There’s a lot of interesting discussion on the forum at How-to-learn-any-language.com about the extreme polyglot, Ziad Fazah, who lives in Brazil and speaks 58 languages. Some of those involved in the discussion are sceptical about the existence of this person, don’t believe that he speaks so many languages, or don’t think he could he learnt so many languages in his native Lebannon, due to lack of materials. Later on the discussion is joined by someone who actually knows Ziad, meets him regularly and can confirm that he really does know all those languages. Ziad’s contact details are given and a number of people mention that they have spoken to him and confirm that he speaks their language well, and that he has plenty advice to offer on language learning.
I find the whole discussion interesting on a number of levels: the fact that this man speaks so many languages so well is incredible. The understandable scepticism about his abilities and even his existence is also interesting, as is the way the discussion develops with some participants refusing to believe the claims of those who know the man in question.
One comment, apparently from Ziad himself, that rings true with me is that there’s not a lot of money in being a polyglot, and that someone who speaks 10, 20 or 50 languages doesn’t usually get paid more than someone who speaks two or three. When I tell people that I know many languages, they sometimes ask me why I’m not rich and famous. To which I usually reply that I learn languages mainly for fun rather than for profit.
Do you know or know of any extreme polyglots?