Patt Morrison for March 13, 2012

Beyond bilingual: Hyperpolyglots know dozens of languages, show off on YouTube

Timothy Doner, 16, speaking Pashto in a video online, is a hyperpolygot who knows more than 11 languages.

It’s a small world after all, and especially when you can speak multiple languages, and post your prowess on YouTube.

A recent New York Times article highlights the lingual feats of New York City 16-year-old Timothy Doner, who knows more than a dozen languages, including Latin, Yiddish and Russian, and first made a splash posting an online video of him speaking Arabic.

Doner, known as a polyglot, someone who knows three or more languages, is part of a growing community of people across the country and around the globe that not only love language, but seek out learning them in bulk. Linguist Michael Erard, author of the recently published book “Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners,” says YouTube has become a global platform for these folks to put their abilities on display, prove themselves and challenge others.

It’s a misconception that Americans avoid learning multiple languages, he says, adding that the U.S. Census Bureau shouldn’t just ask if people speak a language other than English at home. Who knows, they may speak many on YouTube!

Moses McCormick on speaking Arabic in the streets:

Timothy Doner speaking Pashto:

WEIGH IN:

How many languages do you speak fluently, or conversationally? Do you know anyone who knows three or more languages? Is it a misconception that Americans frown on lingual expertise?

Guests:

Michael Erard, linguist, author, “Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners”

Moses McCormick, Ohio-based language consultant who runs the program “Foreign Language Roadrunning” and has posted dozens of videos to YouTube of him speaking multiple languages, including Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Cantonese, Korean, Russian and Arabic.


blog comments powered by Disqus