How many languages can a person acquire and be really good at?

Being able to speak a language does not mean that you know chunks of expressions to be used in several particular circumstances. It means that you know the whole sound, word and grammar systems of the language - that you'd be able to create and understand novel sentence structures in that language.

I wonder how many languages a 'normal' human is capable of acquiring/learning and using/functioning in? Perhaps if there's an inventory of people who speak many languages, we'd know the answer. As in case of a savant, Christopher, he is not a 'normal' person but he is capable of learning tens of languages, maybe up to 44 languages!

So this proves that one doesn't need a 'normal' brain to be able to learn and speak many languages.

On a personal note, I used to admire people who speak many languages. One person I know is a friend who grew up in Ahmedabad (in Gujarat, India). I mistook him for an Arab for his look and his Arabic. He speaks Malay and sounds like a KLite, as he has been in Malaysia for a few years, speaks Arabic and sounds like an Arab, because he attended college in Oman as his parents worked there, speaks Hindi and English, because he learned it at school and uses it at work and at home, and Gujarati, of course, as it is his mother tongue. I forgot to ask him if he knows the orthography of all of the languages. But I'm sure he knows the orthography of English and Hindi, being the languages he learned formally. So that makes him well capable of five languages.

Another person I admire is Munira, my niece who speaks two languages fluently at the age of 3+. She doesn't only imitate, she utters sentences appropriate to the occasions.

As for me, I speak Malay and English, and I speak some Arabic, and I know the structure of another language although I don't speak it - Urdu. I wish to learn more Mandarin this year. Another motivation is for health reason. Based on medical researches, if you know more than a language, the tendency of you getting amnesia is lower. So perhaps knowing many more languages can diminish the tendency altogether?


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