.

    You’re just another angry little girl with a blog.
    Tara duck – as we say where I come from.

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  44. Oh.. I just feel that somebody needs to put a stop to it since I dread to think my kids would one day be taught by such charlatans and I wish the pseudo-polyglots and pseudo-teachers would crawl back under the stones from whence they came.

    I’m surprised that anyone commends your ‘’abilities’’ as even though some of my lecturers are Polish their English is much better than yours, I never catch them making mistakes and their vocabulary is much broader too.

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  45. @TEFL SecretAgent, this is a subject about which I don't really feel passionately (unlike Ewelina). You're right that there is too much mud-slinging going on here and this is ultimately going to drive away readers. The crux of the matter is that Ewelina was privy to some information that she felt compelled to share (I'm talking about yearlyglot here).

    Interesting you should criticise Ewelina's writing style for its blandness, others find seem to find it engaging. She gets a lot of positive comments from her readers, but perhaps a fair percentage of them aren't native English-
    speakers. Whether the lack of regional colour is a bad thing, I'm not so sure. Whether this is the right place to critique her writing, again, I'm not so sure. I'm sure she would welcome any opportunity to improve herself.

    I don't usually approve of picking holes in other people's English (you will no doubt find a few mistakes in my writing as my grammar is at best weak), however, some of her criticism is justified; Luke's definition of a definite article above is positively clumsy and even in your last comment you make a few basic mistakes (were you drinking beer at 7:30 this morning?).

    My personal views on the glots who feel they are being attacked: yearlyglot doesn't respond to criticism well (even if you just provide him with a correction without any sarcastic comments). Benny, is less of a hothead, he seems to be a reasonable and amicable guy. I enjoyed his use of props in his video. I have
    yet to read his blog, but I will check it out. It seems strange to me that anyone would pay for language learning tips, there is so much free information out there. Your money would be better spent paying for tutors and, of course, there is no shortage of people who want to improve their English in exchange for teaching you their native language.

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  46. Ewelina Gonera, thank you so much for this blog post. I couldn't agree more. Benny blocked me because I supported Steve Kaufmann's views in some comments, Randy blocked me because I was against him in the "The flashcard holy war". Both blogs are simply ridiculous. I hope your post is an eye opener for those many people who think one can learn a language until fluency in 3m or 1y. It's simply not true, only... if you redefine fluency ;-)

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  47. @luke (and anyone else who's interested) we decided to stick with "Because the word is more than just a tool" because here "the word" is intended to be a symbol of language. You can read more about it here http://www.englishfocused.com/2011/02/definitive-article.html, including a not entirely definitive look at articles.

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  48. For what it's worth... the whole point of Benny is not some magic way to start speaking. All he tries to communicate is that if you want to speak, you should speak, and if you want to write, you should write. Isn't it utterly nonsense to spend years on listening to be able to speak? Where is your experience on speaking then? He is not even lying on the 3 months part, because I did that as well (with Brazilian Portuguese). Actually anything you really like to do, you are going to do better and better just by doing it, whether it's languages, music, art, programming, blogging or whatever. I would love to hear from you what interests you so much that you can dedicate every moment not doing something else on it. Tell me then if you didn't start to really get it in 3 months...

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  49. > Isn't it utterly nonsense to spend years on listening to be able to speak?

    Right on. Why would you look at chip designs before you build a computer from scratch? Do it right now! Why would you let a kid see how to swim before throwing it in the water! Utter nonsense! Why should you look at the book that you're about to copy? Just start with the copying, don't waste time paying attention to what you're about to copy, just do it!

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  50. Hi! Your blog has been nominated for our Top 100 Language Lovers 2011 competition.
    Read more here: http://www.lexiophiles.com/featured-articles/top-100-language-lovers-2011-competition-starts-today-%E2%80%93-nominate-your-favorite
    Good luck!
    Giulia - On behalf of the bab.la and Lexiophiles team

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  51. Very interesting post, and very well written... I hope to be a polyglot one day, but still have yet to feel comfortable calling myself 'fluent' in even one of my second languages...! Someday, though...I'll get there! Anyway, a good read, and I look forward to reading more of your blog!

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  52. hmmm..... fluency is a very broad term. Though, I have been watching some polyglots on youtube and some of them claim to speak a language but I can't understand it at all when they speak. So yes, I agree that there are some fake polyglots out there.

    But what I want to get out, is that anyone can learn a language and become fluent free of charge. There are TONS of free online sources to use.

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  53. Hi, I just read this post after following a link to it at the LingQ forum, and I posted a bit of a criticism of something you said there. Figured you might be interested in reading it.

    http://www.lingq.com/forum/1/19286/?page=2#post-134618

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  54. Hi Colin. Thank you for the link. It is nice to hear that people still remember my article in which I warn from falling for the pseudo-polyglots' dubious guidance. I always say I am sceptical of free rides in language learning but hey, you're free to believe what you like. Give Steve Kaufmann my regards.

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  55. I don't disagree with your article. My only point over at the LingQ forum is that people are not stupid of gullible for falling for the claims of the 'pseudo-polyglots' since they don't know better and have no reason to know better. This is a very minor point.

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  56. @ Eve. I wrote a similar article about "false prophets" (e.g. Irishpolyglot) and he was quick to send his legion of fans (which I suspect a few are false accounts he runs) to discredit what I had written. He even asked for the article to be removed from facebook. We have to ask ourselves if he was really a polyglot/selling something useful would he be so afraid? He is always quick to respond to any criticism which to me is telling of someone angrily trying to defend a business plan (scam) built on flimsy foundations. Good job with this article!

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  57. Excellent article! Thanks for calling out these charlatans. You have enumerated most, if not all, of my personal complaints here.

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