Inside the mind of a hyperpolyglot

November 22, 2018 11:15 am

The hyperpolyglot is someone who is both a gifted and massive language accumulator. They possess a particular neurological trait that’s well-suited for learning languages very quickly and using them adeptly.

Hyperpolyglots and polyglots are both terms that refer to people who can speak several languages. Although some people think that the two terms mean the same thing, there is a difference. There are polyglots, and then there are the extremely rare hyperpolyglots. We consider a polyglot to be fluent in more than three languages, whereas a hyperpolyglot is a person who is proficient in at least twelve languages.

Hyperpolyglots are extraordinary language-learners. Those who have studied these foreign language-learning geniuses show that they typically have good memories, with an ability to encode things in their long-term memory and retrieve it quickly. It has also been found that they have an ability to switch between languages very easily, involving cognitive skills that are often inherited.

People who live at a crossroads of cultures—Melanesians, South Asians, Latin-Americans, Central Europeans, sub-Saharan Africans, plus millions of others, including the Maltese and the Shawi—acquire languages without considering it a noteworthy achievement. The geographical proximity of other languages makes learning particularly appealing. If people in different quarters of one city spoke different languages, they would become multilingual, too.

A number of hyperpolyglots are reclusive savants who bank their languages rather than using them to communicate. The more extroverted may work as translators or interpreters.




Written by Marta Guillén Martínez – Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). She holds a Degree in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of Alicante, Spain and she did her European Voluntary Service on communication and european youth mobility in Milan, Italy. She speaks Spanish, Catalan, English and Italian.

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