The word “hyper” is not neutral. If you throw it into a conversation, 9 out of 10 people will assume that you are referencing “hyperactive”. Which by itself is almost a medical condition. It is 1/4 of ADHD, and frankly the only part of that disorder that most people would notice.
Is hyper even a word? Some dictionaries classify it as an adjective, but I think of it as a prefix. Webster allows for both. As an adjective (so a stand-alone word) it is defined as an abbreviation of “hyperactive”. But the prefix is broader:
1. Above, beyond (why am I suddenly thinking of Buzz Lightyear?)
2. Excessive or excessively
3. Bridging points non-sequentially (like a hyperlink)
So, if I use the word “hyper” then I am either preparing a diagnosis, or talking about something that takes an existing idea or strategy and takes it to an almost illogical extension – like a hypermarket.
All of this has come to mind over the past four weeks as I have started this Project and begun delving into the online world of the “linguistically obsessed”. Perhaps obsession is too strong a word, but there is certainly a trainspotting element to some language fans.
This all came together in my mind when the language twitter-verse popped (there aren’t enough of us to qualify for an explosion – sorry guys and gals) over the results of a contest by HarperCollins to promote their language software.
Following up on the frenzy of interest in language learning (read – a journo decided to do a follow-up piece), the BBC published a piece looking at hyperpolyglots, based upon a book by Michael Erard entitled, Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners (Michael: if your book sales spike suddenly, drop me a line).
Beyond the question of “Why is 11 languages a watershed?”, the article made me think about this little project. My stated goal is to assess different methods of language learning, to see which works best for me and what positive and negative experiences I can report back to the watching (reading?) world.
But am I just a trainspotter, comparing verb constructions like steam locomotives? Is it possible for me to discuss my project at a social event, without disappearing up my own anorak? Come to think of it, do I even attend social events any more?
Let us remain optimistic. I hope that I will be able to continue with my experiment in language learning. I hope that the outcomes will have some interest if not relevance to the reading public. I hope there is a reading public. And I hope that I may once again attend social events.
With real people.