Famous polyglots. Truth and fiction about polyglots
In this article about polyglots, we will present the most common myths about those who successfully study foreign languages, as well as tell you about the famous polyglots in the world.
A polyglot is a person who can communicate in several languages. History has known enough polyglots whose knowledge simply amazes the imagination of most people, but sometimes it happens that a polyglot is also an outstanding person in some other field.
The most famous polyglots in the world
Famous polyglot women – Cleopatra
Cleopatra is certainly the first known female polyglot. The ancient Greek writer, philosopher and public figure Plutarch wrote that Cleopatra’s voice was easily tuned “to any mood – to any dialect, so that only with very few barbarians she spoke through an interpreter, and most often she talked to foreigners – Ethiopians, Troglodytes, Jews, Arabs, Syrians, Medes, Parthians… It is said that Cleopatra learned many other languages, while the kings who ruled before her did not even know Egyptian.” Such knowledge certainly helped the woman to become an effective leader. It is also worth mentioning that she managed to learn all these languages very early, since she died at the age of 39.
Famous polyglots in the world – Nikola Tesla
This great scientist discovered alternating current, fluorescent light, and also wireless energy transmission. However, not everyone knows that Tesla knew 9 languages: Serbian, Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian and Latin. In learning foreign languages, the scientist was helped by the peculiarity of his psyche, which consisted in the fact that he easily remembered words and whole expressions as images: he had an obsessive-compulsive disorder. It turned out that the disease helped him in such a difficult task as learning foreign languages.
Hyper Polyglot James Joyce
Writer, author of the famous “Ulysses”, which is included in the list of “100 best books of all time”, compiled according to the Norwegian Book Club based on a survey of 100 writers around the world. Ulysses is a modernist novel by Irish writer James Joyce. It was first published in parts in the American magazine The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920
James Joyce was a super polyglot, having mastered 17 languages, including Arabic, Sanskrit, Greek and Italian. In order to overcome his fear of thunder and lightning, he came up with a 100-letter word that he pronounced at an alarming moment. It consisted of a set of words with the meaning “lightning” in different languages. It helped the great writer.
Russian polyglot – Leo Tolstoy
According to the contemporaries of the Russian writer, he freely used English, German, Turkish, French, Tatar. At the intermediate level, he spoke: Latin, Ukrainian, Church Slavonic, Greek, Bulgarian. Leo Tolstoy could translate from: Czech, Serbian, Polish, Italian. In addition, he studied Dutch and Hebrew.
Polyglots are unique people. How did Leo Tolstoy manage to learn so many languages? Tolstoy had a huge library that had been collected in his family for centuries. Reading was just the main goal for a writer when learning languages. And of course the books helped him in this. From the very first classes, he gradually tried to read the originals in the language he was studying. Also, the writer got great pleasure from such studies.
Еhe writer is a polyglot. His wife Sofya Tolstaya wrote in a letter about her husband: “Since December, she has been studying Greek hard. He sits for days and nights. It is clear that nothing in the world interests and pleases him anymore, like every newly learned Greek word and a newly understood turn. He used to read Xenophon, now Plato, then the Odyssey and the Iliad, which he admires terribly. He loves it very much when you listen to his oral translation and correct it, comparing it with Gnedich, whose translation he finds very good and conscientious. His success in Greek, as it seems in all inquiries about the knowledge of others and even those who have completed a course at the university, turn out to be almost incredibly great.”
The famous modern polyglot Natalie Portman
We will also include in our list the highest-paid actress of our time, as well as the clever and beautiful Natalie Portman. It is impressive not only that the woman managed to graduate from Harvard with honors, build a career, but also that she can speak Hebrew (her native language), English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. Among the celebrities of our time, she is one of the leaders.
Canadian polyglot Steve Kaufman
Steve Kaufman is a polyglot from Canada, a former diplomat, then a businessman engaged in international trade. I started learning languages at the age of 17 on my own, having become disillusioned with traditional approaches. But the most active stage of study began at the age of 55 — and continues to this day. At his advanced age, Steve leads an active lifestyle, does not stop studying, does sports and releases a very interesting video blog (mainly in English) on YouTube, where he talks about his experience of learning different languages and along the way about his brainchild LingQ.com . Steve often noted that everything he has achieved in life, he owes a lot to his command of languages. As the founder of LingQ, the writer is a polyglot Steve Kaufman learned 10 languages.
How many languages do polyglots know? It should be said that basically all polyglots know 2-3 languages at a high level, and the rest are proficient at the “survival” level, that is, they can communicate on simple topics. Writer Anthony Burgess spoke 12 languages.
Another interesting feature of polyglots is that the first foreign language is always given the hardest and takes a long time to learn, and the subsequent ones are mastered much faster and are given easier. It is especially easy to learn languages of the same group, for example, Italian, French and Spanish.
Famous polyglots. Article about polyglots – common myths and opinions
Myth #1: Polyglots are people with special abilities for languages
Some people believe that polyglots do not need to strain at all: languages themselves are assimilated in their head without effort and occupation. There is an opinion that those who know many languages have a different brain structure, they easily perceive and reproduce information, grammar is given to them without study, by itself, etc.
A polyglot is an ordinary person who likes to learn several languages and who makes every effort to do so. There is no such person who could not become a polyglot, because this does not require any special knowledge or mindset. All you need is work and passion.
Myth #2: Polyglots have a unique memory
What is the memory of polyglots? There is an opinion that all polyglots have a phenomenal memory, so they are easily given any languages. People believe that polyglots remember the meanings of absolutely all unfamiliar words and grammatical constructions from the very first time, so they can easily speak the language they are learning later.
The Truth about Polyglots:
Polyglots have a really good memory, but many people confuse cause and effect: it is the study of languages that develops memory, and not unique innate abilities that make it possible to learn a language. Indeed, there are people who can boast of a unique memory, but this does not make them polyglots. The fact is that simply memorizing words or phrases for a full-fledged language learning is not enough.
Myth #3: Polyglots started learning languages at a young age
Another popular myth goes something like this: “Polyglots are people who were taken to language courses by their parents from childhood. It is easier for children to study, so today these people easily speak several foreign languages.”
The Truth about Polyglots:
For the most part, polyglots are people who are in love with foreign languages. And this love came already at a conscious age. Those who learned foreign languages in childhood have no advantages over adult learners. Most linguists and psychologists are convinced that languages are even easier for adults, because an adult, unlike a child, consciously takes this step.
Myth #4: Polyglots can learn any language in 3-5 months
The question of the need to learn English and other languages is especially relevant today, so almost every day we read another article or watch an interview with a polyglot. These people sometimes claim to have learned a foreign language in 3-5 months.
The Truth about Polyglots:
How long do polyglots learn the language? In fact, polyglots rarely specify what they mean by the phrase “I learned the language in 5 months.” As a rule, during this time a person has time to learn the basics of grammar and basic vocabulary in order to explain himself in everyday communication. But to talk about more complex topics, for example, about life and the structure of the Universe, any person needs more than 5 months. Those who speak several languages really well will tell you that they have been studying them for more than one year, constantly improving their knowledge. Therefore, if you plan to advance beyond the language level of “reading, translating with a dictionary”, prepare not for 3-5 months, but at least for 1-2 years of learning the first foreign language “from scratch”.
Myth #5: Polyglots have a lot of free time
When we read articles about polyglots, it seems that they only do what they do from morning to night giving interviews and telling how they managed to achieve success in the field of learning foreign languages. Hence the myth arose that those who do not work learn languages, they say, they have mastered English simply “from nothing to do”.
Famous polyglots – Truth:
This myth about polyglots is partly true: the record holders among polyglots really devote their lives to learning languages. At the same time, they mention that they study each language for at least 1 hour daily, which allows you to quickly master a large number of languages at an elementary level.
Myth #6: Polyglots travel a lot
Many people believe that it is possible to “really” learn a foreign language only abroad, in the country of native speakers of this language. There is an opinion that abroad you can completely “immerse yourself” in the subject being studied, create an ideal language environment, etc. It turns out that in order to become a polyglot, you need to constantly travel around the countries.
The Truth about Polyglots:
What polyglots say. In fact, most polyglots say that they communicate a lot with native speakers of the language being studied, are interested in their way of life, culture, etc. However, this does not mean that people studying foreign languages travel 365 days a year. Technology allows everyone to communicate with people from any country without leaving home.