All about Polyglot savants

When you master the ability to learn numerous languages, it is called polyglotism, synonym of which is multilingualism. And when you can speak more than six languages then you are a hypoglot.

Savants are said to have some kind of mental disability, but they demonstrate capabilities far from what is considered normal, including the capacity to learn more than one language. Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant, claims that he can speak seven languages though no research has been done to know his level in each of these languages.

Case study of Christopher:

He is the best example of a polyglot savant who is fluent in sixteen languages and was capable of picking up new languages easily. Researchers taught him two new languages, one real, Berber and the other invented, Epun. Christopher was able to learn the former easily but had problem picking up the latter. He couldn’t follow the sentence structure that wasn’t in the S-V-O order. The research goes onto prove how humans acquire the skills of learning a new language. He portrays the unique juxtaposition of ability and inability.

You can grasp languages primarily by starting off with introductory self-teaching books, talking to the native speakers and taking feedback from them. Christopher clearly identifies languages as varied as Bengali, Chinese, Czech, Gujarathi and Icelandic. The study is interesting as all these languages are from a range, both typologically and genetically.

But, Daniel Tammet speaks 10 languages, can recite pi to 22,514 decimal places and also do very complex mathematical calculations and is infact classified as one of the 50 prodigious savants alive today. He had suffered epileptic fits as a child and was later diagnosed a highly functioning autistic savant, but has written so many books, travelled the world and runs his own business too. So we have two contrasting illustrations of the savant syndrome.

It is suggested that this entire language acquisition procedure for the polygot savant is different from that of a normal human being. They unconsciously learn the grammar and syntax of the new language and don’t let the earlier learned language to interfere. Most research in polygotism says that a polygot easily becomes a language expert but lacks in problem solving abilities, poor hand-eye coordination and conversational issues make day to day life difficult.

What is savant syndrome?

The left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for developing language skills therefore, making the language savants a rare specie. It has been researched that autism and savant skills go hand in hand, but its also statistically proved that though all autistic people are savants, not all savants are autisctic (only 50 % maybe).

Why are some people Polygot savants?

In most of the cases due to a damage in the left hemisphere of the brain, reasons varying from damage in the womb, a brain injury or dementia. But in such cases the right hemisphere overrules the left and more than compensates, thus making it a gifted one.


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