I read an article in the newspaper today about a man who speaks 47 (yep) languages. Maybe people have heard of him before (?), but I thought the article was interesting, so I scanned it, but unfortunately it's in German. However, I summed up a bit of information below the cut.
His name is Ioannis Ikonomou and he is currently working for the EU commission in Brussel as a - yep you guessed it - translator. His mother tongue is Greek and he says he first started learning an additional language as a 6 year old (he lived in Crete and was interested in what the tourists were talking about), starting out with English and then continuing with German, followed by Italian, Turkish and Russian ("Russian was easy" he says...*picks salt out of the wounds* ).
He also adds that the only language that was truly a challenge to him was Chinese and that he thinks the language is superior to all others, referring to it as the 'key-language to human civilisation' (did that make sense, I doubt it somehow).
He has studied philology and his final thesis for the Master of Arts degree (at Harvard University) focussed on Sanskrit. After that he went on to study historical linguistics and focussed on languages such as Classical Armenian, Classical Persian, the Gothic language and Anatolian languages.
The fact that Ikonomou is able to speak all official languages of the European Union is nothing special to him and thus he is more interested in the more exotic languages - "I can also speak the Basque language and Sorbian". He says he originally wanted to become a linguist, but then the EU-commission offered him a scholarship. In total he speaks 47 languages, of which 15 are dead languages. The language he's learning at the moment is Ethiopian.
Has anyone ever heard of someone who's able to speak that many or even more languages? Can you even think of that many languages you wish to learn?
Oh and here's the good news, he says "it's not talent but passion".