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Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Babel No More

Nataly Kelly

When I first heard about Michael Erard’s book on hyperpolyglots, Babel No More, I had never even heard the word hyperpolyglot before. But once I knew what it meant (someone who speaks along the lines of 10 or 15 languages), my childhood dreams of becoming one were immediately rekindled. As a court-certified interpreter for Spanish and English, I was always glad to have obtained an advanced mastery of two languages, but my formal and admittedly erratic studies over the years had left me with a smattering of six additional languages spoken with varying levels of proficiency. I could never really claim to speak them fluently, only to have studied them, but I always made it a point of saying so with pride. After all, to study a language is to show interest and appreciation for that language and its people, right?  
Yet, in the language industry, most people measure language proficiency with a much harsher yardstick. There is a taboo around claiming that you “speak” a language unless you have mastered it to the degree that a translator or interpreter would. The pervading notion of quality revolves around the idea that only native speakers should produce translations into their language.  
But never mind how we view language proficiency in the language industry bubble. What if our entire conception of what it means to speak a language is wrong? . . .

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Above excerpt taken from the April/May 2012 issue of MultiLingual published by MultiLingual Computing, Inc., 319 North First Avenue, Suite 2, Sandpoint, Idaho 83864-1495 USA, 208-263-8178, Fax: 208-263-6310. Subscribe

April/May, 2012