Arab Today, arab today the gift of tongues
Last Updated : GMT 15:22:49
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

The gift of tongues

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today The gift of tongues

Berlin - Arabstoday

Cardinal Mezzofanti of Bologna was a secular saint. Though he never performed the kind of miracle needed to be officially canonised, his power was close to unearthly. Mezzofanti was said to speak 72 languages. Or 50. Or to have fully mastered 30. No one was certain of the true figure, but it was a lot. Visitors flocked from all corners of Europe to test him and came away stunned. He could switch between languages with ease. Two condemned prisoners were due to be executed, but no one knew their language to hear their confession. Mezzofanti learnt it in a night, heard their sins the next morning and saved them from Hell. Or so the legend goes. In Babel No More, Michael Erard has written the first serious book about the people who master vast numbers of languages — or claim to. A journalist with some linguistics training, Erard is not a hyperpolyglot himself (he speaks some Spanish and Chinese), but he approaches his topic with both wonder and a healthy dash of scepticism. Mezzofanti, for example, was a high-ranking clergyman born in 1774. In most of his interactions, he would have been the one to pick the topic of conversation, and he could rely on the same formulae he had used many times. He lived in an age when \"knowing\" a language more often meant reading and translating rather than speaking fluently with natives. Nonetheless, Mezzofanti clearly had speaking talent; his English accent was so good as to be almost too correct, an Irish observer noted. To find out whether anyone could really learn so many languages, Erard set out to find modern Mezzofantis. The people he meets are certainly interesting. One man with a mental age of 9 has a vast memory for foreign words and the use of grammatical endings, but he cannot seem to break free of English word-order. Ken Hale, who was a linguist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and died in 2001, was said to have learnt 50 languages, including notoriously difficult Finnish while on a flight to Helsinki. Professional linguists still swear by his talent. But he insisted he spoke only three (English, Spanish and Warlpiri — from Australia\'s Northern Territory) and could merely \"talk\" in others. Erard says that true hyperpolyglottery begins at about 11 languages, and that, while legends abound, tried and tested exemplars are few. Ziad Fazah, raised in Lebanon and now living in Brazil, once held the Guinness world record for 58 languages. But when surprised on a Chilean television show by native speakers, he utterly flubbed questions in Finnish, Mandarin, Persian and Russian (including \"What day is it today?\" in Russian), a failure that lives in infamy on YouTube. Perhaps he was a fraud; perhaps he simply had a miserable day. Hyperpolyglots must warm up or \"prime\" their weaker languages, with a few hours\' or days\' practice to use them comfortably. Switching quickly between more than six or seven is near-impossible even for the most gifted. Does that mean they don\'t really know them? Is instant availability of native-like competence the only standard for \"knowing\" a language? How should partly knowing a tongue be tallied? What if you can only read in it? Erard peppers his text with such questions, feeling his way through as a thoughtful observer, rather than banging about like an academic with a theory to defend or a pitchman with a technique to sell. Hyperpolyglots are more likely to be introverted than extroverted, which may come as a surprise to some. Hale\'s son always said that, in his father\'s case, languages were a cloak for a shy man. Another, Alexander Arguelles, has learnt dozens of languages only to read them, saying \"It\'s rare that you have an interesting conversation in English. Why do I think it would be any better in another language?\" Emil Krebs, an early-20th-century German diplomat who was also credited with knowing dozens of languages, was boorish in all of them. Different hypotheses may explain part of the language-learner\'s gift. Some hyperpolyglots seem near-autistic. In support, Erard points to the theory of Simon Baron-Cohen, of Cambridge University, that autists have an \"extreme male brain\" that seeks to master systems. Another hypothesis is the \"Geschwind-Galaburda\" cluster of traits. Supposedly resulting from abnormal antenatal exposure to hormones, this cluster includes maleness, homosexuality, left-handedness, poor visual-spatial skills, immune disorders, and perhaps also language-learning talent. Brain areas are also keyed to certain skills. The left Heschl\'s gyrus is bigger than average in professional phoneticians. People who learn new vocabulary quickly show more activity in the hippocampus. Krebs\'s brain, preserved in slices at a laboratory in Düsseldorf, shows various unusual features. The discovery of the FOXP2 brain gene, a mutation of which can cause language loss, was met with considerable excitement when it was announced more than a decade ago. But the reality is that many parts of the brain work together to produce speech, and no single gene, region of the brain or theory can explain successful language-learning. In the end Erard is happy simply to meet interesting characters, tell fascinating tales and round up the research without trying to judge which is the best work. Babel No More: The Search for the World\'s Most Extraordinary Language Learners By Michael Erard, Free Press, 306 pages, $25.99

Name *

E-mail *

Comment Title*

Comment *

: Characters Left

Mandatory *

Terms of use

Publishing Terms: Not to offend the author, or to persons or sanctities or attacking religions or divine self. And stay away from sectarian and racial incitement and insults.

I agree with the Terms of Use

Security Code*

Arab Today, arab today the gift of tongues Arab Today, arab today the gift of tongues

 



Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today Hats, scarves add beauty to women

GMT 19:10 2017 Friday ,17 February

Hats, scarves add beauty to women
Arab Today, arab today Tourist guide reveals methods of tourist attractions

GMT 17:46 2017 Saturday ,18 February

Tourist guide reveals methods of tourist attractions
Arab Today, arab today To release new antiques collection

GMT 20:33 2017 Friday ,17 February

To release new antiques collection
Arab Today, arab today Air raid kills eight women, child

GMT 06:42 2017 Friday ,17 February

Air raid kills eight women, child
Arab Today, arab today Murder of 2 reporters in Dominican Republic

GMT 22:45 2017 Thursday ,16 February

Murder of 2 reporters in Dominican Republic

GMT 15:04 2017 Wednesday ,04 January

Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ becomes German bestseller

GMT 23:50 2016 Thursday ,08 December

UAE is helping the Arab world read more books

GMT 11:07 2016 Monday ,07 November

Sheikh Zayed Book Award announces first longlist

GMT 10:03 2016 Thursday ,13 October

A new illustrated book compares Beirut and New York

GMT 08:55 2016 Sunday ,25 September

Chinese Book Fair kicks off in Kathmandu
View News in Arabic - Culture: مراجعة كتب
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today Kidogo provides childcare for underserved

GMT 20:24 2017 Wednesday ,15 February

Kidogo provides childcare for underserved
Arab Today, arab today Tragic fluctuations of Bakhtiari's life revealed

GMT 06:50 2017 Wednesday ,15 February

Tragic fluctuations of Bakhtiari's life revealed
Arab Today, arab today London to tax old cars

GMT 14:06 2017 Friday ,17 February

London to tax old cars
Arab Today, arab today Pluto's unruly moons

GMT 06:31 2015 Thursday ,04 June

Pluto's unruly moons
Arab Today, arab today Competes Sweden and Germans by S90

GMT 22:36 2017 Thursday ,16 February

Competes Sweden and Germans by S90
Arab Today, arab today Porsche reveals new 2018 Panamera

GMT 17:31 2017 Wednesday ,15 February

Porsche reveals new 2018 Panamera
Arab Today, arab today Actress Nadeen Al Rassi views art as her entity

GMT 07:30 2017 Saturday ,18 February

Actress Nadeen Al Rassi views art as her entity
Arab Today, arab today Teach monkeys to recognize themselves in mirror

GMT 20:41 2017 Wednesday ,15 February

Teach monkeys to recognize themselves in mirror

GMT 07:05 2017 Friday ,17 February

Singer Diana Karzon will issue a new album soon

GMT 06:40 2017 Friday ,10 February

MP calls for removing text from Islamic story

GMT 13:16 2017 Tuesday ,14 February

First fashion model with Down syndrome

GMT 10:26 2017 Tuesday ,14 February

Emergency UN meeting in Harare

GMT 14:04 2017 Tuesday ,14 February

"Lagom" new Swedish concept in interior design

GMT 12:07 2017 Thursday ,16 February

Bite-mimicking malaria vaccine

GMT 09:03 2017 Thursday ,16 February

Tour guide praises women’s beaches

GMT 13:12 2015 Saturday ,09 May

Sheikh Sultan opens Sharjah Centre

GMT 15:16 2017 Sunday ,19 February

Apple to start India operations with iPhone SE

GMT 21:42 2017 Sunday ,12 February

Rania al-Ghazali designs candles of bubbles
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today
 
 Arab Today Facebook,arab today facebook  Arab Today Twitter,arab today twitter Arab Today Rss,arab today rss  Arab Today Youtube,arab today youtube  Arab Today Youtube,arab today youtube
arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday
arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday
arabstoday
بناية النخيل - رأس النبع _ خلف السفارة الفرنسية _بيروت - لبنان
arabstoday, Arabstoday, Arabstoday