A flair for language

ZIAD FAZAH claims to speak, read and write 59 languages – 10 at the tip of his tongue, and the others he reckons could be brushed up in a week. He is Lebanese, though his father was born in Colombia and he in Liberia. He moved to Lebanon as a baby, and growing up near a port, met and tried to converse with sailors of many nationalities. Fazah began learning French and English at school and decided at the age of 11 that he wanted to speak all the world’s languages. So, over a three-year period during which he never left Lebanon, he studied more than 50 languages, several at a time, taking about three months to master each. Fazah had once wanted to work for the United Nations and has been approached by several intelligence agencies, but now he prefers the quiet life, working as a language teacher in Brazil. What is the secret of such amazing linguistic talents? Fazah doesn’t claim to be special, though he says his memory is “like a photographic camera”, and he admits to a good deal of study. Anyone can speak a foreign language, he thinks. You need to spend 30 minutes each day listening carefully to the sounds of a native speaker, another 30 minutes studying the grammar and then 15 minutes reciting the sounds – a very important step. Recently he mastered a Caribbean creole in just a week, speaking well enough to be interviewed on local TV.

Fazah himself has never been near a brain scanner or taken part in any formal studies of his talents. Research on other polyglots, however, suggest there is no simple answer to what makes a brain linguistically gifted. The only consensus is that early exposure is a big advantage. If you don’t form memories of language-specific sounds during the first year of life, the ability to recognise them may all but vanish, and learning becomes much more difficult (Nature Neuroscience, vol 1, p 351). Exposure to different grammars by the age of 7 also seems to leave open a window that makes it easier to learn later. On the other hand, acquiring vocabulary, say the experts, is simply down to memory and hard graft.

(Extracted from ‘The outer limits of the human brain’, Helen Phillips, NewScientist.com, 01 October 2008)


One Response to “► अद्भुत भाषाक्षमता”

  1. […] लिख तथा बोल सकता है (देखें ब्लॉग-पेज: अद्भुत-भाषाक्षमता) । सचमुच अविश्वनीय है, पर कुछ तो सच्चाई […]

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