Our friends over at the ShelfLife@Texas blog have an interview up with UT grad Michael Erard, author of “Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners”(Free Press, 2012), whose study of linguistics led him to investigate hyperpolyglots.
Erard introduces as the pinnacle example of multilingualism Giuseppe Mezzofanti – a 19-century priest who allegedly spoke 72 languages – to reflect on the predispositions and genetic quirks that make grasping language easier for certain people.
From the Q&A:
Why do some people pick up multiple languages so easily?
One reason is that they’ve already picked up multiple languages – they have a lot of knowledge about the basic patterns they’ll see in a grammar, and they know a lot about how they learn. (That is, if they’ve learned languages from a lot of different families.)
You can read the full interview with Erard here.