The Motivation of a Polyglot
Steve: Gabriel, how are you?
Gabriel: Good. Always a pleasure to be here, Steve.
Steve: Okay. Today I have the honor of the pleasure of talking to my friend Gabriel Silva, a fellow Vancouverite, a fellow polyglot originally from Brazil. And, uh, we're going to talk about two subjects. Uh, one why he's a polyglot, what he gets out of being a polyglot.
And two to touch again on the subject of that covered briefly with, uh, Leonardo of Portugal differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese. Remember if you enjoy these videos, please subscribe, click on the bell for notifications. And if you follow me on a podcast service, please leave a review.
Gabriel, uh, nice to see you. I'm in Palm Springs. Uh, with my fake bookshelf. You're I think in Vancouver.
Gabriel: I am.
Steve: You are a very accomplished, uh, polyglot. Uh, I have heard you in a number of languages, unrelated languages, Russian, Turkish, you name it. What motivates you? I know what motivates me, but I want to hear from you. And I think it'd be, it would be interesting for my viewers.
What do you get out of being a polyglot?
Gabriel: Well, I love, I absolutely love this question. And, uh, right now I think that, you know, the, my motivation goes through phases. Uh, initially when I started really learning and getting into languages, uh, it was because it was just individually attracted to different cultures.
So, uh, you know, it, it was, I learned English and it took me forever to learn English and really get to a very fluent level. And then I was just like, well, I could, I seemed to really suck at learning languages. So I just want to actually try to learn French and German. Then I started learning them at the same time.
And I, uh, I had a personal challenge that I wanted to be, uh, cause I love Paris. So I just actually, I lived there for, uh, for a year. I may go back. I don't know when, and, um, I had this personal challenge that I wanted to communicate with Parisians in French. And, uh, it also took me forever to accomplish that, to, to get to the point that my French was decent enough for Parisians not to switch to English immediately.
And, um, and then I was also really into, I actually dated a German girl, um, and then fell in love with the, with Germany. So I just, I would go there and I wanted to um, to learn German as well, especially because it seemed like such a difficult language. So it was also a bit of a challenge. So then when I, when I managed to learn those languages and reach fluency, it was just like, well, you know, like I, now I know how to learn language.
So I just started going, you know, getting into different ones and uh, because I was attracted to Russian literature, I thought like, why not someday learn Russian so that I can actually understand those stories? And I thought it was going to take me 20 years to learn Russian, but it was quicker than expected.
And then I started getting into Chinese and I started dabbling into a ton of languages. And then I found my, uh, an even greater motivation, which is actually something that I didn't, uh, originally suspect would really happen, but it's just how languages connect people. And I, that's something that I, that fascinates me so much because you know, one thing that I absolutely love to do, um, and this may seem random, but I just, like, I always like to, you know, strike up conversations on the streets.
Uh, I talk to random people like it was, uh, I was in London for a little while. Um, after I went, I lived in Paris and uh, it was just so much fun to just, you know, start, start off talking to people. And when you're a polyglot and you speak these, like these different languages and you, you know, you hear like whatever, I hear some Chinese start speaking Chinese.
I would hear some, uh, Turkish would be just like, oh, is that Turkish? Oh, you're from Turkey. And the barriers just disappear. It's just absolutely insane. How quickly they disappear.
Steve: I want to pick up on some of the things, some of the themes that you mentioned that I think are very important. First of all, we become a polyglot one language at a time.
Now we may study two languages at the same time, but we begin by learning one other language and then another language. So at the beginning on the sort of journey towards becoming a polyglot, it starts with one language. For whatever reason, we're motivated to learn one language. We're motivated to learn another language.
We realize we know how to do it. We can do it. And then it kind of snowballs. That's very much been my experience. The second thing you're saying is that languages connect us. And I think if we look at like, what's the purpose of life, I think we are never happier than when we are connecting with other people and we can connect with other people like in the here and now or through books and movies, and we can connect with people in far away countries or far away centuries. And so the opportunities to discover human... human beings, human activity is, is so much enhanced by learning different languages. So the things that you mentioned are absolutely, I totally agree with what you have to say there.
Gabriel: Absolutely, and like that I, one person that comes to mind is, uh, Ari, uh, Xioma New York city.
Gabriel: And he, because he, uh, and basically like I do, do some similar, like similar videos, like in a different kind of context really. Cause I, um... and he connects, he goes and he gets, uh, an amazing reaction from people because his Mandarin is so good. And, um, and it's just amazing to see how like, uh, barriers just like absolutely dissolve between people.
Steve: But It's important in doing that to make it about genuine communication and not simply about performing.
Steve: We have to make sure that we genuinely want to connect with those people. We don't want to just use them as a uh, I'm not saying that Ari does that, but I think it's very important to do, to do this whole thing with respect.
One other thing I should say, uh, you are a genuine polyglot, genuinely interested in people, in literature, in so many different things, but I should point out that one of your major activities at your YouTube channel you help Brazilians with their English or other languages. I'm not entirely sure. And, um, you know, Brazil, people, maybe don't fully realize that like it's like the United States, like it's 200 million people.
It's a huge country, a country with, again, a mixture of peoples from different parts of the world, including the indigenous people. It's a fascinating country with tremendous potential. And you're sort of, single-handedly helping them overcome the obstacles that language school has put in front of them in terms of learning languages.
What are some of your messages to your followers in, in Brazil?
Gabriel: I would say, you know, um, first one of my messages we will, for sure, like, listen to Steve, like check out his channel. He's got so much incredible advice. And second really is, you know, like what I always say, just like um, take language learning into your own hands, and don't really just depend on the little course that you bought and that you're, that you're doing because the language learning process is fun.
You should be engaged in it. You should, um, get exposure to the language as much as you can to do things that you like, do things that you enjoy. And, um, because a lot of students really have this passive attitude towards learning language, especially in Brazil... it's changing now.
Steve: Not especially Brazil, everywhere like it's...
Gabriel: Everywhere, everywhere.
Steve: Unless you live in Europe where the neighboring countries speak so many different languages. In Brazil, that's less motivation to learn I guess.
Gabriel: No, no... but the thing is just like, I think that, um, it's just because the, a lot of residents are very, they have have like a traditional mindset, more orthodox way of thinking. And, you know, there's nothing wrong with that, but just like the mentality is normally yeah like I'm just going to go take a course to learn a language and rely on that, rely on it and not go that much further, but it is changing.
And like you said, yeah, it's, it is a universal problem. Uh, too many, especially, for example, like in North America, first thing that pops up when you say, oh, Um, I'll pick up Duolingo or Rosetta Stone to learn a language. And that's just the way that people think about it. Normally like the average person, right.
If they, when it comes to learning a language.
Steve: If they go that far.
Gabriel: If they go that far. Exactly.
Steve: Listen, one last thing. Uh, we can talk forever. We all know. Um, so Brazil is this fascinating country, 200 million people. I'm not sure I have the stats right, but it's around 200 million people. Uh, and yet...
Gabriel: I think it's 210, maybe it's a very big.
Steve: 210. And Portugal in Europe is a much smaller country, 10 million people.
But of course, for Europeans, it's a much more likely tourist destination than Brazil because Brazil is that much further away. Uh, North Americans may be more likely to go to Brazil. But for people who want to learn the Portuguese language, how important are the differences between Portuguese in Europe, in, in, in, uh, Portugal or for that matter Mozambique or wherever else Portuguese is spoken versus the form of the language or the different regional forms of the language in Brazil? How important are all these regional varieties of the language?
Gabriel: Uh, I think that a lot of, uh, Portuguese people may disagree with me, but I would say that they're not that relevant really in the sense that, especially for instance, that that is a question that I get for English all the time, too, like, oh, should they learn British English or should they learn, uh, American English or Australian English if I'm going to Australia? I would say, learn English, learn the language, um, and then really worry about your, your specific, uh, local accent or dialect later. But of course that, you know, like you may encounter some minor issues if, uh, let's say you learn American English and then you move to Scotland.
Um, then you know, they have a very...
Steve: That's an extreme example, but yeah.
Gabriel: You're in Glasgow and then like, you're going to be struggling to understand. Then of course you can get a lot of exposure to content from that area to just get acquainted with the accent. And the funny thing too is just like, for instance, just even in the UK alone, there's so many regional accents.
Scouse is so different from, uh, an, any accent from the south or even the Jordie accent in Newcastle. But anyway, so the Portuguese basically, there is just so much, uh, content in Brazilian Portuguese, really. And in Brazil we have so many also like different accents, uh... so like basically, um, slang and all sorts of different things.
But I would say learn the language. And of course, um, Portuguese in Portugal is very beautifully spoken. It tends to be more formal. Uh, of course they have their slang. But, uh, often if you get exposure to a lot of content from Brazil, you may come across a lot of, uh, local slang and things that are going to be used in Brazil, but are not going to be used in Portugal.
And there will be, you know, vocab that's going to be different as well. I love Portugal, I've been there twice. And, uh, it was just very, very, like, I'm fascinated, um, about like the different little differences, you know, like sometimes there'd be just like a word that's just like, oh, you guys say that, you know...
Steve: Yeah, but, but you're at a very high level, obviously in all languages, but in particular, in your native language. I think the average beginner would have trouble telling whether this is Brazilian or Portuguese, wouldn't even know, um, as is true with Spanish as is true with all these other languages that have different regional areas.
So you can't even hear the difference. So beginners, shouldn't worry about these differences. They should just learn words. And certainly when I was learning Portuguese, I listened to both Portuguese and Brazilian. I want to be able to understand people, uh, wherever they may come from. And so I tend to feel that people make too much of an issue out of this.
You know, which variety are you going to learn? Is this Portuguese from Portugal or is it from Brazil? You have to get pretty good. You have to be well into intermediate before you can even hear the difference.
Gabriel: Yeah. Absolutely.
I think that like, friend, I've heard some people say like, oh, you know, Portuguese from Portugal sounds more like Russian to a foreign person versus Brazilian Portuguese may sound more like a, I don't know, like some broken form of Spanish or whatever, like to whoever doesn't speak the language or whatever.
But, um, yeah, I think that, you know, Steve, you're absolutely right because you need to learn the language then if you just really want to focus on a specific area, let's say that you're learning Portuguese and then you want to move to Lisbon or you want to move to Porto or, uh, versus São Paulo or Bahia, you know, you're going to, you can then later worry about, uh, um, the regional accents, the regional like slang way later in the game.
Steve: If you really don't know that language yet at all, you may think Portuguese sounds like Russian. Once you know words, you're more focused on the words. And at that point, the differences become less important. If you don't know the language at all, you would think that Greek and Casti... iberian Spanish are the same language because they have the same sounds, the same sounds. They don't have the same words at all.
But once you know the words, it's hard to tell if the person is Mexican or Spanish, because you're now focused on the words. And overwhelmingly in Portuguese, like from, from Europe or from Brazil, it's the same words. And it's the same grammar. Period. No more or less.
Gabriel: Yeah. W well, I say like, obviously, you know, the, the, the Portuguese, and that's something that I've noticed that in Portugal, for instance, they speak very, they speak very elegantly, you know, the, the Portuguese, they're very proud of, of the Portuguese language.
And even like, for example, like sometimes every now and then a Portuguese person says like, oh, Hey, you know, like, listen, this is Brazilian. That's not Portuguese. You know, th that's a different language, but it's, it is the Portuguese language, of course, that, you know, there, there are many, um, you know, differences, uh, in terms of specially vocab in, in the, in the long run.
But when it comes to, when it comes down to it, it is the same language, essentially. And it's the same thing, for example, like, let's say let's take Spanish, for instance, someone from Colombia, normally the Colombian accent is regarded as very clean and pure. Um, they speak very clearly and so on. So, and then if you take someone from Chile, Chile has a lot of, uh, you know, they have like a lot of um, slang. They, they cut the words and especially because they they're more geographically isolated right by the Andes and stuff, Andes? I don't know. Um, so then if you, but you know, if you, if you're going to move to Chile, you're going to learn Spanish anyway. Then later you like, when you're, like you said, when you're at an intermediate level, then you're going to be, you know, wanting to focus on the regional accent and so on, but it is the Spanish language. It doesn't really...
Steve: Trouble with Gabriel is that we always agree on everything. So on that point of agreement, learn Portuguese, it's a wonderful language there's I don't know, 250 million speakers around the world. Just learn that language.
Don't worry about which version and that applies to whether you're learning Portuguese or Spanish or French or English or Chinese or any other language. Gabriel, as usual, I, we could speak for hours, but maybe we'll just stop it there and thank you very much for coming on my channel.
Gabriel: Sounds good. Always a great pleasure, Steve.