General Question

garydale's avatar

How many languages must you speak to be considered a hyperglot?

Asked by garydale (216points) September 4th, 2010

In all my years of studying languages it is fairly clear from my contacts with linguists, translators, educators, etc., that a polyglot is someone who high proficiency / fluency in three or more languages. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on who is a hyperglot. I have been told by some that mastery of six languages makes you a hyperglot and by others that it takes mastery of up to ten languages to be a hyperglot.

What say you?

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10 Answers

muppetish's avatar

It’s difficult to quantify (especially since I have never heard the term used before.) I suppose one wouldn’t be a hyperglot unless they were at a savant-level when it comes to mastering languages. I’d love to read more about hyperglots if anyone can provide information about them.

Zaku's avatar

Just talk to someone with very low standards of linguistic achievement, and they’ll probably consider you a hyperglot just for using some words they don’t know. Then you will “be considered a hyperglot.”

I have an advanced degree in language, speak two languages well, and have limited ability in a few others. I had never heard of the term hyperglot before today, so I consider you a hyperglot just for bringing it up. ;-)

wundayatta's avatar

Is there any particular reason why anyone should care about how many languages it takes? And even if someone has an opinion they are particularly stuck on, how could anyone make a case that would stick? No one person’s opinion is better than anyone else’s.

You have heard anywhere between 6 and ten languages make a hyperglot. Well, I say 17. Not one less! Why? It’s a random number that came up in my brain. But I defy you to give me any reason why my number is worse than anyone else’s.

bob_'s avatar

According to several dictionaries, the word “polyglot” does not even exist. See here and here. Therefore, I’d say there’s no official number.

However, if we were to define one, I’d suggest analyzing the number of languages spoken by a large sample of people. You’ll find most speak just one, then some two, very few three, and so on. Hyperglots could be those in the 99th percentile (then again, why not the 98th? The 95th?).

Personally, I’d say 6.

@wundayatta Your number sucks because it is a prime number ~

zen_'s avatar

Polyglot is fine with me; I speak about 4–5 well, read a few others, unafraid to pick up new words in a few more. Polyglot seems to be the right term. doesn’t like hyperglot – neither do I.

MissA's avatar

@zen_ What motivated you to be so proficient in multiple languages? I’m impressed, myself.

zen_'s avatar

It started with three languages spoken at home, then school studying four. Then I guess, like with most things, when you have a solid foundation and are good at something, you pursue it even more – and vice versa.

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garydale's avatar

The words “hyperglot” and “hyperpolyglot” are definitely hard to pin down. Maybe someone should put their foot down and make a declaration. I think it might depend upon the bell curve. What percentage of people speak one language, more than one, more than two, etc.

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