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Video Wili Melnikov - 103 languages

 Language Learning Forum : Polyglots Post Reply
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Senior Member
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 Message 25 of 37
18 November 2010 at 11:25am | IP Logged 
Come on people, there is obviously no substance at all in the claims. Russian media, especially AiF is full of amazing-but-true stories about extra terrestrials, sea monsters and other non-sense. This is just another fraud, he has just learned to sort of imitate the sound of a few languages. The amazing thing is that they let him fake even commonly known languages such as Japanese and German!
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 Message 26 of 37
19 November 2010 at 11:19am | IP Logged 
He's about as good as this secretary who speaks seven languages:

The resemblance in speech style is uncanny.

Edited by egill on 19 November 2010 at 11:21am

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 Message 27 of 37
19 November 2010 at 1:09pm | IP Logged 
Here's another video from slick willy, where he tries to speak something that is at least recognizable as German. Unfortunately there's this guitar guy making a bunch of noise.

It sounds to me like he has a french accent in some places, and some of the words are incomprehensible, but at least it seems more realistic than the other videos on the surface. I still can't figure out what the heck he's saying overall though. Anyone have better luck than me?

Some more here: (with further pieces in the related videos). Any idea what he's pretending to start out with at 0:56?

In this other one, he appears to be attempting incomprehensible fake-mandarin:

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 Message 28 of 37
19 November 2010 at 1:21pm | IP Logged 
doviende wrote:
Some more here: (with further pieces in the related videos). Any idea what he's pretending to start out with at 0:56?

I have really nu clue, which language or fake-language this is. Definitely not German nor is it any German dialect.


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 Message 29 of 37
19 November 2010 at 3:30pm | IP Logged 
Well, if anything, this guy's certainly creative...(always nice to see a bit of Ogham poetry in the 21st century). :)

And just to sort out some of the growing confusion here, I've found a couple of articles about Mel'nikov and written some notes below for anyone interested in the case (well, it's a good excuse for a bit of Russian practice anyhow ;) ):

Вилли Мельников: Исповедь Полиглота
Растрепанный Блокнот, Вилли Мельников


As far as my basic grasp of Russian can fathom (and please correct me if I misinterpreted anything), these articles explain that Mel'nikov was born in 1962 (which makes him about 48 now), studied at the Moscow Vetinary Academy as a young man, and is currently a Research Associate at the Institue of Virology.

He was apparently fascinated with languages and etymology from the tender age of 4, and learnt Latin along with at least 4 other foreign languages (including Swedish, German, Icelandic, and some English) by the end of school.

It says he later came into contact and studied with a variety of classmates from socialist African and Central American countries (exhibiting a particular interest in their cultures and ancient mythologies at the time) whilst at the Academy, and picked up other languages such as Pashto and Sindhi (spoken by prisoners) whilst doing military service in Turkmenistan, and later, Afghanistan.

He was struck by shrapnel in the left temporal lobe sometime around 1985-86 (aged 23-24) during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, and in the original poster's video, I think he also says that his heart stopped for 7 minutes in the infirmary and he was officially pronounced dead.

Ever since, he suggests that his mental capacity to remember words and facts has sky-rocketed and that the brain injury has opened up a whole bundle of other creative talents, such as poetry, art and calligraphy, in addition to his passion for learning languages.


It's all too easy to think that this entertaining chap's just an out-and-out fraud, especially when you recall some of the other really bizarre stories from AiF (e.g. the Ukrainian girl with x-ray eyes). Yet it's also a possibility that his other skills, such as reading and writing, are in much better shape than his...ahem..."creative speaking". The more I search the Net, the more bizarre his videos get (you've got to love the "polyglot lab coat" and throat whistling in the background!); but perhaps we should take a look at his written poetry too, as Iversen suggests, to get a fuller picture. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything of decent length that wasn't written down in Russian or penned in what looks like multi-coloured Mayan so far.

The main thing is that this guy didn't just wake up from a coma speaking 103 languages fluently, nor did his bizarre mixture of languages develop shortly afterwards. To be honest, I'm not even sure how many languages he does claim to speak fluently (as you know how the media circus hypes everything up anyway). What I do believe is that he already spoke 6 languages to some capacity before his injury as a young man, and then continued to study languages passionately for the next 25 years. So I guess it's certainly not impossible for anyone with a hell of a lot of focus, passion and determination, as well as time and ongoing support after such an injury, to have obtained some basic competence in a large number of languages over this period (that's a few Assimils each year, I imagine).

Edited by Teango on 20 November 2010 at 5:38pm

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 Message 30 of 37
19 November 2010 at 3:52pm | IP Logged 
Doviende wrote:
Any idea what he's pretending to start out with at 0:56?

I listened to the thing at, and to me it sounded like "Ja fass Könes gewen köhnen khrawen keek ..." or something like that - spoken with an accent vaguely reminiscent of the Swedish cook in the Muppet shows. I really don't know whether he in all earnest believes he is speaking German. But as suggested by Teango he may once have been a serious language student until he got that brain damage, and then he developed some absurdly high ideas about his own abilities which were happily accepted by unscrupulous media otherwise specializing in girls with X-ray vision and UFOs (or in other words: he became a fulltime artist).
Leaving aside Mr. Melnikov: is it possible to learn 103 languages in a human lifetime? I doubt that you can get that high with active languages or totally unrelated languages, but some 30 active and 73 passive languages/dialects, including some complete language families to make the task easier ... well, I wouldn't rule it out (and people like Mezzofanti, Hale, Krebs and a few others may actually have reached that number). But based on these videos it is pretty obvious that mr. Melnikov can be entertaining for a while, but he doesn't deliver the goods. If he really could write fluently in for instance German he would have been ashamed to deliver such a ridiculuous oral performance.

Edited by Iversen on 19 November 2010 at 4:35pm

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 Message 31 of 37
19 November 2010 at 4:00pm | IP Logged 
There is no indication he speaks ANY language fluently other than Russian, something he obviously has had more than ample oppportunity to demonstrate. We keep looking, we keep watching the videos... but we are wasting our time.

This guy found the fastest, easiest way to become a polyglot: faking it.
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 Message 32 of 37
19 November 2010 at 6:25pm | IP Logged 
Teango wrote:
He was struck by shrapnel in the left temporal lobe sometime around
1985-86 (aged 23-24) during the Soviet war in Afghanistan

As I watched one of the videos about him, which explained this injury, it reminded me
immediately of this article in the Scientific American
about savants.

In big letters on page 21 of the article it states:

"No one knows how savants can do what they do, but research suggests injury to the left
brain causes the right brain to compensate."

On page 19:

"Savant skills are always linked to a remarkable memory. This memory is deep, focused
and based on habitual recitation. But it entails little understanding of what is being

On the same page:

"One ... boy who had read the six-volume History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman
Empire, by Edward Gibbon, and could recite it back word for word, although he did so
without any comprehension."

And, earlier on the same page:

"A rare savant may have extensive language ability — that is, the capacity to memorize
many languages but not to understand them."

In summary, his injuries may well have given him a remarkable memory for languages, and
even an ability to parrot them, but with likely no understanding of them.

The result being, that an outside observer may well be impressed by his apparent
abilities, but somebody with knowledge of the languages would end up baffled by what he
was saying.

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