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How To Learn 30 Languages - Articles Surfing
I always knew that growing up in a bilingual home had its advantages. It not only enabled me to bridge the differences between cultures and countries, but it opened up a world of possibilities that would otherwise probably have been closed to me. I was raised speaking two languages: English and Spanish.
At our home we never thought twice about switching languages. What I also discovered was that no one in my family suffered from any mental handicaps because of our upbringing. The demands from learning other languages on our brain actually enriched our lives.
Sadly, I never learnt a third or fourth language, but I would have loved to, especially today that my professional work involves translation services.
I have always been fascinated by people who speak many languages and I wondered if you needed to be a genius to master many languages.
To answer this question, it was time to do a little digging. It made sense to start by learning about the boundaries of the possible and figure out what science had to tell us about our ability to speak many languages.
People that speak many languages are known as polyglots. It is common to find polyglots in places like Europe, where people have contact with and access to other languages. But there is another category of polyglots often known as hyperpolyglots: people who can speak more than 10 languages.
There are many examples in history of people who claimed to have been hyperpolyglots. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language lists a Sir John Bowring (1792-1872), a British diplomat who could speak 100 languages. Sir Richard Burton, the famous British explorer who discovered the sources of the Nile River, is rumored to have spoken dozens of languages and a handful of dialects. Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti (1774-1849), an Italian priest, is thought to have spoken 88 languages.
It is difficult to assess the language abilities of people who lived 200 years ago, and my search would necessarily need to be focused on today's world. I found that one of the most famous living hyperpolyglots is Carlos do Amaral Freire, a Brazilian linguist who claims to communicate in, and understand more than, 30 languages.
Is 30 or even 100 languages the limit of our capacity? Mr. Freire doesn't think there is a limit; he is still learning languages at a rate of 2 a year.
What does it take to learn many languages? Is Mr. Freire a genius with special mental abilities?
German researchers found that polyglots don't need high IQ's or even be mental gymnasts to achieve hyperpolyglotism. German neuroscientists found that even though we don't need special mental gifts to learn many languages, the morphology of the brain itself significantly changes as it learns more languages.
Other studies suggest that although some people are proficient in 10 or more languages, most of these people can only speak 7 languages fluently. There is still much research to be done in this area.
Now that you know that you don't need to be a genius, you can be confident that you too can become a polyglot. Learning a new language takes three things:
1) Determination ' Just do it;
2) Access ' Have access to communicate in the foreign language of your choice;
And, if you are shooting to be the next world hyperpolyglot, repeat these steps at least 10 times!
Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).
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