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Status of leading polyglots

  Tags: Polyglot
 Language Learning Forum : Polyglots Post Reply
15 messages over 2 pages: 1
robarb
Nonaglot
Senior Member
United States
languagenpluson
Joined 3247 days ago

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Speaks: Portuguese, English*, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, French
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 Message 9 of 15
12 May 2015 at 2:07am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
robarb wrote:
Uku Masing
Languages: 65 ("Could translate" from 20)


How can you be able to speak 65 languages and 'only' be able to translate from 20 of them?

Somebody must have used a harsher yardstick for the translations than for his speaking skills.


That's precisely the point of this thread. I want to take, as a starting point, the list of people who have been cited
as extreme polyglots, and then compile and examine what's known about what they can or could do. I seek
this information so that we can move beyond the unproductive talk about numbers of languages and think more
clearly about the upper reaches of what polyglots have been able to do. I think what we'd see is that the upper
estimates have little correlation with the overall level of accomplishment, but, as a starting point, they serve to
identify the individuals whose skills are worth finding out about. Most of what I can find is in similar, confusing
terms. I couldn't find language-by-language ability estimates for anyone other than Arguelles.

That said, the "can translate" versus "speak" distinction is probably just another mostly-harmless example of
stupid vagueness. Speak how well? Translate how well? Presumably whoever made that statement considers
"speak" to mean something like B1 or B2, and "translate" to mean produce professional level translations. That
would explain why a polyglot's core languages meet the "translate" standard, but his long tail of incompletely
mastered languages meets only "speak."

Of course, a philologist could easily end up with the opposite distinction, an ability to produce translations in
his/her professional practice in 65 languages, but to speak at B2 level in only 20 of them!



Edited by robarb on 12 May 2015 at 2:08am

1 person has voted this message useful





jeff_lindqvist
Diglot
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 Message 10 of 15
12 May 2015 at 10:59pm | IP Logged 
This got me thinking of the long-time-ago recurring record holder (in the Swedish edition of the Guinness book of records, that is) - UN interpreter George Henri Schmidt, who was said to speak 12 languages fluently and translate to and from 66 languages. To this date, I haven't seen a list of which those languages (even the twelve spoken ones) might be.
1 person has voted this message useful



lichtrausch
Triglot
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United States
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525 posts - 1071 votes 
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Studies: Korean, Mandarin

 
 Message 11 of 15
13 May 2015 at 3:40pm | IP Logged 
This numbers game is misleading. Someone who was proficient in English, Russian, Persian,
Hindi, Greek, Turkish, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, and Indonesian would almost certainly
be the greatest polyglot in the world, despite knowing "only" 10 languages.
1 person has voted this message useful



LangOfChildren
Tetraglot
Groupie
Germany
Joined 3615 days ago

82 posts - 141 votes 
Speaks: German*, English, French, Swedish
Studies: Mandarin, Japanese, Thai, Russian

 
 Message 12 of 15
14 May 2015 at 12:14am | IP Logged 
lichtrausch wrote:
This numbers game is misleading. Someone who was proficient in English, Russian, Persian,
Hindi, Greek, Turkish, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, and Indonesian would almost certainly
be the greatest polyglot in the world, despite knowing "only" 10 languages.

Why those languages specifically?
1 person has voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4785 days ago

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 Message 13 of 15
14 May 2015 at 2:57am | IP Logged 
It's not a contest though.

Edited by Serpent on 14 May 2015 at 2:58am

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lichtrausch
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4148 days ago

525 posts - 1071 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Japanese
Studies: Korean, Mandarin

 
 Message 14 of 15
14 May 2015 at 2:00pm | IP Logged 
LangOfChildren wrote:

Why those languages specifically?

I just randomly picked 10 common languages from a wide variety of language families. I
didn't want discussions about availability of learning resources to get in the way of my
point.
1 person has voted this message useful





Fasulye
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fasulyespolyglotblog
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 Message 15 of 15
15 May 2015 at 12:25pm | IP Logged 
For me polyglottery has never been and is still not a competition! If I like to have a competition I would rather take part in a chess tournament (and end up on the back ranks at the end of the list of participants). In chess everything is ranked with rating numbers, that's pretty normal, but in polyglottery? - No, thank you!

Fasulye



Edited by Fasulye on 15 May 2015 at 12:27pm



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