June 2008
Volume 12, Number 1

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Polyglot: How I Learn Languages

Kató Lomb
Translated by Ádám Szegi and Kornelia DeKorne
Edited by Scott Alkire


From the Preface, by Scott Alkire, Editor

Dr. Kató Lomb (1909–2003) has been called "possibly the most accomplished polyglot in the world" (Krashen, 1997, p. 15) and "the most multilingual woman" (Parkvall, 2006, p. 119). Unlike most polyglots, Lomb came to language learning relatively late. Indifferent to foreign languages in secondary school and university (her PhD was in chemistry), she began to acquire English on her own in 1933 for economic reasons: to find work as a teacher.

She learned Russian in 1941, and by 1945 was interpreting and translating for the Budapest City Hall. She continued to learn languages and at her peak was interpreting and/or translating 16 different languages for state and business concerns. In the 1950s she became one of the first simultaneous interpreters in the world, and her international reputation became such that, according to an interview in Hetek newspaper (14 November 1998), she and her colleagues in the Hungarian interpreting delegation were known as "the Lomb team" (p. 16).

Lomb wrote Így tanulok nyelveket in 1970. Subsequent editions were published in 1972, 1990, and 1995, and translations were published in Japan, Latvia, and Russia. As her fame grew, Lomb wrote additional books on languages, interpreting, and polyglots, and continued learning languages into her eighties. In 1995 she was interviewed by Stephen Krashen, who brought her achievements to the attention of the West.

Keywords: EFL, ESL, language acquisition, polyglots, interpretation

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