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By Chinggaltai

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I would simply like to tell how I, over 25 years, got to the point of being able to speak 10 languages, translate technical documents and enjoy fiction in six more, and understand written journalism in 11 more or so. To reach true fluency in 10 languages, I would have 49 5 0 / P OLYG L O T: HOW I L E A R N L A NGUAG E S needed at least 60 years using classic methods, since among the languages I learned are such “difficult” languages as Chinese and Japanese. (The quotation marks are not around the adjective to suggest that these two languages aren’t difficult but because there is no “easy” language.

The 10–12 hours a week is, of course, an average. Still, let’s start from this average when we look at the language learning method of a working adult. According to the old, classic division of a day, one devotes eight hours for work, eight for having a rest or recreation, and eight for sleeping. Hypnotists attempted using the eight hours for sleep for language learning. The attempt was unsuccessful and was Who This Book Is and Isn’t For / 63 discontinued. I cannot comment on the psychological basis of the relaxation method, which has a growing popularity, due to my lack of technical knowledge.

Although I have traipsed across just about the whole globe since then, I have never been as excited as the day I found out that I would be able to go on a package tour to Czechoslovakia with the Hungarian Travel Agency (IBUSZ). As an act of gratitude, I immediately purchased a copy of Ivan Olbracht’s novel Anna the Proletarian, and by perusing it with my by-then customary method, I unlocked the secrets of Czech declensions and conjugations. I made notes of the rules I gleaned in the book’s margins.

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A Grammar of the Mongol Language by Chinggaltai


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