When I hear people saying “I know 7 languages”, I generally have second thoughts about this. For me, without putting too much effort and too much time, one cannot be fluent enough; 7 languages mean a whole life effort 🙂 I know French, I can translate from French with the huge help of (!) a dictionary but it is hard-almost impossible- for me to communicate in French. When I say “I know French”, I hesitate. I just know how to translate from French. When I went to France, after 2 days I got confidant and began to start daily conversations but that’s all…
However, it is said that there are people who can really know and speak many many languages. In her article, Marla Popova talks bout these people and she also introduce a novel on the same issue: “Babel No More”. Thanks to Paul Sulzberger, I discovered this article and this book on Twitter. I consider buying this book. My birthday is coming. Anyone thinking about buying me a present? 🙂
“Nineteenth-century Italian cardinal Giuseppe Mezzofanti, a legend in his day, was said to speak 72 languages. Hungarian hyperpolyglot Lomb Kató, who taught herself Russian by reading Russian romance novels, insisted that “one learns grammar from language, not language from grammar.” Legendary MIT linguist Ken Hale, who passed away in 2001, had an arsenal of 50 languages and was rumored to have once learned the notoriously difficult Finnish while on a flight to Helsinki. Just like extraordinary feats of memory, extraordinary feats of language serve as a natural experiment probing the limits of the human brain — Mezzofanti maintained that “god” had given him this particular power, but did these linguistic superlearners really possess some significant structural advantage over the rest of us in how their brains were wired? That’s precisely what journalist and self-described “metaphor designer” Michael Erard explores in Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners — the first serious investigation into the phenomenon of seemingly superhuman multilingual dexterity and those who have, or claim to have, mastered it, and a fine addition to our favorite books about language…For the rest, click here.”
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