'How I learned to speak 23 languages' Timothy Doner


I could be wrong, but it appears as though lil timothy is making his way into the dark side … what a shame

the sad thing is I was kinda impressed with his youtube videos

“Dark side”?

I don’t understand. Does anyone else?

Is this Rank’s third account speaking? :slight_smile:

I’m also not sure what you mean by the “dark side”, but consider two things:

He’s a teenager being highly and constantly praised for his accomplishments. It’d be hard for someone that age NOT to appear opportunistic (assuming that’s what you meant), considering what’s been coming at him lately. It must also get somewhat tiring having to do a dog and pony show so often. If there is blame for him going to the “dark side”, I blame the media, not him.

I wish the kid nothing but the best of luck. He shows a lot of promise. His life is just beginning.


Don’t be too quick to judge him. I talked to him today and he seems very modest and helpful.

Good on him. Anything one does to promote language language can only be a good thing. He strikes me as very intelligent for his age, with a sincere passion for learning as many different languages as he can. Bravo!

I have to say, seeing people like him gives me a lot of hope. Seeing someone accomplish something that I hope to on effort alone always helps me believe that one day (maybe not as quickly as Tim), I can reach my goals as long as I make time and put effort into them.

He sounds talented and also passionate about languages including the academic aspect. He sounds older than he is. Really bright guy.

On another note, I think there is nothing wrong with admitting when one has got a talent for languages. However, often some people won’t admit to that. Incidentally I think Benny has a talent for languages. He has a really good ear, but he says he has no special language talent. That is a bit misleading especially to those for whom it does not come easy.

I think this is the same guy who was mentioned in this thread:- http://www.lingq.com/learn/es/forum/1/13476/?page=1#post-94911

If this is all legit, and everything is true, he might just be a genius.

If he’s only 16, and he already speaks 23 languages, that’s impressive in itself. How many can one really learn in one year? Especially some of the more difficult one that he has learnt.

Also, looking at his videos, it would seem he hasn’t spent that many years studying.

The reason I use the word genius is that, putting aside any ability to produce the language (skill with accents, rhythm etc.), how can one develop comprehension so quickly?

At the HTLAL Polyglot forum section Tim said that his (tentative) guesses for his best languages, going by the CEFR, would be French, Written Arabic - C1, Farsi and Hebrew B2. Listening to the BBC report linked in the first post, and the responses from the reporters who know the languages, his French seems to be quite good, but not his Mandarin. So I guess he speaks or “speaks” 23 languages to varying degrees.

That’s incredible. Does he have a YouTube channel?

Yes, his YouTube name is PolyglotPal. Polyglot Pal - YouTube :slight_smile:

Thanks chellelingo.

In my opinion, a B1 kind of level counts (or can count) as “speaking” a language. i.e. “I speak language XYZ”.

I haven’t seen the HTLAL thread, so I don’t know the details of his self-estimates. But even if he has, for example, 15 languages at A1/A2 levels, and then eight at B1 and up, that would still be really impressive! If that is the case, though, I wouldn’t say he “speaks” 23 languages.

Parvenu, You’re welcome!

Peter, I agree.

Most people seem to forget how young Tim still is. I just listened to his BBC interview and there is nothing in there that I would even remotely define as showing some sort of “dark side”. He is a very dedicated language learner and YES he still is a kid. Gosh, when I read some comments on the HTLAL forum I thought they wanted to burn him at the stake. “Tim why do you do this? Why did you do that? How come you don’t respond …? You sound like a jerk …”.

Gee, give that kid some room to breathe. True, he comes across as quite self-confident. But is that really such a bad thing? Where has he ever said he was better than anybody else or that he could do things others wouldn’t be able to? Besides, in the BBC interview it is quite obvious that he was prompted for some of his answers. “French is very easy, isn’t it…?” “Sure, it is”. Well, he sort of had to say that to prepare the “stage” for the Chinese part. It is all part of the show that interviewers put on and I don’t think he is the one to blame for the outcome of such well staged conversations.

Besides, I had to giggle when the Chinese lady said his Mandarin accent was “not bad” while her English accent (and since she was introduced as a colleague of the guy doing the interview for the BBC I guess she has spent a fair amount of time in an English speaking enviroment in a professional setting) was far from being perfect.

Basically, Tim will have to get used to people going after every single (potential) mistake he makes just to prove that he is “not that good” after all. Some people just seem to thrive when they put others down.

I have found all his videos very inspiring. I don’t even care that much about his actual level of proficiency. The mere fact that a young guy like him has such a passion for languages and other cultures is worth all the credit he can get. I’m not suggesting that he should be worshipped like some god-like creature but I have to say that I find his achievements very impressive.

He is also very helpful. He sent me some information about Arabic study material and did so without me even having asked for it. He simply offered to send me some links in case I was interested because he knew I like languages just as much as he does.

As I wrote on the HTLAL forum, “Viel Ehr, viel Feind” is a German saying Tim will have to get used to. Sad but true. Judging by his very mature responses to some comments on the HTLAL forum he will be doing just fine though.

ad peter (…) If that is the case, though, I wouldn’t say he “speaks” 23 languages. (…)

I never heard him say that in any of his youtube videos. But once the hype started with all those interviews and newspaper articles all of a sudden this magic number appeared. Of course, he should know best whether he actually speaks these languages or not but I guess we all know how such articles or programmes are made. He is probably made to make such statements to attract more attention. True, he could always refuse to do so but who wouldn’t enjoy a little bit of fame at his age? :wink: I don’t hold any grudge against him for that. He still comes across as a nice guy and I certainly wish him all the best.

Incidentally, no matter how much I respect Prof. Arguelles when I read that he claimed speaking more than 3 dozen languages fluently, I was quite sceptical too (and I still am). I have never seen or heard anybody speak so many languages fluently. I am not saying it is not possible (although I consider it extremely unlikely) but in that case seeing is believing for me.

Don’t get me wrong, Prof. Arguelles is a renowned scholar and avid and highly successful language learner, but I still won’t believe everything I read in a paper.

On a final note I’d like to add that I don’t really care how many languages someone speaks to what degree of proficiency. Isn’t the mere fact that people are obviously interested in making an effort to understand others and their culture a worthwhile undertaking that deserves credit rather than criticism?

@Imyirtseshem: “…Is this Rank’s third account speaking? :)”

I really don’t appreciate snide little accusations like that, Imyirtseshem.

For the record: I do not post at this forum (or any other forum) using more than one identity, okay?

I used to have a paying account here called “Rank”, which I have since deleted. While I was using the name “Rank”, I never posted with this older account “JayB”. Never. Not even once.

And I certainly don’t have a “third account” - why on earth would I?

ad peter (…) If that is the case, though, I wouldn’t say he “speaks” 23 languages. (…)

It’s kind of what the BBC interview implied, although he did clarify and say that he can’t always talk about philosophy or the tax system. But he did say he speaks 23 languages.

By the way, I wasn’t being critical, I’m just a little bit curious. If this kid, at 16, can speak 23 languages (let’s say A2-B1 + ), that is monstrous!! I’m really curious to know how he develops comprehension so fast…

I would also like to add that Tim, at 16, seems to speak his native language better than most of us do here in Australia as adults. Very interesting…

ad peter: By the way, I wasn’t being critical, I’m just a little bit curious

Sorry, Peter, I was not referring to you when I was talking about people just out there to criticize others. I have always appreciated your level-headed and well-intentioned comments in this forum. Maybe it is my “paternal instinct” (though I don’t have kids of my own :wink: that made me react to some comments I had read. And I have to agree with you concerning Tim’s English. As somebody speaking English as a foreign language I truly enjoy listening to him speak in his mother tongue. He would put a lot of professional speakers to shame.

As we often say in Australia: no worries :slight_smile:

Yes, perhaps his abiltiy to express himself in English (not to mention 23 other languages!) stems from the fact that he is, or at least seems to be, very bright. I’m still betting he’s a genius or has a very high IQ or something. Time will tell…