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Tyler Cowen engages today’s deepest thinkers in wide-ranging explorations of their work, the world, and everything in between.

New conversations every other Wednesday. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Sep 7, 2022

Vaughn Smith is fluent in eight languages but with a beginner’s grasp of at least thirty-six (and counting). His talents are so remarkable that the Washington Post did a feature story on him and neuroscientists at MIT requested he do a brain scan for them. But for Vaughn his language skills aren’t about attracting attention or monetary gain. “Language is a key to someone's culture, to someone's world,” he explains. Whether it’s watching a client’s face light up when he speaks to them in their native tongue or showing Indigenous children in rural Mexico that their language is valuable and worth preserving, Vaughn views his gifts as a way of connecting with other people.

He joined Tyler to discuss how he began learning languages, the best languages for expressing humor, why he curses in Slovak, why he considers Finnish more romantic than Portugese, what makes Hungarian so difficult to learn, the best way to teach people new languages, how to combat language loss, why he’d like rural Mexicans to have more pride in their culture and way of life, his time as a roadie for a punk rock van, the most rewarding job he’s had, why he wants to visit Finland, how enjoying films from different eras is similar to learning new languages, the future of English, and more.

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links, or watch the full video.

Recorded May 26th, 2022

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