The SLA Investments of Garfield, an Exceptionally Multilingual American
The Multiple Investments of a Super Polyglot in his Lifelong Second Language Acquisition
This project both investigates and seeks to honor the incredible life of one multilingual man, Garfield (pseudonym), an American war veteran, lifelong language learner, and super polyglot.
This project was not IRB-approved, due to the project’s urgency (the participant’s health concerns). It has been conducted as if it were, with the participant having consented in writing.
Within the area of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) polyglots are severely under-studied, particularly with regard to questions of investment (Norton & Darvin, 2015). Garfield’s ability to speak 15 languages raises the question itself: what propelled and sustained this exceptional amount of language learning?
Data was collected via two audio-recorded phone interviews totaling 10 hours. The initial interview solicited Garfield’s life-long trajectory of language learning, while the second interview sought Garfield’s verification of emerging themes. Data was transcribed and analyzed qualitatively using the software Transana.
Recurrent themes were identified. Among the preliminary findings are that economic factors were primal to his study. Specifically, growing up in poverty, and later as a returned vet, being homeless, , shaped Garfield’s perception of language-learning materials as precious objects.
A second area of emerging themes is Garfield’s need to prove himself in the eyes of others. From fearing the special needs classroom after a childhood coma, to encountering bureaucratic obstacles as an adult, Garfield used SLA as a tool to prove his worth.
Findings offers insights into the structures that hinder and facilitate a polyglot’s SLA.