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--- On Wed, 9/21/11, David Peterson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Results:
> 
> Average: 6.5
> Median: 5
> Mode: 3
> High: 34
> Low: 1

Even given the rather loose interpretation of the rules on the 
participants' part, I'm rather surprised at how low the average is. I would
have expected that conlangers, as a group, would be more voracious in their
studies of languages. I think most of us simply counted up *all* the
languages we've studied, not just those we studied with the express
intent of using. If I were to go by the strict interpretation of the
rules, my answer would be ZERO. Yes, ZERO. I'd have to throw out English,
being my native language; and I'd have to throw out ALL the others,
because I never had any intention of using them! And the one language I
am learning, with the intention of using it, I am not studying! But am
learning by osmosis, much the way a child learns, though probably
rather slower.

I thought my 12 or so would be closer to average, with some up in the 20s.

> Comments:
> 
> If you throw out the high of 34 (which was a true outlier),
> the average comes down to just over 6, which is still
> significant. I think it's worth noting that there were *no*
> responses of zero—that is, there was no one who spoke just
> one language and had never attempted to learn another.

Agreed -- I think six is far more languages than almost every American
studies with the intent to use. Though to be honest, "intent to use" is a
bit of a steep criterion to overcome. Foreign service, military,
UN, work overseas -- those folks have "intent to use". High school kids
and most college students don't really have "intent to use" so much 
as "need to fulfil graduation requirements".

> The most common response (three) is one I find pretty good!
> If a given person learns to fluency three languages other
> than their own, they'll be tetralingual, which is pretty
> good.

I don't recall "fluency" being a criterion!

> Though that's not what these statistics say literally,
> I would venture that your average conlanger will feel pretty
> good about using three languages other than their own, and
> will feel less confident (but would still be able) to
> produce something from three or four others. There are, of
> course, exceptions going either way, but to me that sounds
> about right.
> 
> Since I was planning a comparison to the average American,

Who is probably "fluent" in one (or, sadly, fewer) language, including
his native language. I was listening to a fellow read from a 19th
century novel in the lunch room at work the other day. The reaction from
some of the other folks was dismissive of that "old language" that no
one can understand anymore. !! 

But I suppose this isn't surprising, what with tweets and barely legible
texts becoming the basic mode of communication for so many people!

> I really should've stuck with American conlangers, but this
> is an international list: That would be no fun! If anything,
> it might've caused the numbers to skew high, which, since we
> discounting Esperanto entirely, isn't a nightmare.

Honestly, I think designing a more formal questionnaire and posting a
reasonable set of rules up front would have better served your purpose.
Given what you've said in this message, and given the discussion we saw
on list, I think your data are probably very inaccurate to say the least.

I for one would be interested in seeing a better questionnaire on this
topic, perhaps divided into a US and a world-wide (apart from the US)
sections.

Padraic

> I asked the first session how many languages they thought
> they average conlanger had studied in the way described
> above, and most everyone in the audience guessed between two
> and three. I was actually expecting them to guess way over
> (like nine or ten), so it was nice to be able to surprise
> them a bit.
> 
> For a potential future survey (or surveys), it'd probably
> be most interesting to add more variables—for example,
> oral confidence, aural confidence, written confidence and
> reading confidence—to show not only how many languages one
> has studied, but how well one has studied and retained
> them.
> 
> Thanks to all those who participated! I appreciated the
> quick and enthusiastic response.
> 
> David Peterson
> LCS President
> [log in to unmask]
> www.conlang.org
>