Female Polyglots and Language Learners – Where Are You?

By   April 19, 2011

The lovely Susanna, author of Language is Music, and I were talking about the lack of female polyglots online even though most language classes have higher enrollment of women than men and many language teachers are female rather than male.

Most polyglots online – especially on YouTube – are men and we can’t seem to find many blogs dedicated to learning languages written by women. I imagine it has more to do with certain personality traits (bragging has come up often in forum discussions) and who uses the internet and for what purposes rather than anything else, so I would like to hear from female polyglots on why or why not they have a blog/website. I certainly know a ton of female expat and travel bloggers, but I’d like to know more female polyglots, so if you’re reading this, let me know!

Language learning blogs by women (some no longer updated):

See and Speak with the World (Susanna’s blog)

Judith’s Language Learning Blog

Diary of an Eternal Student (formerly Aspiring Polyglot)

ich estudio langues

Baby-Steps to Fluency

These are just a few personal blogs that I’ve been following over the past year or two, but of course there are many female contributors to larger sites such as Lexiophiles, Multilingual Mania, Transparent Language blogs, etc. Can you recommend other blogs by female authors?

  • Gábor

    Well, it’s not the same thing, but one of our (I’m from Hungary) greatest polyglots and I dare say one of the most remarkable twentieth-century polyglots (also, my role model) was a woman. I’m talking about Kató Lomb. She translated from/into 16 different languages and she did conference interpretation in 4 of them without preparation. She never stopped studying languages, she was learning Hebrew the year she died (2003) if I’m not mistaken. So there. But other than her, I really can’t think of anyone, weird. It’s probably due to psychological differences and whatnot, as stated in the entry.

    I would also love to hear from you, polygot ladies, so please, do leave a comment.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ascensions Liv Jones

    Agree. I think we have a knack for it built into our brains.

  • Kate

    Is it because when women study/learn/pick up languages, it’s considered ‘normal’ so we don’t tend to consider it worth shouting about whereas men take more pride in it because they aren’t always considered natural linguists?

  • http://18french.blogspot.com Wendy

    I started a learning-French blog recently. I thought it would help keep me motivated. In the few months that I’ve been reading language and polyglot blogs, I’ve noticed the male-dominated thing, too. Other kinds of blogs I read (food/cooking, books, simple living) have plenty of women bloggers. But it seems like a LOT of the active language blogs have… I don’t necessarily mean this in a bad way, but a sort of self-focused tone. And that’s natural–how else can you talk about learning something? In a food blog you can spend a whole post just talking about the attributes of a particular dish, where to buy the ingredients or how to make it or whatever; in a book blog you talk about the books. In a language-learning blog you talk primarily about yourself and your successes and failures–or at least, that seems like the common template. If it isn’t that, it’s pronouncements about good or bad ways to learn languages.

    Women are so encouraged to be other-focused, and I think a lot of women want to learn a language for other people; if they want to learn it for themselves, I think they’re less likely to be upfront about that. Not conducive to blogging the process.

    I know I feel a little weird because MY blog feels self-indulgent; I feel pressure from myself to think up posts I can write that aren’t just about me and my learning–even though that’s the whole point of the blog, and even though I enjoy reading others’ accounts of their learning processes!

    • http://twitter.com/_Pablo_ Pablo Fernández

      Learning languages for others? I never thought that could happen (unless it’s like “learning because you need it at work” and such). I’m wondering what exactly you mean.
      Still, yours is and interesting viewpoint!


  • Bobbi

    Funny that you’re asking this question as I’m off to the airport for a vacation in Switzerland, Northern Italy and Munich. I’ve packed a German grammar book for the plane to continue my 6 month efforts to teach myself enough to feel comfortable. I’ve been thinking about starting a blog about globalness – languages, art, literature, travel, photography, politics. Your post about where are the women polyglots/bloggers is interesting. Hmmm…I’m hardly a polyglot but I do also know a fair amount of French which I’ve been working on the past year and have been wondering about starting Spanish since I live in LA and could listen, watch and talk all the time if I wanted to. As to why so few female language bloggers, I agree that bragging could be part of it. I learn languages because it makes me feel good. Counting the number of study hours logged and badgering people about how to learn and why my way is the best way, that’s not just my style.

    If I actually do start a blog when I return, I’ll get back to you and let you know.

  • Ellen

    I’m a polyglot, and female, and do have a blog, but I don’t really blog about learning languages. I do write about language, languages, my work as a translator and, occasionally, about being a working at home mum. http://workingathometranslatormum.wordpress.com/

  • Pingback: Girls vs guys and the dancing-monkey reason to learn a language | Fluent in 3 months()

  • Anonymous

    Could it be that some women don’t show their language skills because they will be asked to communicate for someone else, fulfilling the “caretaker” role assigned to women? I know that in my case, being a polyglot was more of a pain than a benefit for most of my life because I got stuck translating and interpreting for others who couldn’t communicate or who were too lazy to even try. So I resented showing my language skills because I’d get roped into doing something I hated. Men are less likely to be forced into a “caretaker” or “nurture” role.

  • Pingback: Why female foreign language students or speakers may not practice or show their languages | Be global! Learn languages. Travel the world.()

  • Pingback: Where are the Girls? A Guest Post by Susanna Zaraysky « SYZYGY ON LANGUAGES()

  • http://diaryofaneternalstudent.wordpress.com/ Kelly M

    Thanks for the mention, Jennie! I have to admit that language learning has fallen to the side thanks to other projects, work and other real life commitments. The Failing Polyglot would be a far more appropriate nickname these days.. 😉

  • Margaret

    A friend of mine has just moved to Lyon and is blogging (in English) about the what she’s learning as she brushes up on the French language. She’s also fluent in Italian, I believe. Her blog is “Just a Mot”, http://just-a-mot.blogspot.com/.

  • Fasulye-Babylonia

    Hi together! I am a female polyglot speaking 7 languages (GER, NL, FR, ITA, SPA, ENG, ESP) and studying my target language Danish. I am active in the internet because I like the exchange with other language learners and polyglots. My website: http://fasulyespolyglotblog.blogspot.com
    There might be a language hurdle because the main language of my blog is Dutch. Looking forward to making new contacts! Fasulye

  • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

    Female polyglot here! =D I’m fluent in Japanese and French besides my native English, and I can get by in Mandarin and Spanish. I’m currently learning Russian. My blog has only been up for a few months now, but I do have one where I sometimes write about language stuff (though ironically my last post is about how I’m “not a language blogger”… haha). I’ve posted a few videos on Youtube too. My blog is here: http://www.janafadness.com/blog/

    Your blog is great, by the way! It’s really interesting for me because I’m actually going to France soon and will be staying there for 10 months as an au pair. So all the cultural information here is really good to know!

  • Learn english in canada

    I also agree with Brenda Fernandez. thank you for sharing.

  • Ketutar Jensen

    I was surprised to find this blog entry.
    I haven’t been thinking about gender when I think about learning languages. Gender is totally irrelevant and uninteresting to me.
    But, when pointed out like this, sure – there seems to be an imbalance there. I don’t know if there is in real life, because how many polyglot blogs by men are there, really? Benny, of course… and… er… Yeah. I think most polyglots are studying (or learning) languages and not writing blogs.

    Now there seems to be an upsurge of young roosters who see learning languages as some sort of sport, so there’s a competition of who collects most languages in shorters time 😀 I recognize myself in that “collect the whole series”. I want to know ALL the languages of the world NOW. I want to know the mostest languages, and not only those every one else knows, but also the most difficult and rarest and so on. Nevertheless, this must be documented in some manner, so people are having blogs and vlogs about polyglottism. And, it seems to me this roostery is mostly a male phenomenon. I suppose it has something to do with hunting and coupes and so on. There must be something to make men want to get stronger, faster, sharper, better to hunt and fight, so that they will hunt and fight with success, so they were born with competitiveness… You can see I believe in the stoneage theory – men are hunters, women gatherers. In a gathering culture being strong, quick and sharp is not important, but having a good memory and mind, being persistant and careful and so on… Now, both “natures” are good for learning languages, but in different ways.

    I have a blog about my learning of languages.
    I’m at the moment taking the 52 in 52 challenge. I have Asperger’s, which means, I am really intensively focused on the subject of my interest, but as I have several intersts, I am focused on one subject at a time, and it’s languages now – 24/7 – I’ll be thinking, speaking, reading, writing, eating and sleeping languages – but tomorrow – one of the tomorrows – I will be obsessing about something else.
    Nevertheless, I have the blog for two reasons (and a little for boasting too :-D)
    1) I want to keep the internet resources in one place. I am really interested in languages, and my notes and bookmarks disappear when my computer crashes, and in the last 10 years that has happened 3 times.
    2) I want to share my experiences and insights that might help others.

    BTW, that “medical translation services” is spam. I wonder if you could delete it?

  • PolyglotNot

    I’m female and wouldn’t really call myself a polyglot though I’d like to get there. Considered starting a blog and was reading others when I found this. I’m not sure what could be the cause of the gender imbalance other than bragging/competitiveness. I’m now a bit scared to start a blog in case it seems like bragging. Then again my learning attempts aren’t going so well and I usually abandon blogs after a few weeks so maybe I should try. I was going to do it mainly to give myself motivation.

  • http://languagewanderer.wordpress.com/ Mariola

    An interesting insight:) I’m not a polygot, rather an aspiring one:) I love learning foreign languages and currently I’m writng a blog about my adventure with Norwegian:)

  • Future Polyglot

    Hi. I don’t consider myself a polyglot, but I speak two other languages fluently besides my native (English) which are Spanish and German. I plan to learn at least ten and (not bragging) I don’t think it will take me too long because I pick up languages really quickly. 😉
    What I find interesting is that when I talk to men about my languages they go on to explain how both Spanish and German are extremely easy (despite never having attempted them themselves) and could be learned by anyone. Normally when I tell them about the genders/case system in German they shut up though.

  • Signe

    I´m a female polyglot. I have learnt 17 languages,understand more & keep quiet because of people´s reaccion . I´ve always been aware & worried about low percentage of female polyglots,existent or visible,who knows. Men tend to have more time or need for themselves & their conquers,as women normally end up being multitaskers with fragmented days & no spare time.

  • http://lindsaydoeslanguages.com Lindsay Does Languages

    A bit late to the post but I only started blogging in January. I’m a female, a language blogger and I guess a polyglot! I came across this post via Fluentlanguage.co.uk and it’s interesting to see how long ago you wrote this as I’ve been thinking of writing something similar for a while. :)

  • wizdude21

    I see that male polyglots are obsessed with the languages they’re learning, female wannabes are obsessed with trying to be like men

    • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie Wagner

      What a ridiculous and sexist thing to say.

      Try again. You are better than that.