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This 17-Year-Old Speaks 23 Languages
April 10, 2013
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Here's one kid who's never struggled in a high school language class: 17-year-old Timothy Doner can speak 23 languages, and he learned many of them in only a few weeks, without a teacher.

As he has proven in a series of YouTube videos, Doner can speak each of the languages at length, and switch between them easily.

Check out this video where he speaks 20 languages in succession, released back when he was 16:

He speaks for 15 minutes without any edits, makes a few minor mistakes (for which he provides on-screen corrections), and tells the story of how he's learning each language.

Linguists call the teen a "hyperpolyglot," a term for people who speak a large number of languages.

Doner, who's from New York, says he uses different techniques to sharpen his skills.

He watches Second World War movies to improve his German, speaks to his friend Richard in Turkish, and hangs out with an Iraqi language partner to work on his Arabic.

And the list of languages he's learned at least the basics of includes a few you might never have heard of, unless you're a professional linguist - like isiXhosa, one of South Africa's official languages, or Wolof, which is spoken in Zambia.

Although his talent is seriously amazing, Doner has had some fun with his linguistic skills.

The Daily Mail reports that when he was eating at an Israeli restaurant with his father, he overheard some other diners accuse him of "trying to be cultural."

He didn't confront them directly, but politely revealed to them as they were leaving that he spoke fluent Hebrew.

"Learning a serious number of languages kind of helps you become a bit of an eavesdropper," Doner told ITN. "I find most of the time that I accidentally follow people perhaps for a bit longer than I should."

Here's a complete list of the 23 languages he has learned so far:

English
French
Hausa
Ojibwe
Wolof
Persian
Russian
German
Turkish
Yiddish
Hebrew
Arabic
Pashto
Farsi
Mandarin
Italian
Indonesian
Dutch
isiXhosa
Swahili
Hindi
Croatian
Spanish

And if you're wondering whether 23 is enough for Doner, well, it's not. Next, he plans on tackling Sudanese or Malay, which is spoken in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and is one of Singapore's official languages.

Via The Guardian

Related:

I Can See The Music: Sign Language Experts Help Deaf Fans Enjoy Concerts

Celebrating The Beauty Of Words & Language: It's National Grammar Day

How To Save A Language Through Crowdsourcing

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