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  • From: English in Mind

Example of the Greatest Language Learner


Giuseppe Mezzofanti (1774 – 1849) was an Italian cardinal who was perhaps the best language learner ever. H e spoke more than 38 language fluently. He never left Italy, but learned to speak the languages without accent.

People from all over the world came to talk to him in their native language. All of them were amazed of his fluency .

At the age of 12, Mezzofanti spoke his native Italian, as well as German , Greek, Latin, and at least five other languages. Then he learned Arabic, Russian, Hindi, Old English and Maltese. He also learned Chinese. This was the hardest language or him to learn. It took him four months.

Some stories say he also spoke 30 other languages fairly well and that he could understand another 20 (for example, Tibean and Icelandic).

Another story says that he heard there were two foreigners in a prison in Rome. So he learned their language in one night and spoke to them the next morning!

It’s hard to know if all these stories are true. Some people, for example ask, “How did he learned Old English without meeting anyone who spoke it?” or “Did

He really learned a language in a few weeks –or in one night?” We don’t know for sure, but we can say for certain that Giuseppe Mezzofanti became a language-learning legend.


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