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Paul R

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Last week I heard a radio spot for Incredible Edible egg in which an 8-year old “child prodigy” is said to have spoken 11 languages fluently since age 5: English, Vietnamese, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Japanese, Hindi, Arabic, Russian, Cantonese, and Portuguese.  I was intrigued so I watched and listened to her on a YouTube video.  She’s a cute little girl who reads English at the beginning of the video and then responds to some basic questions in the various languages, four languages to which I can attest (what is your name? how many brothers and sisters do you have?).  My wife, who is a native Spanish speaker, listened to her Spanish and remarked that the little girl has no accent.  

On this website, I read that “Just as a reference, researchers suggest that a child needs to hear a language 30% of the waking time to learn to speak with ease.”   I, for one, would be surprised to find that the little girl could actually carry on a conversation with the fluency and range of vocabulary of a native or near-native speaking 8-year old in each of the 11 languages.  As much as I’d like to believe it, is anyone else out there skeptical about the claim she speaks 11 languages fluently?


 1.             USA

2.       English, Spanish, French, German

3.       7, 5, 3.5 

4.        OPOL Plus




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Well Charles Berlitz is said to have spoken 8 from childhood (, I don’t know about 11 but there’s no discounting the abilities of a prodigy – some people live in a country for 30 years and struggle with the language, I have a friend who can speak a language fluently without much of an accent after a couple of months of immersion, so there’s a huge amount of scope there.

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Cute & talented kid!

I think it really depends on what you mean by “fluent”. Being able to speak a little bit in lots of languages is not what I would call fluent. Also once you are fluent in 3 languages it is easy to learn other languages & young ones tend to be better at pronunciation.

No polyglot speaks all languages equally.

My child can speak a little in many languages , but I would not call her fluent in them, despite excellent pronunciation. I WOULD call her VERY fluent in Spanish & English & on her way to being very fluent in Chinese. She competes with native speakers in school in all subjects in her 2nd and 3rd languages. That is the kind of proficiency that we think is most valuable, although her native tongue is still her strongest language by far ( reading many years ahead of age peers)  and we will continue to work on all for many more years.

I figure once she is very fluent in the top 3 universal languages, she can decide if she wants to add any more at deeper levels as she will have a strong foundation on 3 very different language families and much experience in learning languages.

The level of fluency it takes to speak a simple face to face conversation is very different than being able to be “proficiently fluent”and take subjects in school totally in that language, to read, write, work in that language with native speakers.

There is a huge range at what people call “fluent”.

Paul R

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With more research, I found a list of polyglots, who claim to speak 10 or more languages, with one person claiming to be able to speak 100 languages with knowledge of 200+.  It boggles the imagination. 

Back on earth, the U.S. Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination for Spanish/English lists different levels of proficiency this way: Limited Working Proficiency, General Professional Proficiency, Advanced Professional Proficiency, and Educated Native Proficiency.  The first is defined as “I can handle informal conversations successfully. I can begin, continue, and bring to completion a variety of communicative tasks. I can handle most everyday social conversation with some confidence, but not with facility, including casual conversations about current events, work, family, and autobiographical information. I can narrate and describe events occurring in the past, present, and future. I have control of everyday vocabulary sufficient to discuss general topics of a concrete nature.” And the last is defined as “I speak the language as well as a highly articulate, well-educated, native speaker. I can use the language with complete flexibility and intuition, so that my speech on all levels is fully accepted by, and equivalent to, a well-educated native speaker in all of its features, including breadth of vocabulary, colloquialisms, and pertinent cultural references. My pronunciation is consistent with that of an educated native speaker of a standard dialect of the language.”

The bottom line seems to be that there is no universal definition of “fluency.”

Paul R

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Here we go again.  Now comes word of an Austrian man who allegedly speaks 30 languages fluently and with no accent.  He didn’t start until he was 14 years old. But what is more amazing – to the point of unbelievable – is that he’s learned European languages in 4 weeks and Asian languages in 2-6 months.  C’mon, man! 

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