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Vietnamese girl speaks 11 languages

 Language Learning Forum : Polyglots Post Reply
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Senior Member
Korea, South
Joined 4877 days ago

125 posts - 234 votes 
Speaks: Korean*

 Message 89 of 108
22 August 2012 at 10:23am | IP Logged 
Thank you tmp011007 for putting up this link.
It contains some important informations about her language acquisition that I tried to get since last year.

I am skipping my meal to write and post this first.
I will have to come back later to write more about this video.

Solfrid Cristin wrote:
This one is difficult to comment on. On one hand I think it is fantastic to have someone who is so interested in languages, and whose parents prioritize that. She is a very accomplished young lady.

On the other hand I find it weird to have someone described as fluent in 11 languages, when we see that her Hindi teacher is "expanding her vocabulary" with words like "grandfather, mother, uncle". Most 11 year olds would be way beyond that sort of vocabulary.

I am again afraid that this is someone who is being raised to the stars by the media, and I really hope she will not crash and burn. I wish her lots of luck.

Solfrid Cristin, please allow me to give you my correction to what you have found to be 'weird' concerning Wendy Vo and her language level. I hope that this will help you to be more observant and careful before you jump into conclusions too quickly about other language learners' motivation or level, creating unnecessary tensions in an already stress-soaked language learning community over the difficult task of language learning.

I am not primarily advocating that we should shower our praises on her for being how great a polyglot she is, but rather that we should make more effort to see more deeply into her phenomenon to dig out the treasures within, not so much for her, but more for ourselves as language learners.

We need to have objective views about people, which means views which correspond to how things are even as they are and always be careful to not let our subjectivity overly influence our interpretation of them. As it can even sometimes inadvertently hurt others even as you have mentioned in your other thread.

Please understand that I am focusing specifically just on what you have found to be 'weird' and publicized here. I am making my response as I feel that your assessment could spread a contagion of an unobjective view on Wendy Vo.

We all make mistakes with many things. I do feel that you have made a too quick misjudgement on the segment of Hindi tutor and I will be delineating why I feel so.

Please go over the video material several times again carefully and see whether you still do feel that it was 'weird', specifically and only on this matter.

I do respect your enthusiasm for language learning and your ability in a number of languages.

I hope your heart will be big enough to receive my view about the issue, though it goes directly and publicly against your publicized statement.

Something in my heart clicked when I saw her videos the first time last year. I do consider Wendy Vo to be almost my own daughter in our common language journey and 'kindred spirit'. Please be magnanimous towards me, should my strong response bring any hurt to you. Please view my reaction as coming from a fatherly heart over a daughter whom he feels is unfairly belittled at and needs to be defended.

Now I also will have to be careful, because I am finding my own subjectivity is also getting strongly instigated and this might crook my views and observations.


Wendy and the tutor are lightly, comfortably and quite naturally chatting with each other.

[Narrator narrates with a light background music]"The tutoring is casual. The conversation's about Wendy's week. Then it's on to learning new words to expand her vocabulary"

(3:07) [visual]
The tutor picks up an already opened picture vocabulary book, puts it on her lap, holds a pencil with her right hand, (3:09)jerks her right hand with pencil from left bottom side of the book to the right upper side so that she can position her hand ready to turn the pages to find the proper place for beginning that day's vocabulary session or go through the motion for the camera take-ups. Thus the tip of the pencil, held by the tutor, makes a swooping zigzag motion that does not seek any particular picture within the already opened pages in less than three seconds and lands for a brief moment in a position which is directed towards a picture of a 'mechanic'. She then quickly turns the pages without any hesitation and the scenery changes.(3:12)

The primary objective of her hand movement from left to right seems to be that of showing the content to the camera and of turning pages further down from the right side, even as pagination starts from the left to the right in most such books.

On each page are nine pictures with written words: on the left page are ??(unseen), grand child, grand father, grand mother, husband, infant, king, knight and lady; while on the right page are man, mechanic, umpire, merchant, monk, musician,..???(unseen).

The exact direction of her jerking movement starts from king and goes through grand mother, ??, grand child, grand father, merchant, monk, musician and mechanic in order, stopping for a twinkling moment at 'mechanic', before turning to other pages. This process lasts three seconds. If you are interested in analyzing this further, put a big open book on your lap or use something similar in size such as a pillow and grab a pencil or pen with your right hand. Now put your right hand on the left bottom position of that book or other object and move your hand over to the right position in a big wave motion, and try to imagine and feel what kind of action this is, even as I have done.

(3:11) The Indian tutor lady is speaking, "I think it is very amazing to see her (growth and everything?) because she can talk fluently like if you will see some Indian boys and girls who are raised in America. They will not be that fluent like Wendy is."

The scene then changes into the Russian session.(3:25)

--The tutor does not stop on the first two pages at all to talk about any pictures within them, but quickly turns the page to another section of the book.
--The first two pages contain very simple words related to family members, and some pre-intermediate/intermediate level words for different professions such as merchant, monk, musician and monk, along with perhaps beginner words such as king, knight and lady.
--By looking at the thickness of the book(3-5 cm?), the vocabulary book might contain about 1000(115 pages)-2000(230 pages) words.

My interpretation of the segment in question is that the tutor did not try to teach words such as grandfather at all, that the vocabulary book of that size will and must contain both very basic words including the numbers one to ten, names for family members, etc, but will and must also contain many words whose level and difficulty goes beyond those simple words, that the fact such a book contains really basic words does not indicate and prove that it is a book which is at a level that school kids cannot use, and that the segment does not prove that Wendy's level in Hindi is that of having to learn from the basic words such as father, mother and grandmother, but more strongly evidences that it is much beyond that according to the footage of conversations Wendy and the tutor had and the witness of the tutor, certifying her to be as fluent as if not more than Indian kids raised in America.

Edited by futurianus on 22 August 2012 at 3:08pm

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Joined 4349 days ago

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Speaks: English*
Studies: Mandarin, Japanese, Afrikaans

 Message 90 of 108
23 August 2012 at 7:11am | IP Logged 
She's extremely talented. I wonder though, if she learns these languages because she is
passionate, or because her parents force her to and she enjoys the media attention. I
always feel so uneasy about "child prodigies". Mainly because it's too hard to tell
whether they're just acting like children or they're overly and annoyingly confident and
exuberant, but I digress.

Good luck to her.

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Joined 4219 days ago

30 posts - 46 votes
Speaks: German*, English, Russian
Studies: Icelandic, Spanish

 Message 91 of 108
25 February 2013 at 11:01pm | IP Logged 
Never wrote:
She's extremely talented.

In all modesty, but I fail to recognize her "extreme talent". It's fairly nothing compared to "real talents", who are able to absorb languages just like that. The case here is absolutely clear to me:

She is an asian girl, homeschooled by almost dozens of teachers (, which get paid by her obviously rich father), who just "throw the languages at her" as her father quite interestingly said. I'm quite sure that this is all due to her father, who pushes her to learn all these languages.. her natural lingual skills seem absolutely mediocre to me, which is of course nothing you would normally criticize in front of a 12-year old.

I think it's save to say that it's quite common for asian households to have tremendous demands and presures on their children. It's part of their culture to bring all this effort in order to achieve something like learning 11 languages at the same time at young age. Not sure what to think about that.. on the one hand, she will obviously profit from all her language learning at some point, but I can't really support this entire act concidering her average lingual skills. She can absolutely not handle 11 languages at the same time, which Solfrid Cristin pointed out with the fact that she is expanding her vocabulary with words like grandfather, mother, uncle, etc.

It would be so much more reasonable if she would just focus on 4-5 languages and try to achieve fluency there instead of pushing the limit with 11 languages.

I can only rate her Spanish and russian.. neither sound anything near native level. Well, sure, she doesn't speak a lot of russian or Spanish in that video, but I think it's enough to be sure to say that she would have a hard time in at least russia (My Spanish is not good enough to be all too sure in that point).

I think the biggest threat to her is her own personality. I can already sense some arrogance in her way of behaviour.. she really seems to like to hear "how special" she is. She definitely has to watch out for which way her personality goes.

A person, who is simply raised to be a polyglot is bound to fail imo. Language learning is something that goes with determination, talent and joy. If she will continue this path she will end up having basic skills in 20 languages, whilst she is fluent in only 2 or 3 of them, because she can't be bothered to bring enough time for each language to achieve advanced fluency. In that point I fail to see her 'extreme talent': extreme talents achieve fluency fast, whilst this girls oviously struggles in learning new vocabulary, which is the easiest part of language learning. It seems ludicrous to learn words like 'grandfather', 'uncle', etc., because that is basic vocabulary you should pick up just like that, if you are extremely talented.

It feels bad to criticize a 12-year old, but it's more the father, who bugs me. He seems very unlikeable in the way he raises his daughter.. the fact that he is posting videos of her on his own youtube channel shows me, that he seems to be very vain about his 'super intelligent daughter'.
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United States
Joined 4491 days ago

68 posts - 121 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, English
Studies: French

 Message 92 of 108
28 February 2013 at 11:58pm | IP Logged 
About the question if she is being push by the father or if she really like to learn languages, I would go for the second option. She have a brother who doesn't speak lots of languages, At least not enough for them to consider it worthy of being mentioned, so it is not the parents, it is her.

About the "fluently" on the 11 languages. It is really complicate to evaluate because the actual samples of each language are so short.

The Spanish on the first video (when she was 8) was fine, except one part where it sounds really weird, I think even she realize this and show it on her face. On the video where she is 12, I don't know what to make up of that, it was like 3 words, at least it was not "manzana y banana".

About the other languages, It seams she speak on a very basic level as in "what is this?" "my name is Wendy" and so, so it can be easy to hold a short conversation on this basic level. The reading parts, clearly are on higher levels of her conversation, still children books, the real question is if she understood what she read or she just know the pronunciation of the words.

So... what I am being shown is not enough for me to know her real skills, I definitely would like to see more.

Another thing is that since 8 his dad have not trow more languages at her. I was kinda hopping she was on the at least 15 languages mark.
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Senior Member
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Speaks: English*, Esperanto, German, Italian
Studies: French, Finnish, Mandarin, Japanese

 Message 93 of 108
01 March 2013 at 9:55pm | IP Logged 
Bismuth: her father is a dentist.

I know some people who are incredibly talented with languages. They all need to work on vocabulary acquisition; none of them acquire and retain words "just like that" with no work.

Mediocre language skills don't look like that. I know plenty of people who have received private language tuoring and come out hardly the better in one language for it.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to stop projecting onto her and her family?
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Senior Member
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2704 posts - 5425 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 Message 94 of 108
02 March 2013 at 5:13am | IP Logged 
I won't weigh in on the question of how well this young woman speaks all these languages and whether there is extreme talent or not. This is not the first example that I've seen of parents having their young child tutored in many languages and becoming something of a media darling. It is very cute to see a young child interact in all these languages.

What I really find interesting is that these examples confirm the following observations that come up in discussions around here :

1. It's best to start learning foreign languages at the earliest age possible. There are people here who firmly believe that languages can be learned by adults just as well as by a child. That may be true but when I see these child prodigies, I say that nothing beats starting early.

2. You can learn multiple languages simultaneously. Pretty self-evident.

3. The most efficient way to learn is with a private tutor. None of these prodigies learned their languages in a school classroom. The best is to have a person dedicated to you.

4. You can learn to speak without being able to write or even read. Although books are used for teaching purposes, the real emphasis is on learning through sounds. This of course is strongly related to the age question.
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Senior Member
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Speaks: English*, Esperanto, German, Italian
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 Message 95 of 108
02 March 2013 at 8:44am | IP Logged 
1) It's helpful to be a prodigy, whether or not one is a child prodigy. Child prodigies just stand out more. Furyou_gaijin mentioned teaching an adult woman some Italian as a first foreign language, and her taking to it well, exceptional accent included. On the other hand, speech therapy exists for children in their own native languages for a reason - how easily people pick up accents varies, even to a small degree in their native language(s).

All else being equal, starting earlier is an advantage. All else is not equal.

2) Yes.

3) Whether a private tutor is the most efficient way is debatable. It's certainly a lot more efficient than typical classroom study.

4) Agreed, excluding the age part.

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Senior Member
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Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 Message 96 of 108
02 March 2013 at 2:10pm | IP Logged 
The other observation that I forgot to add in my previous post about things that these examples of child polyglots teach us is how you can get by with few words. I'm a firm believer in the idea that a decent accent and small vocabulary (300 - 500 words) are all you need to get by in simple everyday conversations and impress people. In the 2012 video of Wendy Vo that I saw this as aptly illustrated as we see her using her languages in various situations.

Let me just add before some people start hollering at me that I'm not saying that you should limit yourself to 500 words in a language.

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