(Josh Cohen) #1

Are there any polyglots here? :slight_smile:

However they differ, the hyperpolyglots whom I met all winced at the question “How many languages do you speak?” As Rojas-Berscia explained it, the issue is partly semantic: What does the verb “to speak” mean? It is also political. Standard accents and grammar are usually those of a ruling class. And the question is further clouded by the “chauvinism” that Ellen Jovin feels obliged to resist. The test of a spy, in thrillers, is to “pass for a native,” even though the English-speaking natives of Glasgow, Trinidad, Delhi, Lagos, New Orleans, and Melbourne (not to mention Eliza Doolittle’s East End) all sound foreign to one another. “No one masters all the nuances of a language,” Simcott said. “It’s a false standard, and one that gets raised, ironically, mostly by monoglots—Americans in particular. So let’s just say that I have studied more than fifty, and I use about half of them.”

The Mystery of People Who Speak Dozens of Languages


I speak 3 languages: Arabic (darija), Dutch and English. I have studied some other languages but I wouldn’t be comfortable yet to say that I know or speak them.


I enjoyed the article, thanks for sharing these from time to time Josh.