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How many languages could a person realistically learn?


primalclaws1974
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I have heard of people that are well-educated that knew five languages. A man is in the record books because he could speak over 50 languages fluently. He worked in the United Nations, and spoke to each delegate in their own tongue. Could a person learn more than one tongue at a time? Or is it easier to do them separate? Is their a purpose in knowing multiple languages?

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I think there is no limit in the number of languages a person can learn, for the most part, but probably every person's limit is different. Some that may excel in this area may have an easier time acquiring skills in it while some may have a bit more trouble so they may only be able to learn one or two other languages. It's similar to how some people are naturally great at math and they find it easy to explore it to the fullest while some have trouble even with the beginning parts.

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I believe there is no limit to how many languages a person can take the time to learn fluently. However, how they learn differs from person to person. It's extremely difficult for me to learn languages that are similar separately. For instance, I will confuse my French with my Spanish because I keep thinking one is the other. Yet I never seem to confuse my German with my Italian (what extremely few words I know of either anyway) probably because I learned them around the same time. However, to each goes his or her own studies. Also, yes, for some reason Italian and German seem similar to me and I realize that must be odd to others.

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Well, as the person you were talking about in your post proves, I think that there is really no limit to how many languages a person can learn.  One must have a passion for learning languages, and then going hand in hand with passion, one has to have the time to dedicate to that learning. 

Obviously learning languages enables one to communicate with more people, and that can be a good thing.  If one has the time and the passion, they can continue learning languages for as long as they live.

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A professor in law school once told my class that it is better if you specialize in one or more fields, but not as a jack-of-all-trades.  What he means is that if you will specialize in something, it is best if you do so in a field you're interested in.  When applied to foreign languages, it is better if the person will learn one particular language, mastering the basics, having substantive knowledge over grammar, vocabulary, and being familiar with certain rules regarding that language.  This does not count languages which are already familiar to the person.  But to be fluent in the foreign language, he will have to devote much of his time in learning it.  Ideally, learning more than one foreign language is great, especially if the person wishes to be multilingual.

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Personally, I could only realistically learn 3-4 languages, maybe even 5 if I would actually get paid for the 5th :laugh:

Kidding aside, the amount of languages a person could realistically learn might depend on how patient that person is when it comes to actually developing his/her self in being able to speak and be fluent in a language. Also, mother tongues have origins and their "relatives". If you are able to speak a language, the verb forms, sentence constructions, and some word meanings in its "family" are almost alike with one another. Although not always applicable for every language, this might make it just a little faster for one to accumulate learning several languages in a lifetime.

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Realistically speaking, I have to say about 3 or 4.

However, if we're technically speaking 6, perhaps. Here's why: If you're teaching your kid how to talk, they'll learn whatever native language you want them to learn. Let's just say you up the ante and teach them two around this same time. All the words that you taught in their native tongue, you could teach them those same words at the same time.

Now, about the age of 4 or so, you could teach another language since TECHNICALLY it takes 4 years to become decent in a language. So, about every four years, by the time of 12, since they're closer to being into high school and the learning speed they had when they were small has slowed down significantly, you could have taught them roughly 4 languages.

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I don’t think there’s a limit in learning new languages. The key is passion, enthusiasm, perseverance and dedication. They are all intertwined, I believe as long as the person is eager to learn, he can learn anything he put his heart into. The human brain is so complex that it don’t stop developing until at the age of late 40s.

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I tend to agree with most of the posters here, there probably isn't a limit by ability. The limit on the amount of languages you speak is going to be based more on the reason for learning them. One person joked about being paid to learn a fifth language, but truthfully, who would learn more than two languages without it having something to do with their current job or trying to raise your skillset to get a future job? There is nothing wrong with helping yourself as well as others.

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