Jan 01, Will Mego rated it liked it Recommends it for: lauguage learners and lovers. This book quickly began at 5 stars for me, but dropped to three by the end. I did enjoy it, and I do recommend it, however. The author sets the book essentially as an epic quest to find, as the title suggests, the most extraordinary language learners.

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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, a modern-day polyglot who knows dozens of languages and shows Erard the tricks of the trade to give him a dark glimpse into the life of obsessive language acquisition. How do some people escape the curse of Babel—and what might the gods have demanded of them in return?

Excerpt Babel No More Chapter 1 typical midtown Manhattan lunch crowd was packed into the Japanese restaurant around me. Behind the counter were the cooks who had produced the fragrant bowl of noodles I was now eating. In the quieter moments, they filled containers with chopped herbs and wiped down counters, talking to one another in Spanish and addressing a third cook, another Japanese man, in the pidgin English of the restaurant kitchen.

Yet it does. They did all this successfully, even though they might have spoken with accents, used simple words, made mistakes, paraphrased, and done other things that marked them as linguistic outsiders.

Such encounters between non-native speakers have always textured human experience. In our era, these encounters are peaking, as the ties between language and geography have been weakened by migration, global business, cheap travel, cell phones, satellite TV, and the Internet.

You may be familiar with the stories of languages, such as English or French or Latin, that are or were valuable cultural capital. This book tells another story, about a kind of cognitive capital, the stuff you bring to learning a new language. We once lived in bubbles, disconnected from the hubbub of the world.

But more of these bubbles, where one or only a few languages used to be spoken, are connected each day, and more and more of us are passing between them. It is clear that multilingual niches are proliferating, and that monolinguals such as myself need to live and act multilingually. That means that our brains also have to flow, to remain plastic and open to new skills and information.

One of these skills is learning new ways to communicate.


Babel No More

Cancel anytime. People who bought this also bought For every new word we learn, we seem to forget two old ones, making fluency seem out of reach. Fluent Forever tackles this challenge head-on. Drawing on a year scientist-teacher collaboration, more than years of research on learning, and rich experiences from educators in K and higher education, the authors present highly accessible step-by-step guidance on how to transform teaching with four essential strategies: Retrieval practice, spacing, interleaving, and feedback-driven metacognition.


Michael Erard



Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners


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