Are you struggling to learn a new language? Or are you simply interested in foreign languages?

In both cases, I think that you may find the story of Giuseppe Mezzofanti intriguing a cardinal who became a legend thanks to his amazing ability in learning languages.

He was an hyperpolyglot and spoke more than 38 languages fluently, even if he never left Italy.

Giuseppe Mezzofanti was born in a humble family and started learning languages thanks to the Jesuit missionaries he met in his hometown, Bologna.

At the age of 12 he spoke Italian, German, Greek, Latin and other five languages. Later, he also learned Arabic, Russian, Hindi, Old English and Maltese. When he was 23, he was ordained priest and started teaching Hebrew, Arabic, oriental languages and Greek.

The most difficult language for him to learn was Chinese and it took him four months to speak it fluently.

Stories say that he spoke 30 other languages (and an unspecified number of dialects) and that he was able to understand and read another 20, including Icelandic, Tibetan and Quechua.

Saying that this is impressive is just a euphemism.

People from all over the world came to talk to him in their mother tongue and verify if his reputation as a living language learning legend was well earned: they were all stunned by his amazing skills.

I would like to quote Lord Byron, who defined Mezzofanti as: “a monster of languages… he should have existed at the time of Babel’s tower to act as a universal interpreter”.

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Maria Francesca Ficarra


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