Arab cam chat with teen in nyc
The breathless title of a You Tube video about him rocketing around the internet tells why: "Teen Speaks 20 languages." When I ask him how many languages he speaks, he offers a different answer, though. So we invited Mr Doner to our studio in New York to talk with several native speakers in an unscripted conversation.
First in French, then in Russian and finally in Mandarin, he overcame some initial nervousness to chat about French street slang ("verlan"), his family roots in eastern Europe and Chinese food.
And it should be stressed that we did not test his best foreign languages, which are Arabic and Farsi.
He has had formal instruction only in Arabic, Farsi, French, Chinese and a bit of Japanese, Hebrew and Swahili.
As he is being miked for his interview, our producer asks him a standard question to get him talking, so that she can check his voice levels: "What did you have for lunch? The videos going round the internet show him chatting with a bookshop owner in Urdu, responding to a teacher in his Mandarin class, discussing the similarities between Hebrew and Arabic in Arabic, and giving short monologues in languages from Indonesian to Swahili to Ojibwe (a North American Indian language).
" He hasn't yet eaten today, having only just got out of bed. He's entitled to a bit of sleep; he obviously puts in long hours. He is "very comfortable" in four or five others, and "very serious" in studying two to four more at any time. The speed with which he learns, the comfort with which he speaks, and of course his youth make this nothing short of astonishing.
My colleagues were told to try to ask him a question he might not expect; he handled each of them with ease, never once asking them to repeat themselves.
Many people want to know what makes a voracious language-learner tick, a question Michael Erard set out to answer in his book "Babel No More", reviewed here. Many have some combination of being gay, left-handed or ambidextrous, and poor in visual-spatial skills.
A surprisingly large number are boorish anti-social types.