How does one define the point at which someone can claim to be able to speak a second language? Fluency would be an obvious standard of qualification, but some people may simply require the ability to get by when on vacation to make the claim.

There’s also the matter of closely related languages. Can you really call yourself multilingual if you speak both Spanish and Portuguese? The two languages are very similar, with many words being the same, or only pronounced slightly differently.

There are almost 7,000 languages spoken worldwide and the world record for most foreign languages spoken by an individual is currently held by Ziad Fazah who was recorded by Guinness World Records in 1998 as being able to speak 58. An impressive number, especially when you consider native English speakers often don’t learn to speak even a second language.

However, there is some debate on just how well Fazah can speak his 58 languages. The average adult possesses a lexicon of between 20,000 and 35,000 words, so does this mean Fazah should know at least 20,000 words in each of the 58 languages, or is it sufficient to be able to simply “get by” in each one?

A Real Understanding

While debate is likely to continue regarding the validity of Ziad Fazah’s record, if you wish to become fluent in a foreign tongue, it is going to take a lot of time and dedication. While you may be able to get through a visit to a foreign restaurant, the subtle nuances which are inherent in every language mean you’ll probably need to spend time among native speakers, and not simply rely on educational books or software.

But this doesn’t mean it’s a Herculean feat either. Some sites claim, if you are prepared to spend around 10 hours per day practicing a language, you can potentially have a good understanding in as few as 40 days. Anyone who has really attempted a language while on holiday can attest to just how quickly you can pick things up.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can be fluent in 40 days, but you can achieve a level where you’ll be able to cope with basic interactions when visiting a foreign country.

The Clear Solution

The motivations people have for learning a new language can be many and varied. Some people may wish to gain a grounding in the tongue ahead of emigration or a holiday. However, others may need to negotiate complex legal or business matters with clients from foreign countries. In matters of business an error in translation can cause damage to revenue and relationships which can be difficult – if not impossible – to recover from.

At Magna Carta, we have decades of experience offering translation services to legal and financial firms all over the world.

If you need to make sure your message is always understood get in touch with Magna Carta today, and let us know how we can be of assistance to your business.

We look forward to hearing from you.