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Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821 - 1890)

 Language Learning Forum : Polyglots Post Reply
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heartburn
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 Message 1 of 30
11 March 2005 at 11:44pm | IP Logged 
Burton, Sir Richard Francis, 1821�90, English explorer, writer, and linguist.

He joined (1842) the service of the East India Company and, while stationed in India, acquired a thorough knowledge of the Persian, Afghan, Hindustani, and Arabic languages.

In 1853, in various disguises, he made a famous journey to Mecca and Medina, about which he wrote the vivid Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah (3 vol., 1855�56).

With John Speke he took a party to Somaliland; he alone, disguised as an Arab merchant, made the journey to Harar, Ethiopia, where he met with the local ruler. He went with Speke to uncharted E central Africa to discover the source of the Nile; he found Lake Tanganyika (1858) but abandoned the attempt to reach Lake Nyasa.

After a visit to the United States, Burton published an account of the Mormon settlement at Utah in his City of the Saints (1861). While consul (1861�65) at Fernando Po (now Bioko), off W Africa, he explored the Bight of Biafra and conducted a mission to Dahomey, Benin, and the Gold Coast. He explored Santos, in Brazil, while consul (1865) there, and after crossing the continent wrote Explorations of the Highlands of Brazil (1869). After a short period (1869�71) as consul at Damascus he was consul (1872�90) at Trieste, where he died.

His last years were devoted chiefly to literature. He published remarkable literal translations of Cam�es and of the Arabian Nights (16 vol., 1885�88).

According to one count, he spoke 29 European, Asian, and African languages and countless dialects.

Edited by Fasulye on 10 December 2010 at 8:19pm

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heartburn
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 Message 2 of 30
11 March 2005 at 11:52pm | IP Logged 
Interestingly, a modern-day green beret has written a book that outlines the Burton method (although he may not even know it's the Burton method) for getting up-to-speed in a language. It's here (along with my review):

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1581600968/ref =cm_aya_asin.title/102-8190493-6964131?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=gl ance

Edited by heartburn on 12 March 2005 at 12:08am

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traveller
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 Message 3 of 30
12 March 2005 at 12:05am | IP Logged 
Burton was simply by far the best linguist, travel writer, adventurer and translator of his time (XIX century).
For example his translation of the 1001 nights is a pure masterpiece.
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Hexaglot
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 Message 4 of 30
12 March 2005 at 12:10am | IP Logged 
heartburn, you seem to know a great deal about this captivating Burton character!

Could you tell us:

(1) What method he applied to learn languages
(2) Whether there is any books devoted to Burton as a polyglot or recounting in details his dealings with language learning

I know the book you mention, it seems I have missed something but I recall most of the pages where blank or just word lists.
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heartburn
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 Message 5 of 30
12 March 2005 at 12:48am | IP Logged 
In chapter 2 of The Life of Sir Richard Burton, by Thomas Wright, Burton says..

I got a simple grammar and vocabulary, marked out the forms and words which I knew were absolutely necessary, and learnt them by heart. ... I never worked more than a quarter of an hour at a time, for after that the brain lost its freshness. After learning some three hundred words, easily done in a week, I stumbled through some easy book-work and underlined every word that I wished to recollect. ... Having finished my volume, I then carefully worked up the grammar minutiae, and I then chose some other book whose subject most interested me. The neck of the language was now broken, and progress was rapid. If I came across a new sound, like the Arabic Ghayn, I trained my tongue to it by repeating it so many thousand times a day. When I read, I invariably read out loud, so that the ear might aid memory. I was delighted with the most difficult characters, Chinese and Cuneiform, because I felt that they impressed themselves more strongly upon the eye than the eternal Roman letters.

I don't think there are any book's specifically about Burton as a polyglot. But there are quite a few biographies.

Hawke's book describes a method very similar to Burton's. I'm looking around the house now for the Hawke book. When I find it, I'll have more to say about it.

Edited by heartburn on 12 March 2005 at 2:37am

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heartburn
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 Message 6 of 30
12 March 2005 at 1:29am | IP Logged 
I found it!

Like you said (and I said it in my review on Amazon) there is very, very little text in this book. It's not much longer than the quote by Sir Richard Burton that I posted earlier. That's an exaggeration, there are about 50 pages of prose. The rest contain charts, but about half of those are blank.

Hawke's method can be summed-up like this:
- make a list of extremely important concepts
- translate the concepts into your target language
- study every day...
     - morning review
     - important vocabulary
     - essential grammar
     - useful phrases
     - evening review

The key ideas are:
- divide the material into manageable chunks
- learn the most important stuff first
- study consistently

After a week or three, go spend several years immersed in the culture of your target language like Sir Richard.

The idea behind this book is not to reach fluency, but to reach a basic operational level. I think that's about as far as the method outlined in this book can take you. But I think it can get you there very quickly.

It looks like a very good method for the average learner who needs or wants to learn the basics of a language very fast. Overachievers should save their money.

Edited by heartburn on 12 March 2005 at 2:31am

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heartburn
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 Message 7 of 30
12 March 2005 at 2:39am | IP Logged 
By the way, the complete text of Thomas Wright's biography of Burton is available at Project Gutenberg:

http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext03/8lsrb10.txt
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heartburn
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 Message 8 of 30
12 March 2005 at 3:05am | IP Logged 
Just to put Mr. Hawke's book in perspective, here are a few other fine titles from the same publisher:

- DEA Stash And Hideout Handbook
- Do-It-Yourself Submachine Gun
- Screw Unto Others : Revenge Tactics For All Occasions
- Expedient Homemade Firearms
- Special Forces Operational Techniques
- KGB Alpha Team Training Manual
- Interrogation: Techniques And Tricks To Secure Evidence
- How To Make A Silencer For A .22
- U.S. Marines Close-Quarter Combat Manual
- EOD Improvised Explosives Manual
- How To Make A Silencer For A .45
- How Big Brother Investigates You
- U.S. Army Sniper Training Manual
- How To Open Locks Without Keys Or Picks
- SEAL Sniper Training Program

I guess mercenaries need language skills too.

Edited by heartburn on 12 March 2005 at 10:26am



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