American teenager learns 23 languages

Last Updated: Thu, Apr 11, 2013 06:01 hrs

Washington: A 17-year-old from New York has learned 23 different languages, including Hindi, Pashto, South Africa's little-known isiXhosa, Gambia's Wolof, and the native American language of Ojibwe.

In addition to the expected European languages -- French, Spanish, Italian, German -- teenager Timothy Doner has gone linguistically into much more remote territories, mastering a number of African dialects, the Daily Mail reported.

He speaks isiXhosa, an official language of South Africa, Wolof and Swahili.

Doner first started posting videos of himself speaking in the different dialects on YouTube.

Urged on by enthusiastic commenters, he continued his work, largely teaching himself new languages in either a few weeks or months with the help of instructional books and flashcard apps on his iPhone.

In one video where he speaks 20 consecutive languages, he watched WWII movies to help learn German.

Experts have included the teenager in a small and scattered group of language fiends who are deemed "hyperpolyglots" because of their ability to pick up and master languages so quickly.

Doner also sees the lighter side of his skill.

He has been able to quip back at people insulting him in different languages. One group of diners at an Israeli restaurant once said Doner and his father were trying to be cultural by eating at the establishment. He then politely told them that he spoke fluent Hebrew.

"Learning a serious number of languages kind of helps you become a bit of an eavesdropper. I find most of the time that I accidentally follow people perhaps for a little bit longer than I should," he said.

Doner has no plans of stopping soon. He now wants to learn to speak Sudanese or Malay.

The full list of 23 languages spoken by Doner: Arabic, Croatian, Dutch, English, Farsi, French, German, Hausa, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, isiXhosa, Italian, Mandarin, Ojibwe, Persian, Pashto, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Turkish, Wolof, Yiddish.

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