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How many languages is it possible to know?

I admit that I am not a genius. I have never had an idea that I would end up speaking more than one language but it happened.. in my early 20s I found myself speaking more than 4 languages... few years later a coupe of languages came along and I learned them as well... Why? I don't know.
true to be told I didn't go to university for this, I only went for Communication Science. after learning all those languages, it made me believe;
if I can, then anyone can (but maybe not everyone)

How many languages do you speak?
If you could learn one more foreign langues, what would it be?
What stopped you from learning more than one (if you speak only one)
why is it so important to learn any foreign language when we want a global village, and what language should be spoken in that village?

an interesting article to be read about the capacity and ability of human brain in learning and knowing languages:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/49138/how-many-languages-it-possible-know

  • Mar 8 2013: Languages are very important to me. I think that this is the area with which I'm planning my future career. My mother tongue is Polish, but English can be treated as my second language as I'm studying it at MA university level. In the past I've learnt many languages such as German, French, Latin and Norwegian and despite the fact that I have only the so-called 'working knowledge' in case of majority of them (for instance, I was forced to learn German at high school), I can see from the time perspective that they have influenced on my perception of the world. During my BA studies one of my lecturers familiarised me with the concept of a 'second language identity'. In those days it was quite revolutionary for me but it influneced on the way in which I'm studying the language. The idea of thinking in the other language than your native seems to be a tough challange, however, it results in something more than just being a fluent speaker. It causes that you're starting to perceive the world from the different perspective than it is in case of your mother tongue. The creation of a second language identity is not easy. I do not claim that I perceive the world in exactly the same way as an Englishman or Scot or whoever. But the gradual submergence in the foreign language, for example, through its literature, culture history etc. helps, in my opinion, in the learning process. Obviously, such a process is time-consuming and I'm aware of the fact that many people learn other languages for purely useful purposes and simply do not have time to submerge in nuances. Personally, I cannot imagine other way of learning a second leanguage than through the second identity process. Thus, I think I will not learn many foreign languages, although I would like to, because of this time-consuming factor.
    • Mar 11 2013: Not until now did I consciously know that this existed: The concept of Second Language Identity. I expierenced this but I was not aware of it!

      Thanks!
      • Mar 11 2013: If You want to learn something more about this concept, as well as other fascinating topics which connect with the processes of learning and teaching the language, I recommend the book 'Principles of Language Learning and Teaching' by H.Brown. It describes all the processes which take place in our brains during the learning processes. It also shows how complicated and advanced our brains are.
  • Mar 15 2013: Hi Edwin,

    I was browsing through the website (that I have just discovered) and when I saw your question, I couldn't help myself to register and answer you.

    I do think there is a limited capability to learn and retain, but it is possible to extend this capability (by doing memory exercises for instance). But anyway I could get off-topic here and I don't think I'd want that as my first comment on this website.

    I have the chance to have parents from different origins: my mother is from the US and my father is from India. Also, I was born in France.
    I have to admit that even if english should be my first language it is not. I spoke only french until I was 10 years old and fed up with the fact that I couldn't communicate properly with my family in India and in the States.

    So I got lucky and got into an international school in my hometown where I started to work on my english and spanish as a second language. I'm now 20 years old, I can speak french and english fluently and I can speak spanish and chinese (that I started as a third language in High school).

    Even though it might sound good I still want to learn more. I have this friend I've known since junior high and he now speaks fluently: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and as a good knowledge of Chinese, Russian, Arabic and maybe some others... At only 20 years old !

    I still hardly believe it sometimes and your story amazed me.

    I just want to conclude on the fact that languages are important to learn because they give us the power to communicate with each other and to know about different cultures.
    • Mar 17 2013: Hi Samuel

      Many thanks for your comment. I am glad you find such a interests in learning languages.
      surely this is one of the ways to get to know others and their culture.

      wish you all well.

      and welcome to TED Community.

      Edwin
  • Mar 9 2013: hi Edwin. Thank you for the motivation.
    I'm new here.
    I want to write and speak English fluently and I think I have a chance here. I find it hard to learn more languages​​, I speak Spanish, Chinese study, I defend myself (as I can) in English, but your words have made me think and I will try.
    thanks
    Sorry my bad English
    • Mar 9 2013: Hi Rocio

      Thanks for your comment and may I say; welcome to TED.
      I am glad that my question has got an effect on you. wish you all the best in your studies.
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    Mar 8 2013: I had the same question myself about a week ago. I remember reading in the Guinness book of records that a translator in the UN spoke approx. 25 languages and had learned something like 45 in his life (a lot he had learned and became in disuse). I was quite astonished to find out that that in recent years, a man was discovered in Brazil who has the ability to speak at the age of 40 something in the range of 60 languages. He hopes to be able to learn around a 100 languages in his life. I feel that being able to communicate in 4 languages is extremely satisfying and continues to passion me, however rather insignificant in comparison. I am quite sure motivation is the key factor as well as a superb memory when it comes to speaking scores of languages. Nevertheless, just because someone doesn't have the best memory, it shouldn't deter us from learning. It's never too late to learn!
    • Mar 8 2013: Hi Gary

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      "It's never late to learn" - Indeed, I agree


      Thank you
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    Mar 27 2013: Although one may learn several languages in their lifetime, 'body language' is probably the one that is most useful as it will allow you to communicate with anyone
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    Mar 8 2013: Fascinating....looks like 100-200??? Yikes! How does one keep track of all that information?
    http://sciencefocus.com/qa/what-record-most-languages-spoken-one-person
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    Mar 8 2013: The language is a tool for communication, relationship and making it part of the culture of people.
    I speak basque, spanish, english and french and for me is important to try to learn even a little the language of the place you are visiting or people who you are meeting so is a way to show interest and respect for other cultures and enrich oneself. Multiculture is something nice and rich and global world should not mean lost identity but an opportunity to improve.
    I would like to learn arabic, chinese or japanese languages totally different to mine... I try with german but... no time enough...
    • Mar 8 2013: hey Jesus,

      Thanks for you comment...

      let me remind you that we all have got 24 hours, no matter where we are and who we are. this is one of the universal laws we can't argue with, but how we use that 24 hours depend on us.

      one thing about word: "try" - there is no such thing as try... either you do it or you don't do it!
      If I were to say: " TRY to stand up! " what would your action be?

      and one more thing...
      Anything you say after "but" is automatically eliminates what you have said before "but"
      specially when it is about something that you want.

      compare these sentences:

      I want a cup of coffee now but I am not going to get it.
      I want a cup of coffee now and I am going to get it.

      when you make a negative statement that has to do with your ability and capacity, you send your mind to sleep:
      when you question to your mind about your ability and capacity, you send your mind to work and find solution.

      I can't learn it! (mind is going to sleep)
      How can I learn it! (mind starts to work till it find a solution)

      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Glad you learned some many languages, in Andalusia I has having hard time to meet locals who could speak at least one more language than Andaluuuu... (the Andalusian accent).
  • Apr 2 2013: I speak English and Spanish fluently and can get by in Dutch. I also am learning French. If I could learn one more language, it would be Japanese because I really want to be able to go to Japans and learn about their culture. Learning multiple languages is important because language is our way of communication. Our world right now is very diverse and integrated and people from all backgrounds are starting to mix. We need to be able to include all these people together and be able to take part in their lives and culture.
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    Apr 1 2013: It's important that we define what it means to 'know' a language. Is it a certain sensibility with a cultures idiomatic thought? Learning a language seems a continual imperative, it is just too easy to become complacent. With thought characterized by expression nobody can think by naming. In many ways this has more to do with definition and our discretion with it.

    I know your question had a more practical orientation than what I am referring to but it's consequential that the semantics of the issue is resolved.
  • Apr 1 2013: Personally I look forward to the day when this question will be irrelevant because everyone has learnt Esperanto.
  • Mar 30 2013: I speak two languages in my daily life, English and Bahasa. And sometimes I had problems to choose the right language you have to speak to ppl around you. Like.. in the office, I used to speak English more often because my job is using English more. But speaking English with Indonesian people mostly (including me) could be weird. I dont feel comfortable using English than Bahasa if talking to Indonesians. I feels the limitation on how to react, how to reply the conversation, causing distraction in my minds to choose which the right words to say, and having different way of thinking.

    If i could learn one more foreign languages, it would be Portugese and French. I used to learn and speak these, but I stopped. I don't have the right partner to teach or speak to me with these languages. But tv, song, and books could do it sometimes. :)
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    Mar 27 2013: it depends on talent and origin of mother tongue.
    For example, in my case my naive language is korean so learning japanese if easy but chinese and english is difficult.
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    Mar 27 2013: I can't say I believe in a number of how many lagnuages people can know, but I do realize the fact that we as humans are capable to learning multiple ones. Someone I consider a close friend had a conversation with me about someone he knew that could speak 10 different languages. That person told my friend that the best way to speak another language isn't to just practice speaking in the language, but instead train your brain to think it that language. Once a person can do that, the langauge will become natural to them.
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    Mar 25 2013: What would you think is the easiest language to learn?
    • Mar 25 2013: to me? None!

      there is no such thing as easy language. but there is such thing as LOVE for language.
      if you love a language you will learn no matter what.

      yes, if you have a teacher, it is also depends on Loving teachers.
      this means, if you like the person who teaches you a foreign language, you will learn everything from that person. I admit that I hated my French teacher, but I loved that language, and I was having hard time to study until I went to France. I like my Italian teacher and I learned it with love. (my girlfriend then was an Italian, this was also a help)

      it is said that opposite sex is the best language teacher. I think it is true.
      natives never made best teachers to teach their own language to foreigners, because they do not have personal experiences and structure for HOW TO LEARN.... they may get a training for HOW TO TEACH.
      but no native can ever say how they learned their own language, if they cant How can they teach someone else how to learn. this means teaching is one thing, Learning is another, but teaching how to learn is completely different thing.

      I loved English, (and my teacher) and I learned it quickly.
      I loved Italian (and my teacher) and learned it easily.
      I liked French (and hated my teacher) I had hard time to learn
      I liked Spanish (and my teacher - who in this case was my Mexican flatmate) I leaned it very fast.

      if you read my other comments here, I was giving some tips how to learn quicker and yet memorizing what is learned.

      10 words a day are 3650 words a year. (an average person may not know more than that) + some grammar and here you go, off to practice, it will take you to perfection.
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    Mar 25 2013: I struggle with one, and really bad French and Japanese.

    It's an amazing thing when you realise you are thinking in another language (swear words don't count)

    I know people who are fluent in 3 or 4. Some people have a knack I guess. Perhaps it helps being exposed to multiple languages as a child.

    Many have common grammar or roots so that might help. Japanese has similar vowel sounds as Maori, that surprised me.

    I guess if you made it your life's work most of us could learn 10-20 enough to have basic conversations and a basic vocabulary and reading - unless our brains had a melt down.
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    Mar 21 2013: You have to think of down-to-earth limits when considering how much of a language you wish to speak. Mastering one language specific nuances may take a lifetime, just like any other form of communication, like music, dance, math or even mimic.

    But, from personal experience, one can learn as many languages as one's will and necessity asks. I am fluent in Spanish, English and Japanese, and Portuguese is my native language. Currently I'm studying Russian, German and French, due to my career demandings. If one can learn to "study" languages, the process become easier. Understanding phrasal forms and verb usage for an example, help your study overall. Knowing the functionality and basic form of a language firsthand, makes the challenge of learning, henceforth a simple task of learning and remembering new signs/names for words, or in some cases, new alphabets.

    Hope it helps!
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    Mar 21 2013: Theoretically, the human brain can hold around 2.5 petabytes of information.

    Apparently it is possible to learn all of the languages. If an ambitious savant decided to dedicate his life to learning languages, there is a distinct possibility that he could pull it off.

    However, this is not possible for an ordinary human. In a normal person, memory gradually grows more corrupted over time. Given a lifetime, a person with average intelligence could probably learn around 50 languages. That is one language a year after age 14 and stopping at age 64. (Keep in mind this is a person dedicated to learning languages.)

    A genius could probably do a few more... but there are varying colors of genius. There are children out there that are already fluent in several languages. Then we have savants which have something that transcends genius.

    Basically people are amazing!
    • Mar 31 2013: All languages are impossible there are several dead languages that have been translated by the technique's of.modern man but there is no way to be 100% sure if it is translated.right since no one speaks or knows it anymore

      Regarding the 50 languages in a lifetime and a genius perhaps more it seems unlikely since the human brain will not learn every single word and grammar style of every 50 languages or more you might know how to speak and write some things but the full grammar of it in 50 languages is just simply not possible...

      Explanation a human will always be distracted by the environment or y the person who he/she is speaking to forgetting certain words and not completing a sentence and by that forgetting the word they needed to say in that certain sentence so its not fully learned like the mother language everybody learned...

      So for as far as I know it is impossible to know around 50 languages without trouble or whatsoever
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    Mar 20 2013: One of my closest friends speaks 6 languages. His mother knows 8 and his grandma knows 11. In this case it seems that there is no limit. as you keep aging. Its awesome that all animals except for humans communicate to others of the same species in one language. dogs bark, crows squawk and owls hoot. Us humans we have thousands of different languages.
    • Apr 1 2013: This is probably due to how widespread the human race is and the complexity of what humans have to say. For example, if I yell loudly and angrily most humans, regardless of their native language, will be able to understand that I am angry. Other animals, as far as my knowledge goes, simply display simple ideas like this when they meow or bark.
      Now if we later find out that dogs are actually reciting the events of the day when they bark to each other then we can all be impressed.
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    Mar 15 2013: I have met people that claim to know 7 or 8. On a recent trip to Iceland I heard some of the tour guides speaking 3 or 4 while I was amongst them. They claimed that many of the citizens spoke multiple languages.

    Personally I find it difficult in my area (Seattle) as English is dominant. Although Spanish is getting poplular so I will probably learn that language next. I have been studying German for a year. (Rosetta stone, YouTube, radio, movies, and some small groups) The challenge I find with this is that I really have to go out of my way to get meaningful interaction and everyday use. My wife and I took a trip to Germany and I learned a lot in the two weeks when it was spoken everywhere.

    Anyone have any other tidbits? I like the idea of labeling the household items. Perhaps I can label them with German and Spanish while I learn both languages.
  • Mar 12 2013: Are you related to John Nazarian from New Jersey, USA ? He was a childhood friend of mine. His parents were missionaries.

    Concerning language, I believe the more musical ability a person has, the easier it is for them to acquire additional languages. There is a strong link between the temporo-parietal lobes, language and music. When I lived in Brasil, I learned Portuguese very quickly & with it Spanish and Italian. I currently speak, read and write 3 languages. English has become the lingua franca in today's global village.I would like to learn Chinese (Mandarin). I especially like Chinese calligraphy.
    • Mar 12 2013: Hi Richard,

      thanks for your comment... it is very interesting combination you have made, Language and Music.
      to be honest I have no musical ability, I play no musical instrument whatsoever ( but I love Piano, Violin, Guitar)
      as far as I could understand there are three (in fact they are five) main sensors humans used to decode information. Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthatic(feelings) ... and we actually learn new thing according our preferred neuronal system. (in most cases we communicate in that way too)
      ex: Painters are Visual people, they see/imagine things and talk about things in pictures and images.
      Musicians are auditory based people, they hear things and used words that has to do with listening and hearing when they communicate.
      doctors are kinaesthatic based people, they are talking about feelings, they express things in that way,
      (please note that they are not set on stone) we all have these neuro systems but one is that we use mostly.

      now it comes to learn languages. for example, I had to see a new word in order to know what it is... (but when I hear a new word, it is difficult to know, (picture in my mind that word) am I a visual person? YES. maybe that was the reason I couldn't hear the notes in order to play an instrument.

      these kind of approach is missing in our education system, because in every classroom, students have different preferred neuro system, and with who teacher's system match, they learn better.
      that is why not ever student is good in every thing, it comes from how they are taught and communicated.

      Portuguese - Spanish - Italian - French - belong to Romano Language group (if you know one, it is easy to learn another of them)
      English - Dutch - German - Denis - belong to Germano Language group (they are like each other : like brothers and sisters)

      thanks for participating to this talk.

      Edwin
    • Mar 12 2013: I was trying to send you mail about your first question... I have to say that I HAVE GOT half of my family in US (and I haven't been there yet) and so far I don't know anyone named John Nazarian from New Jersey., unless he has changed his name and moved to New Jersey.
  • Mar 12 2013: I only speak the one language, but am learning spanish, so hopefully one day it'll be two.

    I was brought up monolingual, and was given no opportunity to learn any language until french was forced onto me at 14 for two years. I had a teacher who took offence to me being quiet and had a goal (that he admitted) to make me shout at him by making me angry. He suceeded and I went from loving french to hating it in record time. Spanish I've self taught because I don't want a teacher to make me hate it. It's slow going but I still love the language. If I could learn another, I might go for mandarin, or maybe arabic or russian (too many interesting languages to choose from).

    I think that it is very important for people to start speaking more languages. We need to become more connected, not stay isolated. I have no idea what the unifying language should be, but I think there should be one.

    I would think it is possible to know a great deal of languages, but the upkeep would be huge. You could only practice so many and without practice they would go downhill. I'd say if you spent all day just practicing languages, maybe 20 or so would be possible. To live a life around it, a lot fewer. But it depends what people around you speak. If your neighbour chats to you in a few languages, your shopkeeper another language, the practice would be easier. So maybe as we aquire more languages and share them, we can help others aquire more languages. That would be an interesting world to live in if it did happen that way.
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    Mar 11 2013: I want to say an infinite number of languages, but somehow I believe that the number is quite finite, if we mean speaking, understanding, reading and writing a foreign language at more than the average asking-for-street-directions-in-a-foreign-country level. Learning the basics is one thing, actually using a language for, let's say, professional purposes is a whole other ballgame. All in all, though, depending on whether one is bilingual or, even better, trilingual, I say depending on where you live (the Netherlands, for example) and how much time you invest in it, learning a fairly extended number of languages is feasible.
  • Mar 11 2013: Thanks a lot!
  • Mar 11 2013: In my opinion, the key for the success of learning a language is we live in the country using that language. I see many people who have chance to live in many countries in their life are fluent languages.
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    Mar 11 2013: If you look at some of the other conversations, math is considered a language by many people.
    • Mar 17 2013: indeed it is, John,

      just like music, paintings, photos, architecture
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    Mar 11 2013: Considering the brain has an extremely high capacity, the highest possible of number of languages a human can know is 6,900 languages. However, knowning that many languages is likely to make a human confused and have difficulty comprehending other things.
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    Mar 10 2013: I was born in Russia, grew up in Ukraine, and now live in the U.S. I'm fluent in Russian, Ukrainian, and English and can understand a little of Polish and German. I feel that I would learn any language if I happen to live in the country where it is spoken.

    Languages fascinate me. I think, language determines how we think or, conversely, language reflects how people in certain culture structure their thoughts. E.g. Germany has produced many musicians, philosophers, and is known for superb engineering. I believe, punctuality, attention to detail, and structure are reflected in German language. English is very flexible - pronunciation is not set in stone, many words sound similar: (here, hair, hear, heir, hare, hire, etc.) words and names are routinely chopped and abbreviated (William - Bill, Robert - Bob, comfortable - comfy, information - info, memorandum - memo), new words are created all the time. This makes it (and Americans) very practical and pragmatic.

    It's interesting for me to discover how seemingly unrelated languages have common words. E.g. "mur" means "wall" in both French and Ukrainian, "Rat" means "council" and "Dach" means "roof" in both German and Ukrainian. I think, it points to some common cultural roots.

    It's also interesting that speaking common language does not increase our capacity to understand each other. Ironically, trying to overcome language barrier does.

    What would be the global language? I don't know and I don't care. As long as we can understand each other. I'll learn it.
  • Mar 10 2013: I can speak Hindi and English very well. I wish to learn French and German beacause there are very good books written in these languages. Difficulty is that I don't have enough money for so called institutes, if anyone can suggest how can i learn these like aome website or anything, it would be a great help.
    • Mar 10 2013: hi Rishabh

      there are many ways to study something new. one has to find out his own learning strategies and structures.
      i have used different approaches to build different structures and path ways to learn new things.

      step one: name all the items at home stick a piece of paper using the language you want to learn.
      step two: learn 10 new words a day (repeating the previous one)
      step three: use youtube wisely ... watch movies with the language you want to learn.
      step four: pat a little attention on grammar.

      in English Grammar there (are many) is an important rule: it says:
      Grammar Rule # 1. Break the Rules

      no joke, but a bitter reality, no native pays attention on grammar.
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  • Mar 8 2013: I agree with you. People have to learn few langages. What would they do when they're rising? I personly speak about 4 langages. Two are improving. I think I'll learn more to see where my limits are.
    Most of people just think is good to learn English and don't think about others. I think you create sociability by using other langages with people even if they speak English.
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    Mar 8 2013: it is comparatively easier for a person whose initial language is in alphabet to learn another languages in this form. For example, It is quite easier for a British to learn Spanish , French and etc. However, it will not be necessarily that easy for him to learn a language which is not in alphabet form, e.g. Chinese. It is also reasonable to argue that it is not easy for Chinese people to learn English.
    • Mar 8 2013: I agree you just said it all I would like to add is that there are differences even in the same alphabet, I believe you are aware of Germano Language Group and Romano Language Group, don't you? if you do, then you know that there are less letters in Spanish and Italian than there are in English or Dutch, yet both use the same alphabet.
      now would you be agree with that easiness lies in language group?

      when you speak a Romano Language then it is easy to learn any language that is in that group: (Portugese, Italian, French, Spanish). and when you speak a Germano Language it is easy to learn any language that is in that group (English, Dutch, German Denis)

      so now, the alphabet has little to do here... in the world no one uses Armenian expect Armenians ... (check the alphabet if u please)... it has all to do with your will.

      what are you willing to lose in order to win something?

      Well, honestly, I live in Spain where there are many English people, guess what!? they do not learn / want to learn local languages... why? they haven't got any reasonable excuse, but to say: It is difficult !
      English is Germano language. and Spanish is Romano Language... now could I help you to agree that alphabet has got less to do with learning?

      Thanks
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        Mar 8 2013: Thanks for your input. You do give a deep insight of thinking about this issues. I am sorry I do not know Germano Language Group and Romano Language Group. But as far as I know, there are more Spanish letters than there are in English, rather than less. In fact, there are 29 letter in Spanish which are 3 letters more than In English. ch,ll,ñ, are the three letters that English does not contain.

        Even if the differences in the same alphabet, can we necessarily draw conclusion that alphabet has less importance in acquiring other languages which are constituted by letters? What examples you gave Germano and Romano , they are all formed by letters, aren't they. Can we agree that it is easier to learn languages among the same form than in different forms?

        Your personal example of Brits's the unwillingness to learn Spanish can only work for those specific people. Well, I am living in the UK, People around me from European countries are mostly multilingual. Some even can speak 3 or 4 European languages. Guess what, those languages are in the same form . If they do have such a gift of mastering language, why not Chinese? It is simply because Chinese is in different form from European languages

        It is my pleasure to share ideas with you!

        DIngshou Yang
        • Mar 8 2013: Antonio,

          Sound you have Spanish name...

          yes I agree that there are letter in Spanish that they aren't in English and also some of them pronounce differently.. "CH" isn't a letter that is the combination of two latter that makes one sound. in English we also got some combinations: "sh" "ch" "ts" "kh" ... surelly we use this to make foreign names sound closer to its origin.

          difference between people in main land Europe and England is big... sometimes the possibilities to travel makes you to learn languages... like in 70 or 80 more people could travel within main land Europe, but less people from England to main land Europe.
          TV plays a great role us well. such as in Belgium and Netherlands you can watch a film in original version with subtitle, , but in southern Europe it is translated, you can't hear the original languages)

          no young English lives in Spain, by the way, only ones who could afford to buy property in early 2000s ... but what I could understand that having an international language makes one to think that we got they most spoken language so the rest should know... regardless location. well it is same with Spanish people, they have third most spoken language and they do not speak other languages. yet in Spain there are more than one languages ( I think five languages, Catalan, Euskera, Gaego, Valenciano, Castilliano - they all are Spanish languages- that's why Spaniards say "We speak Castilian" and the Latin Americans say: "We speak Spanish")

          Of course I can agree that it is easy to learn languages that has the same form... Language Group, writing stile (right to left, and left to right, up and down) ...

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us...

          Cheers
        • Mar 11 2013: I was born in China, but when I was a young boy I was already interested in foreign languages. Fortunately I lived in Shanghai which was an international city with many foreigners. I learned English in regular school courses. But I started to learn some Russian and French before I was 18 years old. And later I also learned Japanese and Spanish as well. I agree with you that when one first try to learn a language which is drastically different in both the structure (alphabets vs characters) and grammar. In addition, the pronunciation for many Chinese in different regions seemed to be stuck with their lack of certain unique consonant sounding because they usually don't have that particular tongue in their own dialect.
          The difficulty of learning a different language is of course well established. But , for the Europeans their relative ease with languages of their neighbors are due to their close vicinity to each other, some of them were even consists of citizens with differing mother tongues (Switzerland). Also, it is very easy to learn other languages if you are speaking Latin (Romano) languages of your neighbors. Furthermore, if you look at the English language, there are many words that were originated from Latin or French, and a few from Spanish, German and Russian as well. So, after learned a few of the languages, it becomes easier to learn more.
          And, the "form" of the languages are blurred noways. For example, the Vietnamese are now written in French alphabets, but the sounds are still derived from the Chinese. The Japanese are even stranger, they have their own alphabets but the sounds are a mixture of Chinese and English. So the learning of even their own language for the Japanese, young or old, is more difficult than either the Chinese or the English to learn their own languages. It was well known that even one of the prime ministers in Japan had once misinterpreted a word for his own language.
  • Mar 8 2013: If you have a lot of free time you might be able to learn 10 or more. Of course you won't have time to learn much else. I can't really think of a situation other than itnl' business where that would be worth the effort. I'm learning Spanish right now and for me to become fluent, it seems like at least a couple thousand hours of practice would be necessary.
    • Mar 8 2013: Hi Tom.

      Well, perfection is in practice... no one achieved anything great without practising.

      here is my tip: If you want to improve your Spanish, travel through Spain (or any Spanish speaking country), stay away from touristic areas... spend as much time as you can with locals... within a few weeks or so your Spanish will be close to perfection.

      As Gandhi said: Live as you are going to die tomorrow, learn as you are going to live forever.
  • Mar 8 2013: When I decided to learn english again by myself eight years ago,I carry it on till now.I enjoy learning english.Because I feel it is the second beautiful language, the first is my mother tongue:chinese.I learn english because I am obsessed by english culture and ideas there are so much difference from my mother tongue.And I am sure I will find amazing from Spanish or any other countries languages' learning,but I know my life is limited.
    I think any language is extinct is our world's loss.Because I think every language has it's wisdom and culture indeed.They are all our ancient's legacy for us.
  • Mar 6 2013: it varies, it is based on individual difference because our carring capacity is not the same. one may know 3 another may know 6. thank you
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    Mar 5 2013: Hi, I'm fluence in Thai (my native language), competant in English and know a bit of Spanish (self-train), German, and Latin.

    I think you can learn as many languages as you like, but to master them is another story. The only way to be good at any language is to use them. When you stop using them for a long time, you tend to forget and loose some skills.
    • Mar 5 2013: Hello Kelwalin

      Many thanks for your comment. sure I agree that it is all about practising. time and practice make the perfection.
      I have to say, I forgot at some lever Russian I used to know. I think is also have to do with unlearning things in order to learn new things concept.
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    Mar 3 2013: i can speak 5 languages English, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Oriya, but understand many more languages but that all are native to our country
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    Mar 2 2013: There are different levels of knowing a language. My sister majored in languages at university and can read nine, I think, though many are no longer spoken. My eldest daughter five- English, Latin, French, German, and Akkadian. My younger daughter knows only two, but she knows both extremely well.

    English is the only language I know well, though I took French, German, and Spanish in college. I am less likely now to learn a new language than I am to brush up and improve my ability to use one to which I have already been introduced.

    I am not including languages in the sense of mathematics or programming languages.
    • Mar 2 2013: Thanks for your comment, Fritzie.

      interestingly I was talking to a friend the other day about languages, and somehow we start to think about America, there are only a few languages that are widely used. English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and some local languages in Latin America, like ; Quechua ...

      then I remembered that all my American friends were so surprised that in Europe people can speak different languages, it is that in America there aren't so many different languages as it is in Europe.
      and also, in America, some countries are so big that you may hardly be able to discover throughout your lifetime. yet in 50s or 60s people weren't so mobile as they are now. and this mobility makes us to learn languages. which led me to think how many languages are we capable to learn.
      another friends passed me the article I have posted here.

      then I start to think why we need to know so many languages when we want global village, why waist time on learning another language if we all could speak one language.

      why create Esperanto if we could give another live to Latin ?
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        Mar 2 2013: I think that the number of languages that are widely used in America has changed over time. For example, your list does not include Asian languages, and yet there are a large number of people of Asian heritage here who speak those languages within their communities.

        My parents were European, and while they may have learned several languages in school spoke only their native language and English well.

        I can easily think of why Latin would not make sense as a universal language. It is extremely difficult in its grammatical structure and small errors in sentence construction dramatically change the meaning of the sentence. Or so my kids tell me.
  • Mar 2 2013: An Israeli gentlemen,
    died in 2004 I believe and I happened to be reading his obituary.
    It said he read, wrote and spoke, fluently, 25 different languages.

    Recently, well last year, there was news of a young man who was up to 23 and in a video he told how he had done that.
    I think it is wonderful.
    Congratulations to you. I would like to speak about five but that will never happen.
    If I was young, in hind sight, I would leave my home every summer, go to another country for the three months of vacation and learn their language as intensely as possible.
    Keep it up and then go to another country the next summer. Alas, that is dreaming for me.

    I speak one, a little of another, much less of another, and even less of another.
    • Mar 2 2013: Hi RC

      Thanks for your comment.

      you said: "If I was young, in hind sight, I would leave my home every summer, go to another country for the three months of vacation and learn their language as intensely as possible. Keep it up and then go to another country the next summer. Alas, that is dreaming for me."

      I say: "The word impossible is reserved for those without a dream."
      but YOU have got a wish / a dream, what stops your from living up for that?

      let me answer your with A POEM (expressed with great psychological truth)

      If you think you are beaten, you are.
      If you think you dare not, you don't.
      If you like to win, but you think you can't,
      it is almost certain you won't.

      If you think you will loose, you have lost,
      For out of the world we find.
      Success begins with a fellow's will,
      It's all in the state of mind.

      if you think you are outclassed, you are.
      You have got to think high to rise.
      You have got to be sure of yourself
      Before you can ever win a prize.

      Life's battles don't always go
      To the stronger or the faster man.
      But soon or late the man who wins
      Is the man who thinks he can.

      Thanks
      Edwin
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    • Mar 2 2013: Hi ZX Style

      you know we all got 24 hours, (no matter race, nationality, colour, place, situation, age, sex) no one can argue with this... we all got 24 hours, but how we use that 24 hours depends on us.

      I believe you can make just 30 min of your day to learn 10 words each day, by the end of the year you will now 3650 words (of the chosen language). If you think how many words an average person knows and uses, it is actually less than 3650 words.
      but you do not have to do this with every language, if you do so, then say if a man lives 90 years then all s/he can learn is 90 languages, but you know after a few languages, the rest will become easy and you will learn it faster. I learnt Spanish in 4 months (after a year or two my Spanish was close to perfection.)
      • Comment deleted

        • Mar 2 2013: Hallo ZX

          Sure, we must have priorities in life... and that is one of the reasons I have said: " If I can do anyone can do it too, (but not everyone)"
          Because not every one wants the same things, loves the same person, goes the same place, learn the same thing.. and that what makes us different and unique, just like anyone else.

          yes I am Armenian... maybe that was the reason I went to learn languages because it wasn't so widely used language(just like Dutch).
          :-) ja, ik kan wel Nederlands spreken. ik heb over 7 jaar in Vlanderen, (Belgie) gewond.
          en het was de tweede europese taal dat ik moest leren. nu ben ik in Belgie.

          Cheers
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    Mar 2 2013: I speak two languages: English and Yoruba.
    I hope to live in Toronto, Canada someday, so French is one language that I will definitely learn. It is possible to learn as many languages as possible. But with so many things contesting for one´s time, one can only learn the languages that one really really really desires to learn.

    And the proof of desire is pursuit.