Monday, April 16, 2012

Who speaks the most languages

People may want to learn other languages because they want to learn about others and their cultures. Some for self gratification and some for recognition. I speak 3 languages - English, Malay, Kadazan/Dusun - and a couple of other dialects, if you can call those languages.

I read an article recently that there are people who speak and understand more than 100 languages, and it got me thinking how'd they do it, and what drove them to take the trouble to learn those languages. Anyway, to answer the question of  who rather that why, here it is:

There may be more that are not documented, and depending on how how high we set the bar of fluency, Ziad Youseff Fazah is the man. Ziad Fazah, born in Liberia, brought up in Beirut and now living in Brazil, claims to be the world's greatest living polyglot (multilingual) with a total of 59 languages (the wikipedia's figure of 58 is a bit outdated).

He has been 'tested' on Spanish television, and was reported to have failed to understand beginner-level phrases in some widely spoken languages. [image from: Languages@Lighthouse]

However, there are others (people no longer living) with more languages and dialects such as Cardinal Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti. Cardinal Mezzofanti, born in 1774, spoke 38 languages and 40 dialects. Meanwhile, the 10th-century Muslim polymath Al-Farabi was said to know 70 languages. The German Hans Conon von der Gabelentz, born in 1807, was cited to have researched and published grammars of 80 languages.

The record, though, probably belongs to Sir John Bowring, Governor of Hong Kong from 1854 to 1859, who was said to know 200 languages, and capable of speaking 100. Bowring was an English political economist, traveller, miscellaneous writer, polyglot, and the 4th Governor of Hong Kong.

Now, I want to hear him (Ziad Fazah) speaking in Malay and Indonesian languages.


Gunaqz said...

Wow , 59?! That's impressive. I'm wondering if he speaks gibberish and tongue language as well.

Na, I'm just kidding. Lol.

millerJ said...

waaa... banyaknya!!hoho.. impressive enough. i only can speak dusun, malay, and english and other languages sikit2 la.. i wonder how his brain works.. @____@

Alv0808 said...

I wonder how they can speak with too much of languages!!... whats their tip?..emm..I salute them

Marya Yusof said...

Interesting, saya nak belajar bahasa spanish pun merangkak2,huk3... Sbnrnye otak manusia sgt hebat kan ;)