People who speak more than 5 languages are often called “hyperglots” (and sometimes “Hyperpolyglots”). Hyperglot seems like one of those transitional words that’s ill defined and not very precise. Nevertheless, it’s useful to mark an emerging phenomenon that appears to be on the rise.
I’ve been interested in hyperglots for awhile, especially as they relate to accelerating language learning. Do hyperglots have some extra cognitive capacity to hold all of that language in their brains, a capacity that us regular mortals don’t? Are there techniques we can learn from them that can be broadly applied in our own efforts?
There are rockstar hyperglots on the web like Timothy Doner, Lindie Botes and Benny the Hyperglot. Their appeal is immediate when you see them speaking in videos on YouTube, promising that humans are capable of much more language diversity than we commonly encounter.
While doing user research at language meetups for Mightyverse, I met a woman named Diana Gruber speaking with another person in flawless Spanish. When we introduced each other, her English was flawless as well, and later in the conversation I learned that also speaks French, Italian and Portuguese at a near native level, as well as quite passable German. She also taught at a language school in Texas and has her own ideas on the best way to start to learn a language and then polish your skills over time. One of her key ideas is that it’s important to gain an effect with your new language as soon as you can, learning phrases that you can put to immediate use (“Un cerveza por favor!” and the like).
I invited Diana to our studio where she graciously consented to a video interview about being a hyperglot (an interview that I hope to link to in a future post). She also recorded a series of Spanish Medical Phrases for Mightyverse.
While we had the camera set up and were on a roll, we recorded Diana speaking in six languages and it took off on YouTube the day she posted it.