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Self-taught American teen speaks over 20 languages

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His name is Tim Doner. He’s 17, from New York City and he speaks over 20 languages.

What’s more is he’s taught himself.

According to NPR, only 20 percent of Americans are bilingual. But Doner is in an elite class of hyperpolyglots — people who speak more than 12 languages fluently.

His interest in languages started when he began studying for his bar mitzvah. After his 13th birthday, Doner decided to continue his studies and learn modern Hebrew.

His interest in the history of Israel and the ongoing conflict between Arabs and Jews led him to study Arabic. Then Russian, Italian, Farsi, Swahili, Indonesian, Hindi, Ojibwe (a Native American language) Pashto, Turkish, Hausa (spoken in West Africa), Kurdish, Yiddish, Dutch, Croatian, German, Spanish and siXhosa (indigenous to of South Africa).

While Doner has had formal training in French, Latin and Mandarin at his high school, the other languages he’s basically taught himself using books and flash card applications on his iPhone.

In 2011 he posted a video to YouTube of himself speaking Arabic. This allowed him to connect with other hyperpolyglots. In addition, native speakers provided corrections and encouragement to continue.

When speaking another language, Doner said he sometimes feels like a different person. In addition, he said speaking a person’s native language provides a better way to connect with them. Paraphrasing Nelson Mandela, Doner said when you speak to a person in a language they understand, you speak to their brain. But when you speak to a person in his native language, you speak to his heart.

See Doner in the videos below and check out his YouTube Channel.

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