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13

There is at least one natural language (as opposed to the conlang Ithkuil mentioned by michau) that is impossible for non-native speakes to learn: Sentinelese. The reason is that it will probably cost your life. The Sentinelese language is spoken by the inhabitants of North Sentinel Island, a small island (47.5 km2) that is part of the Andaman and Nicobar ...


7

This question was posted so long ago, but I will post an answer because you might still be looking for it. First of all, I would like to draw you attention to the fact that if all that is being said about Mezzofanti is true, he probably was a very gifted student; just like you could consider Mozart to be a genius in music. On the Wikipedia page there's a ...


6

H. H. Stern in Fundamental Concepts of Language Teaching traces the L1/L2 distinction back to the 1959 article, The teaching of English as a foreign language by J.C. Catford: The ‘L1’/‘L2’ distinction was introduced by Catford in 1959. ‘One may, for convenience, use the abbreviation “L1” for primary language, and “L2” for secondary language. L1 is ...


5

I came across this interview by The Economist with Timothy Doner, who was a teenage polyglot (the interview is from 2013, when he was 17 years old) that had "learned" 20 languages in four years. That would translate into about 2.5 months per language (which he mentions in the interview that sometimes he only studies a language for a couple of months). ...


5

One notable early example is Panini's Astadhyayi. The book provides a systematic study of the grammar of Sanskrit, a primary language of Hindu scripture, which was already sufficiently archaic that people had to undertake study to learn it. The exact date of publication is not known, but it appears to be around 2,500 years old (5th or 6th century BC or ...


5

The following is an excerpt taken from a book by Thomas Pendergast written in 1864 entitled 'The Mastery of Languages' (it can be found on The Forgotten books website). It pretty much sums up what people contemporary to the Cardinal knew of his learning method(s). "The late Cardinal Mezzofanti, indisputably the greatest linguist that ever lived, has ...


4

Probably the Lexical Lists containing Akkadian-Sumerian word correspondences from the 3rd millenium BC on are the oldest language learning materials. They were intended for speakers of Akkadian to learn the prestigious classical language Sumerian.


3

If we take conlangs into account, Ithkuil is such a language. Wikipedia says: "No person, including Quijada [the creator of the language], is known to be able to speak Ithkuil fluently.". However, we cannot be sure if it is an actual human language, that is, if it is possible to be a native speaker of Ithkuil. As far as I know, nobody has tried to teach it ...


3

The Chinese hadn't really discovered syntax or morphology before they got in contact with the West. They hadn't even had the concept of a word (as opposed to a character). But it doesn't mean, of course, that there were no language learning materials. Unsurprisingly, they were focused on teaching the characters. Some examples of character primers (童蒙識字): ...


2

The wired's portrait of SuperMemo creator Piotr Wozniak states that there had been experimental software before SuperMemo, which apparently never got out of the labs: The best time to study something is at the moment you are about to forget it. And yet — as Neisser might have predicted — that insight was useless in the real world. Determining the ...


2

The blogpost 6 Of The Oldest Japanese Language Learning & Culture Websites list some potential candidates. Reiko-Chan’s Japanese for Anime Lovers was possibly launched in July 1998. The original website is no longer online, but there are a few (partial) copies elsewhere on the web. I don't think it charged money for the lessons. YesJapan, now known as ...


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