A while back, I posted an article asking “Who Is Your Language God?”. Without even reading it, many people assumed I was referring to the various polyglots and hyperpolyglots that many in the language community idolized and wanted to learn from.

My article then was actually talking about “real” gods, goddesses, and saints who had some influence on languages. It looked at the likes of Hermes, Thoth, St. Cyril, and Ogma. It revisited the Tower of Babel story from the non-Bible side.

In that article, I proclaimed that Marduk was my language god.

This post is about the what people thought the first one was about: those elite few who seem to have mastered the ability to learn languages and speak multiple tongues with surprising ease. They are the ones we envy and aspire to be like. The ones who become the voice of our multilingual community. Our royalty. Our superheroes. Our idols.

When I started working with a language community, it was the one we were building back in 2000 with the learning community, UniLang. This was the pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, pre-Memrise, pre-Duolinguo days, back before “blogging” was a thing. Language enthusiasts were still everywhere, but we were just beginning to find ways to bring them together. How To Learn any Language (HTLAL) and The Polyglot Club were two other communities that we saw growing around us.

The names we recite now, such as Benny Lewis, Richard Simcott, Alex Rawlings, Olly Richards, Luca Lampariello, Tim Doner, Jimmy Mello, Conor Clyne, and Steve Kaufmann were in the mix of others and only really beginning (most of them) to make themselves a force. A few, like Moses McCormick and Judith Meyer, were even members of UniLang.

Besides Benny Lewis (who I think was around at the time Ireland itself was born), there was only one other person’s name who I really knew and considered an influential player in the world of language learners. Surprisingly, I didn’t know him for any personal language skills, but rather, for what he had brought to the community of online learners, working the same as we were at UniLang: to create resources and materials for others.

That man, if the title is not too beneath his caliber, is Simon Ager.

In the present, you have most probably heard his name and perhaps even met him at some of the gatherings and events. If you don’t know the name, you must at least know his website: Omniglot.

For almost two decades, Omniglot has been a treasure trove of language information on the Internet. If you want information on a language, its alphabet, basic vocabulary, etc., then Omniglot is the place to go. Even now, with the multitudes of sites, blogs, and wikis, Omniglot still stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of sheer knowledge it holds.

I have never met Simon face-to-face, but I have spoken to him a few times via email about a programming idea. He has never seemed to me like one seeking attention for his work. Instead, he just continues to add more to his site so that we all may continue to benefit.

That is what makes him my language God.

Who do you praise, idolize, or respect for their work with languages, and why?

  • dandiprat

    I like Steve Kaufmann. Even though I’ve never used Lingq before because since I became aware of it, it hasn’t had any languages I wanted to learn, I still like his methods of an emphasis on reading and listening at the beginning. That really strikes a chord with my experience with learning languages and I don’t really like the speak from day one approach.

    • Erik Zidowecki

      The “speak from day one” approach sounds like good advice to me, but not something everyone is comfortable with. I can say some words or phrases to my cat, but speaking directly to a person just freezes me up. I like getting magazines in a language.