Posted on | January 22, 2011 | 4 Comments
Yesterday I was contacted by someone who claimed to speak 59 languages and he was only 18 years old!
My first reaction was: Really?! Well, ‘speak’ is a vague term. In fact, he admitted up front that he was not fluent in all of them.
Before jumping into any conclusion of my own, I did some quick research on him. His name is Cesare Monteleone, and has been around in the HTLAL forums for a few months. He also has his own YouTube channel. You can watch him speaking 41 languages in this video. (I found that Cesare sometimes removes posts and deletes Internet accounts, so don’t be surprised if the link is broken)
I have no way to verify if he does indeed speak all the languages he claimed, though I can recognize the ones I know. Judging from the YouTube and HTLAL feedbacks, Cesare does seem to speak most of them, though with heavy accents and grammatical errors. It is also difficult to tell how much depth he has in each language.
Cesare honestly told me that he had caused problems in the forums in the past by pushing people to believe he could speak those languages, so he is not going to make any claim in public anymore. According to this video, he believed he had offended some YouTube members, so he decided not to make any more videos. I don’t know the whole story and he could have possibly offended someone. But I felt sad. I still praised him for making those videos and encouraged him to make more in the future.
I am not going to pass judgment on Cesare’s claim. It is not the point of this post. What I really want to say is that, as a language learning community, we should encourage each other, even though sometimes people make bold claims. I read the comments from both HTLAL and YouTube, most of them are indeed very encouraging to Cesare. But you never know. Just one or two offensive comments are what it needs to ruin the ego of a language learner.
Here is a typical pattern. When somebody makes a claim that he can speak many languages, people would ask for proof (usually in form of video). This is perfectly fine. But then after the video is done, people would pass skeptical opinions, such as the guy could have just memorized the lines. So they would ask for real Skype conversations. Then they would criticize on his pronunciation and grammar. What I think we should do instead is give encouragement. Congratulate the person for his effort at least!
Some ‘ninja’ recently made a video on YouTube calling Khatzumoto a scam. I think Moses said it all in this response video. Be humble and respect each other. This is how we should build our language learning community.