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Apr 24, 2019

When asked 'how many languages does one need?', Umberto Eco purportedly answered: 'all of them.' Eco himself spoke five languages fluently and probably knew several others (one unbased source claims he knew 56), but the point is that you get on with what you have and try to learn more if needed.

On paper, I'm supposed to have four languages. Two of them I'm quite comfortable with, but I'd be embarrassed to say that I 'speak' the other two. I have a fifth language, but even after years of sporadic attempts to improve I still only have a rudimentary knowledge of it. I expect to reach a higher level this summer though, as I'll be taking a 10-week, intensive 'bootcamp' to really master the basics and advance to the level of reading and writing prose.

Some say the easiest thing is to learn a language: all it requires is repetitive, 'mechanical' effort, and the only problem is to find the time to do this. Others say it's the most difficult thing in the world, if you want to trick a native-speaker into thinking you are one too. My answer lies somewhere in between.