Saturday, January 7, 2012

Michael Erard

Michael Erard's new book is Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners.

From his Q & A with Nataly Kelly at the Huffington Post:

Nataly Kelly (NK): Why did you write this book?

Michael Erard (ME): The changing linguistic world needs polyglots! We need to know what makes them tick so we can find out how to reproduce or mimic what they are able to do. We also need to get a grasp on our own fascinations (and suspicions) of massive multilingualism. This was a topic that had never been covered from a scientific perspective. In hyperpolyglots you have people who are running in essence a natural experiment into the limits of language learning, but no one, until now, has examined the results of that experiment.

NK: What exactly is a hyperpolyglot?

ME: I started my investigations with the definition that a hyperpolyglot is someone who speaks six or more languages, based on work by Dick Hudson, a University College London linguist, but that ought to be revised upward, to 11 languages or more.

NK: How fluent does one have to be in each language to be considered a hyperpolyglot?

ME: There's a myth that hyperpolyglots have all of their languages to an equally high, native-like level, but this isn't the case, just as it's relatively rare to find bilinguals who are perfectly balanced in both of their languages. Hyperpolyglots have varying degrees of proficiency in their languages, depending on lots of factors. To be clear, the...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his writing at Michael Erard's website.

The Page 69 Test: Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean.

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