What Makes a Polyglot? (Part 5)

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2011 at 10:20 am

And What do Polyglots think

By Antonio Graceffo

“Lingo” Steve Kaufman is probably one of the most famous youtube polyglots. I was happy to be able to include him in my series on polyglots.

Steve says, I speak 6 languages very fluently: English, French, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish and Swedish; and 5 languages quite comfortably: German, Italian, Cantonese, Russian and Portuguese. I also speak one language at a pre-Intermediate level: Korean.

These are the only languages that I have studied.

1. Are most polyglots made or born?


2. Did most polyglots learn their languages as adults?


3. Do children actually learn languages faster? And if so, where are these child-polyglots?

Initially children learn faster, but adults can reach an advanced level faster, in all areas except pronunciation

1. Were you born into a multilingual family? Were you raised bi-lingual? Yes my family was multilingual, no I was raised speaking English only

2. When did you start studying languages seriously? 17

3. Did you do any of your language study in a formal setting? If so, where and which languages?

French and Mandarin only but still most successful learning was outside the classroom

4. How much of your knowledge is the result of self-study? Most.

5. How many hours do you study per week? 5-10 mostly listening and reading, therefore it is not really studying.

6. How many hours do you believe one needs to master a language? You never master, you keep improving. Depending on the language, 600-3,000 hours to be really good.

7. Do you have any goal in learning languages? Are you training to be a professor, teacher, translator…or do you just study for love? For the love of it.

8. What is your occupation? Businessman

9. Do you learn more than one language at a time? Sometimes, one major and one minor, and occasionally switch.

10. Have you studied overseas? Where? How long?

Lived in Hong Kong, Japan, France.

11. Do you believe children learn languages faster than adults? Initially yes but not in the long run

13. Did you do well in school? Yes

15. Do you feel that polyglots are qualified to work as translators and interpreters or must one do formal studies first?

irrelevant. test them both.

16. Why do the vast majority of people who begin a language fail to learn it?

Attitude. poor expectations, unwilling to let go of their own language, attempt to learn in traditional way with emphasis on grammar and deliberate learning.

17. Any comments on language learning or polyglot life you would like to share with the world would be great. If you can enjoy the language through listening and reading, and eventually speaking, you can learn.

Steve Kaufmann

You can send the responses to my email

Thanks so much for your time. Below, you will find more information about me

and the articles I write.


Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)




Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

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