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Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  688 ratings  ·  103 reviews
In the tradition of the bestsellers Word Freak and The Language Instinct comes a fascinating exploration of linguistic superlearners whose abilities shed light on the intellectual potential in us all.

What do an Italian cardinal, a Connecticut blacksmith, and a German diplomat have in common with an MIT linguist, a Hungarian translator, and a Scottish church organist? They
Hardcover, 270 pages
Published January 10th 2012 by Free Press
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The main reason I picked this book up was that it featured the hyperpolyglot Alexander Arguelles who I follow on his youtube videos, his website and on the website

I am no polyglot myself but I have studied a fair few languages and have a fascination with them, and have done John McWorter's three linguistics courses on The Great Courses. Currently apart from my native English, I have a B2 level in Spanish, have Japanese "on ice" (to borrow a phrase from the author.
Learning foreign languages is a topic that interests me greatly -- since retiring from my career in statistics I've made a concerted effort to achieve mastery of Spanish and French, and hope eventually to add Italian and Portuguese to that list. Over the last few years I've given a fair amount of thought to efficient strategies for language acquisition, as well as to the challenges of switching among languages. I don't have any simple answers.
Neither does Michael Erard, which is probably a point
Ruchira Datta
Erard writes on pp. 49-50:
One question that polyglots don't get asked is, "When you go crazy, what language do you go crazy in?" Which is too bad, because it's been demonstrated that psychotic polyglots, it turns out, aren't equally disordered in each of their languages. In one case recorded by British psychiatrist Felicity de Zulueta, her psychotic patient, a native English speaker, switched into Spanish because he knew that Zulueta also spoke the language. Both were then surprised that his
Daniel Clausen

What does it mean to “know a language”? Is there a magic method for language acquisition? Is the ability to learn a language more hereditary or is it driven by motivation? These are the questions wrapped up in the quest to find the secret of the world’s polyglots -- those individual who know (or at least claim to know) many languages.

In his book, Babel No More, Michael Erard takes us on a fascinating journey -- one that is both personal and intellectual -- to discover the secrets of polyglots.
Feb 29, 2012 Will rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lauguage learners and lovers.
This book quickly began at 5 stars for me, but dropped to three by the end. I did enjoy it, and I do recommend it, however.

The author sets the book essentially as an epic quest to find, as the title suggests, the most extraordinary language learners. Really, we're speaking less of people who learn well, so much as people who learn many languages, followed by argument about how well these "Hyperpolyglots" learn, how deeply they learn, and to what end. As a person who enjoys language and the learn
Ahmed Almawali
كتابٌ ورحلةٌ ممتعة ولكن أقل من المتوقع، ولا أرغب أن أكون ظالما في تقييمي له فهنالك عوامل أعتقدُ أنها ساهمت في التقليل من استمتاعي بالكتاب، فالطقس القرائي لم يكن مناسبا خصوصا في النصف الأول من الكتاب حيث كنتُ متعثرا، أقرأ صفحات منه وأتركه، وهذا التجزءُ إن كان مفيدا في أحيان فللأسف هو ضار في أحيان أخرى، وهذا ما حصل لي في الكتاب تزامن هذا مع الترجمة الحرفية التي تفاءلت فيها خيرا أولا ثم سرعان ما لم ترق لي. المزاجُ القرائي تحسن في النصف الآخر من الكتاب لذا استمتعت به.
مايكل إيرارد لديه هدف وهو أن يفه
The author has notes, interviews, research, studies and contacts to help him study the fascinating group of people he calls hyperpolyglots - those who have mastered 7 languages or more. If you are looking for definitive information, you won't find it here.

While there is information interspersed throughout the rambling text not much of it is useful or enlightening. The book is a hodge-podge. For the few hyperpolyglots he meets, the portraits are sketchy, showing the time commitment that learning
Diminishing returns on this book. I started out being very interested, but as the book wore on, the sloppy editing started to get to me (multiple instances of what would strictly be called bad grammar or broadly be called "extremely casual writing style"; occasionally something was referenced that must have been taken out during the editing process, without removing the reference as well); the author seemed to lose focus; and it got increasingly repetitious. A better editor (or more thorough edi ...more
"Babel No More" will make every reader want to learn a new language just to enter into the world of language lovers. The book takes you on an exploration of languages and the people who have mastered them. Erard travels from Italy to India in search of hyperpolyglots and the answer to the question: How many languages can one person learn? This book is full of interesting interviews with academics and ordinary individuals who have studied dozens of languages. And yet, these individuals have remai ...more

كنت متوقعه غير شي
لم يجذبني الكتاب كنت اريد ان اندهش وانتهيت بمسلمات استطيع ان اصل اليها بالمنطق

زرت موقع اللغات المدرج في الكتاب اخترت اللغه العربيه

وجدت عدة اسباب لتتعلمها كلغه ثانيه وعدد المتكلمين بها بكل دوله شعرت باحساس الغبطه

قررت ان ابدا بتعلم الفرنسيه
وهنا اعترف ان الكتاب ملهم بقدر عدم اعجابي به
انتهيت للتو من قراءة كتاب #وداعا_بابل
منحته / لأنني أصبت بالملل في النصف الآخر من الكتاب .. ربما لتفاصيل علمية تتعلق بالعقل البشري والتي لا أفقه فيها شيئا :-)
الكتاب ثروة معرفية وأنصح بقراءته بشدة، وقبل أن تشرع بقراءته تأكد من أنك تحمل معك خريطة للعالم
This guy is definitely a positivist. With a flare for the dramatic. Though the book did feel a little long and cloyingly chummy at times, it was interesting on a superficial level. Oh man, and the brain as a globe was just annoying, as is the analogy of hyperpolyglots as Peter Pan or near-extinct African animals.

"As many as 70 percent of all interactions in English around the world occur between non-native speakers."

"In my case, I resonate culturally to three. Even though I had Russian, Greek L
Babel No More takes a look at whether people really can learn a vast amount of languages and how they are able to do so. He starts off with almost mythological historical figures, then moves on to modern days ones and winds up studying the brain science behind it all. The short answer is that there is no clear, easy answer as to how these people (whom he calls hyperpolyglots) are able to learn more than six languages.

The book started off a bit hard to read, as Erard at first seemed more interest
Christian Allen
Apr 17, 2012 Christian Allen rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: linguists,
The author was way too verbose and essentially asked, then repeated, all the questions the reader had in his or her mind anyway. In the end he comes to no definitive conclusion as to why some people acquire languages faster than others, stating simply that it's partially genetics, partially personal characteristics like determination and focus and partially the language environment of your locality.

The author also poorly attempts to describe the human brain as a projection on a world map with s
I have mixed feelings about this book. The theme is very interesting for me, being an avid language learner, but the structure was too loosy goosy for my taste. I found some of the real life cases of polyglots very enlightening (mostly those of people whose work pushes them to learn languages, or who live in multilanguage communities), but some others were just isolated cases of geeks who could have taken up any other hobby and who did nothing interesting with their "knowledge". The final conclu ...more
Ahmad Alahmadi
هو بحث عن سر متعددي اللغات المفرطين، الكاتب وهو متخصص في العلوم اللغوية بدأ بحثه ليرى إن كان هناك سر أو خلطة خفيّة لكون بعض الناس قادرين على تعلّم مجموعة كبيرة من اللغات الأجنبية في حين أن الأغلبية العظمى تجد أن مجرد تعلّم لغة واحدة أجنبية يعد تحدي صعب وكثير لا ينجحون به.. أثناء قراءة الكتاب شعرت وكأنه برنامج وثائقي أكثر من كونه كتاب، وأعتقد أن الكاتب عندما بدأ بحثه كان يأمل بأنه سيجد سر أو مجموعة أسرار وسيضعها في كتاب عندما ينتهي ولكن لخيبة أمله بأنه لم يجد شيء يُذكر فقرر أن يكتب بهذه الطريقة ا ...more
The author takes a meandering turn in his approach to find hyper polyglots interviewing various people but I don’t like his uncharitable descriptions of people who have treated him nicely and have, for the most part kindly and have been of gentle dispositions themselves.

The account is for the most part fascinating and the author doesn’t try to hide that his wishes are to be a hyper polyglot and discover some sort of either inherent talent dependency or a trick to help him shortcut the effort re
Josh Mattson
One could try and learn
every language but there would
be no time to speak

This was a superb introduction into the underground world of polyglots. Not written in an academic style but filled with story, intrigue, and fascinating historical characters (Mezzofanti, just wow), this was an inspiration and revelation for language learning! The author Michael Erard travels across the world, interviewing polyglots, inquiring about their techniques and upbringing, occasionally doing some detective work and
This book is dedicated to obsession--not the obsession of obsessively learning a language which is ostensively the subject matter of the book--but to the obsession about the obsessive language learner themselves. Throughout the book I went back and forth on the question whether I really shared Michael Erard's obsession with these "hyperpolyglots" enough to keep me going through this book. At times I was entirely with him, turning the pages anxiously to find out how this all works. Other parts we ...more
Rather than a how-to guide or one person's theory on acquisition of foreign languages, this book is an exploration both of scientific research and anecdotal evidence of the incidence of individuals who excel at language learning. The author presents historical accounts and results of personal interviews and observations of hyperglots, as he calls them, as well as relevant published findings in the book. The book is. quite thorough and unbiased, taking into account social, psychological, genetic ...more
I was not really expecting to like this book. However, it was far more interesting than I expected. At first thinking that the polyglot was part of cryptozoology lore like Bigfoot and Nessie, the author tracks down people who claim to know several languages. The results are interesting and not quite what I expected.
Jeremy Thompson
This book provides a fascinating look at hyperpolyglots, but it also does much more. Having written a dissertation related to second language acquisition, I think this is probably one of the best popular books that you will find related to second language learning.

Erard discusses important topics like what it means to "know" a language: Is it enough to know bits to get by? Or, must a person be fluent? Related to this, he talks about maturational constraints and what levels of proficiency are po
Probably 2.5 stars...would have been 3, but extremely redundant. Extremely.
القسم الأول من الكتاب يحتوي المقدمة و فصول

بعنوان : في متاهة الكاردينال
Wesley  Gerrard
I am a keen learner of foreign languages and consider myself a polyglot with experience in about ten different tongues. This book focuses on the search for those rare people in our global society who take the study of languages to the extreme, accumulating masses and becoming masters of Babel. The story begins with the legend of Giuseppe Mezzofanti, a Bolognese cardinal who reached a zenith of 63 languages and used to regularly stun visitors to the Vatican with his linguistic prowess. The author ...more
Lina Qari
كتاب جميل وجيد يتحدث عن اللغات ومتعددي اللغات المفرطين
راقت لي الأقسام الي اختصت بالحديث عن الدماغ والبحث وراء سبب تميز متعددي اللغات المفرطين
والقاء الضوء على شخصيات مميزه كميزوفانتي وكريستوفر مثلا
استفدت من الكتاب معلومات متنوعه واستمتعت بقراءته رغم انه -من وجهه نظري- يحتوي حشوا زائدا جعلني اشعر بالقليل من الملل والذي كان من الممكن اختصاره

بعد انتهائي من الكتاب شعرت برغبه كبيره بتحدي نفسي واضافه لغه اخرى الى مجموع لغاتي الثلاث
اذا كنت ممن يتهمون بموضوع اللغات فسأضمن لك رحله ممتعه بين صفحاته ;)
Shannon Ture
Interesting ambition by the author -- to research past and present hyperpolyglots (folks who are learning/know 6 or more languages), study how they know so many languages, why they learn them, and see if there are latent abilities in all of us to learn them. The book was actually inconclusive, I felt. It seemed like it was difficult to pin down any commonalities among the language learners that could help determine if we all can learn the way they do.
Nonetheless, it was a really interesting jou
Quick disclaimer: I kind of know the author. However, major news sources (NY Times, The Economist, etc.) liked this book as well.

Take the subtitle, "The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners," to heart, as a lot of the book is about Erard's search and interactions with people rather than a scientific study of people who know a lot of languages. The former is more interesting for the general audience, as the best parts of the book describe the people whom Erard meets. It wa
Giuseppe D
If you’re passionate about languages and would like to be fluent in many of them and you just like being engaged in their studies, this is the book for you and you should definitely read it. It starts from the famous cardinal Giuseppe Mezzofanti going all the way to modern and living hyperpolyglots.
What is it that makes them more successful at learning languages? Are their brains different from those of others? Are they just more driven? Is it that they have secret methods or they know how to do
First, I am absolutely fascinated by this topic. I was so glad to get this book and start reading it. By the end, though, the book had lost a lot of its luster for me, and so I'm going with three stars. I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it, and I'd only recommend it to some people.

The topic is fascinating as I've already said, and Erard's approach is generally solid. He basically begins with an overview of historical hyperglots (those who speak + languages), goes into some science, and engages in
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