Teen Polyglot Speaks 20 Foreign Languages, First Among Them: Hebrew

Watch: New York 17-year-old says the first of his numerous self-taught languages was Hebrew, which developed from his love of Israeli hip-hop.

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A New York teenager has taught himself to speak more than 20 languages at differing levels of fluency.

Like many teenagers in Manhattan, Timothy Doner enjoys getting an after-school snack from a street vendor. Except this 17-year-old can order in Arabic or in French, Latin, ancient Greek, Mandarin, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, Farsi, Pashto, Hindi and more.

Doner lives in New York - an immigrant city that's a melting pot of cultures and languages -- and he speaks more than 20 of them at differing levels of fluency. Best of all is that he is largely self-taught.

The first foreign language Doner learned was Hebrew, which developed from his love of Israeli hip hop.

Want to learn Hebrew? You can start with Haaretz's word of the day

"I found that just by memorizing song lyrics and parroting them back to people, I started to be able to form new sentences. And after about six months of this, it became a bit easier for me just to start having more fluid conversations with people, just based off of words that I learned from songs," says Doner.

He finds the Internet is a valuable tool, allowing him to chat with people all over the world. "I think it's great, the fact that, you know, I can log on and just on my computer, sitting in my bedroom in New York, can be in contact with over 100 people from all over the world."

But despite all his global contacts, New York's multi-cultural mix still provides the perfect place for this polyglot to practice.

Screengrab of teenage polygot Timothy Doner.Credit: Reuters video

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