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The Extraordinary Story of an Italian Peasant Who Taught Himself 100 Ancient Languages

86-year-old Riccardo Bertani is an exceptional man. Born to a family of farmers in Caprara, a small settlement in Reggio Emilia, Italy, he abandoned his study right after elementary school and dedicated his life to translating and documenting over 100 extinct and rare languages from all around the world.

“It was castrating, I quit,” Bertani says about his decision to leave school right after completing his elementary studies. “I was interested in other things, and I have to say that only one teacher understood my decision.” Claiming to be “allergic to math”, the young boy started working in the fields, like most of the men in his village, but soon realized he wasn’t much of a farmer, either. That’s when he started focusing more on the things he was most passionate about, reading and learning languages.

Since Riccardo’s father was a member of the Communist party and former mayor of the village, most of the books in his house growing up were Russian tomes. Even though he didn’t understand the language, he was fascinated by them. He started looking up authors like Lev Tolstoy, reading their works in Italian, and then using a Russian grammar book to learn the original language they had been written in. For some reason, he was attracted to Eastern countries like Russia and the Ukraine and for the next 18 years he did nothing but translate whatever books he could find from those countries. And after diving deeper into their culture, he discovered all these different Siberian people, Mongolians, Eskimos, and developed a taste for rare and extinct languages.

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This Exceptional 32-Year-Old Can Speak 56 Languages Fluently

It’s not unusual for youth nowadays to speak more than one language, but 32-year-old Muhamed Mešić is not your typical polyglot. He can communicate fluently in 56 different languages and claims to understand over 70 of them.

Ever since he was a little boy growing up in Tuzla, an industrial city in the former Yugoslavia (currently in Bosnia Herzegovina), Muhamed Mešić was fascinated by languages. His exceptional talent for quickly learning to communicate in different languages was discovered by chance, when he was just 5-years-old. He was on vacation with his family, in Greece, and recalls being able to listen to their local neighbor speaking Greek and figuring out what he was saying from the situation they were in.

“This was the first time I met people whose language I couldn’t recognize,” Muhamed remembers. “I could listen to our neighbors talking and then figure out the meaning from the situation. At the end of the vacation, I was able to help my father to communicate with a local mechanic who repaired our car. My parents were shocked.”

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Say What? The Clicking Languages of South Africa

I had heard of African names with clicks before, like ǂXóõ, ǂHõã and !Kung, but I thought they were limited to just a few words. Now, after some research, I’ve realized that clicks are used quite extensively in many South African languages.

If you’re having trouble understanding the click and its use, think of it this way – it’s just like any other consonant used in the English language.

The credit for introducing clicks to a worldwide audience goes to singer Miriam Makeba, whose life has been celebrated on Google’s Doodles this year. In her 1957 hit single, Pata Pata, you can clearly hear clicks in the lyrics. “Everywhere we go, people often ask me, ‘How do you make that noise?’” she said during an interview in 1979. “It used to offend me because it isn’t a noise. It’s my language,” she clarified.

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Online Language School Uses Hot Models to Help You Learn Mandarin

Let’s face it, for most of us learning Chinese really is a Herculean task, but SexyMandarin.com, an unconventional online school, tries to make things easier by using lingerie-clad models as teachers.

China’s official language, Mandarin, or Putonghua, has around 900 million native speakers, and 1,4 billion speakers worldwide, and as China’s role in the global economy becomes more important, the number of people trying to learn the language is also on the rise. But Mandarin is known as one of the toughest languages in the world, and just looking at the intricate symbols you can tell mastering it won’t be easy. But one online language school has apparently found an ingenious way of making Mandarin more accessible – sexy lingerie-wearing teachers. I wonder why I didn’t think of that…

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Crazy English – To Learn the Language by Shouting Out

Crazy English is a non-traditional Chinese method of learning English, which encourages students to practice by shouting English words at organized rallies and even on top of buildings.

According to Li Yang, the creator of this unusual learning program, Crazy English can best be described with the quote “To shout out loud, you learn”. He claims the traditional way of learning English in China is ineffective, and that in order to overcome their shyness and master the language, people have to shout out the words in public. It’s no secret that his revolutionary technique has long been criticized by many traditional Chinese people, because it goes against the ancient Oriental virtues of restraint modesty and moderation, but Li stood by his unusual methods despite all the opposition, and has so far lectured to tens of millions of people.

As a child, Li was very shy and showed no aptitudes for foreign languages. He was so shy that he was afraid to talk to people, and wouldn’t even go to the cinema by himself. Once he was electrocuted during physical therapy, but was to shy to even mention it to anyone. The years went by, but Li’s sistuation didn’t change very much. He got into the Engineering Mechanics Department of Lanzhou University, but failed all of his 13 exams, including English. Determined to make a change, the young student began preparing for the College English Test level 4, a standardized English test for college students.

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