Canada’s Global TV hyperpolyglot program - 16x9 The Bigger Picture - Word play

“Imagine being able to master more than 10, 15, even 20 languages. It seems rare but these super language learners do exist. They’re called hyperpolyglots and 16x9 searched the country to bring together the most proficient linguists.”


All the concepts of uniqueness are sooo ridiculous if you just notice the fact that hyper-polyglots are spending as many hours learning a new language as a language learner is supposed to.

I agree, eugrus. They could have done much better research for this documentary. I can’t believe they never had anyone talking about neuroplasticity. Regions of the brain can grow if certain mental abilities are continuously trained, even far into adulthood. When the change in the brain happens, the mental ability gets better. Of course a hyperpolyglot’s brain is going to look different if you take this into account.

The video is now available on the channel’s web page, but it is loading slowly, at least for me. if somebody has the chance to post it anywhere else it might be very helpful. Thanks

I agree with eugrus and ishikawa. I was kind of annoyed by all of this weirdness talk, including from the author of the Babel no More book.

I am reading (and listening to) material about Frantisek Palacky, early Czech national leader (first half of 19th century). He spoke 15 or so languages, German, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Latin, English, Italian, Croatian, and I don’t know what else. I come across these kind of people in history all the time. I don’t think they are all musical, have immune deficiencies, are left-handed, or whatever, although some may. I think that it is interest and opportunity that drives us to learn languages, and in so doing our brain changes, as it does whenever we learn anything.


the previews were quite interesting but the final result was a lil bit disappointing… too much babel no more

I don’t know if it is/isn’t possible but, what about a multiple video/audio conference on skype dealing with the same questions this “16x9” program didn’t aired?

Just watched it.

Not quite what I was expecting: Steve and the other dudes from Canada hardly got any air-time at all! :-0

I liked the video for what it was - a glimpse of what an in-depth program could have provided us with. Somehow it was a missed opportunity though because they could have made something much more comprehensive having invited such interesting people.

I read on the HTLAL forum that Richard has some private footage of his days in New York with Tim. He was not allowed to publish any of it before the Canadian show went on air but he said that he’ll try and post some clips on his site. That should be interesting and I really look forward to it.

What makes me kind of sad is that the TV station obviously has much more footage which they most likely will just destroy. What a waste!! It would be great if they gave that footage to the participants for their free use. I know this is just wishful thinking but it is such a shame not to make this material available to language learners, isn’t it?

I’m not very good with technical stuff so I don’t know if it is technically feasible or not, but I would love to watch a skype conference (or similar video conference) with the guys who were in that show talking in more detail about their personal experiences and learning strategies. I find personal histories really motivating since they show how languages can enrich our lives.

A lot of very successful polyglots – who are a lot more successful than I – say they have no particular talent. Maybe they’re right. After all, they should know. Maybe they just work hard at it. However, I’ve been in so many situations, particularly in classrooms, where a linguistic concept would be introduced and I could just get it, reuse it naturally, never study it again and just retain it effortlessly, while the rest of the class struggled to grasp it even after studying it, that I would feel dishonest saying I have no talent. It might be true, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. Not to mention that I tend to be lazy, I don’t study that much, and I still learn languages to fluency. I’m pretty happy with how far my Japanese has come in 3 years, and I don’t study an hour a day.

On the other hand, a few years ago, I decided to take up the piano and start writing songs and performing them. And I did it, and I probably did an ok job of it, but it never felt natural not matter how much I worked at it. Getting on stage was always a struggle, whereas I could see that other musicians around me did it effortlessly. They had an innate talent. I didn’t. I could do what they did but I struggled; they didn’t.

Anyone who is determined enough can become a polyglot; there’s no denying that. But I think some people can instinctively do it much more efficiently than others. That’s my experience.

“But I think some people can instinctively do it much more efficiently than others. That’s my experience.”

I would agree, Alexandre, but I would tend to argue that, at least in most cases, this instinctive ability is something the learner has developed (either deliberately or unconsciously), rather than having been born with it.

alexandre, you may get some linguistic concepts sooner than others, and part of that may be experience and part of that may be the way your brain works, perhaps as a result of learning languages, part of it may be your interest in these things.

I tend not to be able to do these things. I still don’t get the verb aspect distinction in Russian. Nor did I remember the various rules governing case for the many verbs and prepositions, certainly not for a long time, but I still cannot always remember the endings nor produce them accurately despite looking at these rules over and over, and reviewing them in many contexts, but I am getting better. If I spoke or wrote more I would improve more.

It may be that you learn languages faster and easier than most. However, everyone can learn to speak many languages. That is the point. Some may learn faster, some may pronounce better, but in my view, all can do it.

I have written to the TV station to request a video of the whole discussion.

It would be interesting to see the unused footage. I have the impression that they ended up only using a tiny fraction of it!

It will also be interesting to see Richard Simcott’s own film footage of his time in NYC with Tim Doner.

It seems like they hit the town together, visiting many foreign owned stores, etc. In fact, Richard may be the only person alive who has taken Tim Doner out for a kebab…! :smiley:

I just spoke to Carolyn the host of the program and it is against their policy to provide footage. There will be none. She said that they had received many positive reactions from people who found that the program encouraged them to take up language learning.

Not very surprising. Thanks for trying.

If it’s encouraged anyone to take up a language, then it was all worth it!

ad JayB: (…) who has taken Tim Doner out for a kebab…! :smiley: (…)


ad steve: Too bad they won’t let you have their unused footage. Do all the people who appeared in the show have a youtube site and/or blog? I knew all but two people and I’m especially interested in learning more about them (Axel who seems to be working for an interpreting/translation agency (or maybe he runs it, I’m not quite sure) and James).


I just checked the website of MCIS (having a closer look at the video again I guess that’s the name of the agency where Axel is employed). Looks very professional and interesting and they seem to provide useful information for future interpreters and/or translators.

What I also have noted (and this confirms my personal experience) is that for whatever reason interpreters and translators in NA only get paid a fraction of what is the current rate in most European countries (with German speaking countries offering the highest pay). Living costs certainly do play a role but I still think that the rates in Canada and the US are surprisingly low for this kind of work and I wonder if that has to do with interpreters/translators not being in high demand or if the profession has less prestige than over here.

Robert, as far as I know, going rate for a six-hour day in Canada, at least for simultaneous interpretation, is in the 650-750 CAN$ range. What is it in Europe?

Back to the original topic: It’s a pity that I will now not get the chance to watch the two hours of hyperpolyglot discussion on Global TV. My thanks to Steve for asking at Global TV, if they can send you a video of the TV discussion. We have to accept their policy that they don’t provide footage of their TV - programs. It is as it is.


ad alexandrec: That would be about the rate you get here from an agency. On the site I mentioned I found a much lower rate, they indicated 25 Canadian dollars per hour (we never get paid by the hour, but have so-called half-day rates for jobs up to four hours and full-day rates for jobs up to 8 hours, including breaks).

If you work for the so-called final client directly, the rates are about 20% to 30 % higher.

Again, this very much depends on the country you work in. France, Italy, Spain, etc. tend to have much lower rates unless you work for an international organization where the rates are fixed.

The Canadian site also mentioned that you “may sometimes be reimbursed for travel expenses etc.”. In Europe these expenses are always covered by the client. Food and accommodation are also provided for.

I remember having been contacted by some Canadian translation agencies when I started out working as a translator and their rates were about 40 % lower than ours here in Austria. But the rates for simultaneous interpretation you mentioned are actually good rates. Btw, I charge the same rate for consecutive interpreting as I charge for simultaneous interpreting. If you want to know more about this, you can also send me a PM.

P.S. I should mention that in Austria about 50 % of your income go to the state (for taxes and health insurance and the pension scheme) unless you belong to a low-income group where tax rates are correspondingly lower. Austria is fourth in Europe when it comes to taxing its citizens (Luxembourg, Germany and I think France have slightly higher rates; Switzerland supposedly only has half the rate we pay). I don’t want to “hijack” this thread, so I’ll stop talking about money :wink:

As I said, I’d love to hear the guys who appeared in the show talk to each other in a skype conference. That would be really great.

@Robert: “…Austria is fourth in Europe when it comes to taxing its citizens (Luxembourg, Germany and I think France have slightly higher rates; Switzerland supposedly only has half the rate we pay). I don’t want to “hijack” this thread, so I’ll stop talking about money ;-)”

If you ask me, this is highly topical right now - seeing that France has just elected a complete fruitcake as the new President, who plans to put up taxes for the rich to 75% in France!

(I heard on the TV news last night that some high-end estate agencies in London and the South-East of England are already being inundated by calls from French millionaires!)

In fairness, if the new guy in France is a nutball, words would fail us to describe some of the parties getting a significant vote share in the recent Greek elections! Apparently there is one party which openly describes itself as being Neo-Nazi, which advocates killing illegal immigrants, and whose leader is a convicted criminal. Their result: 7% of the national vote and 21 seats! :-0