Polyglots - Breadth vs. Depth

Recently, YouTube has been serving me videos of polyglots who can speak multiple languages, e.g. Tim Doner, among others. Let’s take Tim Doner as representative, since he’s probably among those who’ve received the most media attention.

Why’re people so impressed by people like Tim? When I listen to Tim in the languages that I’m proficient in, I notice 1. a very thick accent, 2. limited vocabulary and control. Moreover, Tim is clearly better in some languages than others: his French and German, for example, are much better than his Chinese and Japanese. This is not surprising, since he probably speaks English as a native. Yet, reports make no distinction between his proficiency in different languages.

This is not a knock on Tim - if he’s happy with learning lots of languages but not really going deep into them, that’s his choice. But why aren’t people just as excited about those polyglots who speak “only” 4-5 languages, but speak them as well as native speakers? I’d be extremely impressed by a 4-5 language polyglot who became proficient to write magazine/newspaper articles and books and deliver impromptu, unprepared speeches in any one of those languages.

Take luca for example … He have learned most of his language at the C levels but still it is hard to really sustain that beacause as he says you really need to get fully immersed in the language , culture ( emotions, everydaylife etc) to get to native like fluency… So keeping a really high level while adding a language once in a while is better at my honest opinion. (in fact i’ve been adding a lot of new languages lately because i was distracted by the fact that my peer polyglots were far ahead of me and it still worked quite well for me… dont get me wrong it took a toll on my mind and body!!!)…Steady progress and consistency is the key to success!!

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The higher your level, the easier it is to maintain.

I very much agree with you: adding a new language that you can kind of communicate in is completely different from actually reaching a high level in it. Most mediatic polyglots value quantity over quality. As you say, more power to them if that’s what they’re after. I myself much prefer to improve a few languages that I’m epecially interested in rather than simply add to an arbitrary list. As you quite rightly point out, the latter is way less frequent in the "polyglot world.
Luca Lampiarello actually speaks about this topic, which I think is very interesting, he says than nobody, to his knowledge, has been able to master 6 (not sure about the actual number he gives) languages to a really high level, he has stated that this is his goal

6 near native? I saw a video on youtube a few years back; an asian guy who appeared to be close to that. I think it’s very possible in 6 closely related languages. But throw in something completely different, and the task gets a lot harder. That’s why I was so impressed with this guy - I think he had 3 asian languages and 3 european.