So the Linguist made a multi-lingual podcast, and then pointed to a video of a man who is claimed to speak 58 languages getting humiliated on tv. YouTube then suggested I watch this Peruvian kid (part one, part two), which shows him studying with native speakers. There are more videos and podcasts out there of polyglots, but I think I’ve lost interest.
How do you count a language? At what point do you say “I speak X language?” I, for example, speak Chinese every day, but no one would really accuse me of being a Chinese speaker. I studied Italian 15 years ago, and at one point, it was my best second language. I’m nowhere near that good anymore; do I still “speak”Italian? How do monolinguals verify claims that somebody speaks many languages?
I’ve always maintained that there is no special gift or talent involved in speaking more than one language, it’s all about motivation, exposure, and most of all, practice. Some people do it smarter than others, but that usually has more to do with experience and/or belief than with actual talent. I think everyone can learn as many languages as they have to.
For goodness sakes, humans can learn to echolocate. We might not all learn how to be virtuoso pianists or quantum physicists, but we can all certainly learn a little Spanish.