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Main page » Coursebooks » Polyglot: How I Learn Languages

Polyglot: How I Learn Languages


Originally she graduated in physics and chemistry, but her interest soon led her to languages. Native in Hungarian, she was able to interpret fluently in nine or ten languages (in four of them even without preparation), and she translated technical literature and read belles-lettres in six languages. She was able to understand journalism in further eleven languages. As she put it, altogether she earned money with sixteen languages (Bulgarian, Chinese, Danish, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Ukrainian). She learned these languages mostly by self-effort, as an autodidact. Her aims to acquire these languages were most of all practical, to satisfy her interest.

According to her own account, her long life was highlighted not primarily by the command of languages but the actual study of them. Through her books, published in Hungarian in several editions as well as in some other languages, interviews (in print and on the air) and conversations, she tried to share this joy with generations. As an interpreter, she visited all five continents, saw forty countries, and reported about her experiences and adventures in a separate book (Egy tolmács a világ körül, "An interpreter around the world").

Her language learning method and principles
Her keyword was most of all interest: the word, coming from Latin interesse (originally meaning "to be between"), has a double meaning, referring to the material profit or the mental attraction, together: motivation. This means that I can answer these questions: "How much am I interested in it? What do I want with it? What does it mean for me? What good is it for me?" She didn't believe in the so-called language talent. She tended to express the language skill with a fraction, with motivation in the numerator (through which we can pinch off some ten minutes a day even with the busiest job), and inhibition in the denominator (the fear of starting to speak, of being clumsy, of being laughed at). In her conviction, the stronger the motivation is within us, and the more we can put aside inhibition, the sooner we can take possession of the language.



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Tags: languages, French, German, Hebrew, Italian