Sunday, October 16, 2011

Young polyglot

Young medical doctor speaks 11 languages, which he taught himself...

By Vincent Ukpong Kalu
Saturday, October 15, 2011

Moody’s journey to language acquisition began some 16 years ago. He had read Journey to the Centre of the Earth, a novel by Jules Vernes. In the adventure story, the protagonist and his uncle, Prof Von Hardwigg,  were in Iceland, on an expedition when a volcano erupted and threw them beneath the earth. Prof. Hardwigg’s multi-lingual ability led them through the scary journey beneath the earth and up to Sicily, Italy. They survived the ordeal because of the professor’s multi lingual gift. This, Moody affirmed, was his driving force.
He said: “After reading that book, I wanted to be like Prof. Von Hardwigg. I wanted to speak as many languages as possible. So, while taking French in secondary school, I paid special attention and, of course, I got an A1 in the subject in my WAEC exam.

“I love reading French novel. I even read medical books written in French and other languages that I can understand,” he said, adding: “When I finished secondary school, I was at home for 10 months before the University of Ibadan resumed. So, all I did for those 10 months was watch thousands of French movies on satellite television. I also watched English films subtitled in French. I even enjoyed them better than English movies because I was being entertained and I was learning at the same time.”

The satellite TV is one of Moody’s obsessions, as it affords him the opportunity to watch foreign channels and test his understanding of the languages he is learning.  

He says: “I like Japanese TV a lot, especially their interviews. I don’t only learn the language, I also learn their culture. Respect is an integral part of Japanese culture. So, learning other people’s language also helps you learn about their cultures.”
Learning other people’s culture is not Moody’s only reason for studying languages. He believes that knowledge of foreign languages “opens you to the world because language is the vehicle of the feelings, the culture and the traditions of a people.”

When most of his colleagues would relax by sleeping and dreaming about their medical books and their patients, Moody would sit in front of his laptop with headphones and rummage avidly through non-English websites, eBooks and e-dictionaries. He would also watch movies made in other foreign languages.

Moody’s ultimate ambition is to work with the United Nations and its agencies and impact the world from an international standpoint.  He argues: “In medicine and every field of endeavor, ideas come from various parts of the world. No region has a monopoly of knowledge. I study language more than my school books, but it has not affected me because language adds richness and international appeal to your knowledge as long as you can read many languages.”
When a lot of people find it difficult to learn languages, even in the best language schools, Moody finds it very easy, learning by himself, “because right from when I was a child, I liked teaching myself. I refused to be taught the time by my parents. I did it myself.”

Explaining his self-teaching magic, he says: 

To me it’s very simple. I like my laptop, so it is my teacher. All I do is download e-books and dictionaries in those languages. I also visit their websites and read stuff on them. I read medical books and newsletters in foreign languages.

For those who want to take the initiative, to start learning new languages, like Moody, he has this advice: 

“It takes determination and discipline, because you’ll get discouraged and frustrated at the beginning. Then start with the verbs of the language because the verb is the most important part of a language.”


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