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Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners Paperback – 2 Oct 2012


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Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners + The Last Lingua Franca: The Rise and Fall of World Languages + Through the Language Glass: Why The World Looks Different In Other Languages
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Product details

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (2 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451628269
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451628265
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 284,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Babel No More In "Babel No More," Michael Erard, "a monolingual with benefits," sets out on a quest to meet language superlearners and make sense of their mental powers. On the way he uncovers the secrets of historical figures like the nineteenth-century Italian cardinal Joseph Mezzofanti, who was said to speak seventy-two languages, as well as those of living language-superlearners such as Alexander Arguelles,... Full description

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 April 2012
Format: Hardcover
With memories of failing college French, mangling German in Berlin, and being unable to even hear the critical difference in some letters in Polish, I was looking forward to Michael Erard's Babel No More, a book about successful language learners.

Erard takes an already interesting topic and makes it a little more irresistible by turning it into a multi-faceted mystery. Are the occasional reports of super linguists, people who learn languages with ease and speak dozens, true or are they urban myths? Are there any of these hyperpolyglots, as he calls them, alive today? If they exist, is there something we can learn from them, some secret language-learning method that will make sad uniglots like me potential hyperpolyglots?

Erard sets out to verify or debunk the story of a 19th century Italian who was supposed to have spoken over fifty languages and learned new languages in weeks. From there he tracks down and meets some current-day polyglots and starts to find some unexpected and disturbing similarities. Most of the self-identified polyglots are men, many are left-handed, and quite a few seem to exhibit some autistic tendencies. Erard is reluctant to make too much of these similarities, yet he can't explain them away either.

And then there's the most vexing problem - what does it mean to speak a language, or to know a language? Does it mean with native fluency? With ease? Able to get by? Everyone has a different standard and this makes it hard to compare or group these hyperpolyglots in any meaningful way.

Erard is best when he is interviewing the polyglots and finding out how they learn languages.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ash on 26 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed it. Some of the other reviews were negative, but I think that they may have expected a more scientific book (also, reviews of the kindle edition, or reviews published in newspapers and magazines, are generally positive). This book is written for a general audience, and the subtitle, "The Search For..." should be taken to heart. It describes the author's experiences and the people he met in his "search." While I didn't really perceive a strong focus holding the book together, the book introduced me to a bunch of interesting people, past and present, who know many languages. One particularly neat comparison was between some guy in northern California, who studied mostly by himself (through audio recordings and texts) and some people in India, who "picked up" several languages as they needed them due to the requirements of every day life in that part of the world. Different approaches towards similar results.

Overall, it's generally interesting and an accessible introduction to the world of people who know many languages.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Owlie on 29 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm interested in language learning from both a learner's and teacher's point of view. I was expecting this book to be a fascinating read. Unfortunately, it was very disappointing for various reasons, for example:

* It was apparently written for people with no knowledge about learning foreign languages and clearly attempted to cater to the lowest common denominator.
* Minimal research into finding language learners.
* A haphazard and superficial look at the neurology behind language acquisition.

I'm certain there are more extraordinary learners out there, but Erard didn't find them.

In conclusion, I would not recommend bothering with "Babel No More" because it was more like reading a chatty article in a woman's magazine while waiting at the dentist's than a true investigation into polyglots.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Gonthier Remi on 19 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover
I am a keen language learner and was really looking forward to reading this book. However I was very very disappointed. The research is very superficial and based purely on anecdotes and haphazard conversations with liguists and neuroscientists. The tone of the book is at times very casual and almost derisory, whilst at the same time trying to sound scientific. The purpose of the book itself is unclear. A very disappointing purchase.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 13 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book. It has a light style of writting like an adventure book that highlights certain areas of language learning and tells us more about the aloof tribe of language learners. It is NOT a language learning manual, nor any course of any sorts. It's been written for people passionate about learning foreign languages. I was following the steps of the author and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The author goes into deeper subjects like some parts of the brain and neurological research of language geniuses which some people could find a bit boring, but I personally liked that it tried to shed some different light onto the subject from a semi-scientific point of view. The bottom line is that we still know very little about the brain and there are only few things we know which could stimulate better learning (a bit).

I also read more about a person I watch on YouTube and it was interesting to learn more about the guy's personal life and how much time he devotes to language learning and the incredible regime he puts himself under.

The book is brilliant if you understand what it is! It's for fun and to find out more about who's out there and the legendary people of the past.
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