This Man Speaks 47 Languages!

Meet a real, live hyperpolyglot.

This Man Speaks 47 Languages! | Meet a real, live hyperpolyglot.

Connecting with others infuses life with warmth, happiness, and mutual understanding. For Vaughn Smith, connection is about speaking foreign languages, with 37 languages under his belt to date, according to The Washington Post.

Smith, a 47-year-old carpet cleaner from Maryland, loves languages. He collects them like others collect stamps or souvenirs from trips. Yet Smith is more than a collector; he is inspired to speak to people in their native tongue because this action values the other.

Creating kindness through language
Years ago, when Smith greeted a grocery store cashier and asked how she was in Russian, he saw that she was “hit with a splash of happiness,” as Smith explained to The Washington Post. This gave him inspiration to learn other languages so he could recreate that warm feeling in others.

With a Mexican mother and an English-speaking father, Vaughn was bilingual as a child. In high school, he befriended an Ethiopian girl and picked up some Amharic. He soon was chatting in Romanian, Russian, and Portuguese to other classmates. This was followed by a deep dive into foreign language books by visiting the library each weekend.

Despite an incredible memory and an aptitude for languages, he did not pursue higher education in a formal sense. Instead, Smith taught himself languages by using books, apps, and through meeting people.

Today, Vaughn is a real, live hyperpolyglot, and there are few in this world. Hyperpolyglots can speak at least 11 languages, and Smith knows 37, of which he can speak 24 conversationally. He reads and writes in eights script and alphabets.

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He is now teaching himself indigenous languages including Salish, spoken by first nations people in Montana, and Nahuatl, which is spoken by the Nahua people of central Mexico. With an ear for the nuance and sound of language, his flawless accent even astonishes people from Catalan and the Netherlands.

Smith’s impressive language collection
Smith is fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, and Romanian. He is conversational in Croatian, Finnish, Italian, Latvian, Nahuatl, and Serbian. He can carry on simple conversations in Catalan, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, American Sign Language, Irish Gaelic, Norwegian, and Polish.

In addition, he has a basic knowledge of Amharic, Arabic, Estonian, Georgian, Greek, Hebrew, Indonesian, Japanese, Lakota, Lithuanian, Mandarin, Navajo, Salish, Sinhalese, Swedish, Ukrainian and Welsh. Last, but not least, Smith knows around 100 words in Mongolian, Vietnamese, Tzotzil, and Zapotec.

Fostering new friendships
Smith explained on the CBS Sunday morning video that he feels accepted and liked when he speaks to others in their native language. Part of the drive could be that Vaughn may be autistic, although he was never formally diagnosed. He said that he has difficulty expressing his feelings and interpreting other’s feelings and intentions. Yet Smith has learned that making the effort to speak to people in their native tongue inspires warmth and gratitude, thus fostering many new and interesting friendships.

Learning foreign languages offers so many benefits. When you are exposed to foreign cultures, you have an opportunity to broaden your mind and develop empathy with others, according to Inc. It has also been shown to help with problem solving, finding innovative solutions, and it slows the aging of the brain.

Although Smith’s talents could have opened doors into the glitzy, high-salaried world of diplomacy, interpreting, and translating, he chose a humbler path, sticking with carpet cleaning and forging deep, exciting friendships. Perhaps because Smith learns languages for the sake of connection and not for impressing others, he is able to continuously hit people with that splash of happiness.

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