Linguistics Department

Colloquium - Michael Erard (The Frameworks Institute) "Myths and Realities of High Intensity Language Learners"

Mon, October 29, 2012 | CAL 100

3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Numerous stories exist of individuals who are able to speak dozens of languages and learn them very easily, but do their claims hold up to scrutiny? What is ordinary about these language superlearners and what may be unique about them? I will talk about my investigations of living and historical figures and a survey of hyperpolyglots (people claiming to know >6 languages), all of which provide an answer to the question: what are the upper limits of the ability to speak, learn, and use languages?

Michael Erard is a writer and journalist who received his M.A. in Linguistics and his Ph.D. in English, both from UT Austin.  His work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, the Huffington Post, and other publications. He is the author of two books in which he brings linguistic research to a popular audience. They are: "Um…: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean" (Pantheon, 2007) and "Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners" (Free Press, 2012). To read more about Michael go to his website at


Bookmark and Share