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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1836 to 1838 > African languages

Mezzofanti's handwriting in Angolese : Click to enlarge picture
Mezzofanti's handwriting in Angolese
It must not be supposed, however, that, the Propaganda was his only school of languages. Not un-frequently, also, missionaries from various parts of the world, who repaired to the Propaganda on the affairs of their several missions, supplied a sort of supplement to the ordinary resources of the institution. In this way a German missionary, Father Brunner, (now, I believe, superior of a religious congregation in the United States,) initiated him in the languages of Western Africa. Father Brunner had been for a time a missionary in Congo. On his arrival in Rome, Mezzofanti placed himself in communication with him ; and Cardinal Reisach, (who was at that time Rector of the Propaganda,) states that he soon progressed so far as to be able to keep up a conversation in the language. The general language of Congo comprises many distinct branches, the Loango, the Kakongo, the Mandongo, the Angolese, and the Camba. Of these Mezzofanti applied himself especially to the Angolese, in which he more than once composed pieces for recitation at the academical exhibition of the Epiphany. Two of these, which will be found in the appendix, have been submitted to the criticism of. Mr. Consul Brande, long a resident at Loango, who pronounces them " to exhibit a correct knowledge of the Angolese or Bunda language."

I may add to the number of those with whom he was accustomed to speak oriental languages, two others mentioned to me by Cardinal Wiseman. The first was a learned Chaldean, Paul Alkushi, who had once been a student of the Propaganda, but relinquished the intention of embracing the ecclesiastical profession. The other was a converted Jew, a native of Bagdad, and who, although otherwise illiterate, spoke fluently Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian. He was familiarly known in Rome by the sobriquet of " Shalom." from the habitual salutation with which he used to address his friends at meeting and parting.

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