Proof positive it pays to start learning languages young: Northwest England’s newest top young linguist is only ten years old, but she can already speak ten different languages, one for each year she’s been alive!
Sonia Yang was born in Taiwan, but her family moved to England before she began primary school. By that time, she could already speak Taiwanese, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and English. Once in school, she quickly added to her repertoire, learning German, French and Spanish.
Then, she decided to enter a regional language competition. To qualify, she had to learn Portuguese and Kazakh. To win the “Best Young Linguist” crown, she had to complete one more challenge: learning the Ugandan language of Lugandan in just a few short weeks.
How does she do it? She told the Daily Mail that her multicultural background definitely played a role:
“Lugandan was easier for me to learn than it might have been for an English person, because some of the words are very similar to Taiwanese and it does get a little easier to learn a new language with each one you try.”
It’s definitely easier for very young children to learn how to speak two languages, and she’s right: once you can speak two languages, learning other languages is almost a piece of cake. For example, an Israeli study published earlier this year showed that 6th graders who already knew both Hebrew and Russian had an easier time learning English than 6th graders who only spoke Hebrew. Plus, some people just seem to have a knack for picking up new languages.
No matter how many languages she learns, Sonia told the Daily Mail that English will always have a special place in her heart:
“English is definitely my favourite language, everyone can understand you.”