The Hungarian woman who spoke an incredible amount of languages
Have you ever heard the name Kató Lomb? Unfortunately, she is not well-known enough, although there are plenty of things she could be world-famous for. Kató Lomb was one of the first simultaneous interpreters in the world and she spoke about sixteen languages.
Kató Lomb was born on 8th February 1909 as Katalin Szilárd and died on 9th June 2003. Kató is a nickname for Katalin and she took up the surname of her husband, thus becoming Lomb. She was a translator and an interpreter. Although generally, Hungarians are not very keen on learning languages, she did a lot to balance these statistics.
Kató Lomb originally majored in Physics and Chemistry but her interest soon turned towards languages, most of which she learned all on her own.
She did interpretations in nine or ten languages and translated from and read in six more.
She could understand journalistic texts in about eleven more languages.
The language master claimed that it was not really the knowledge of languages but the learning that excited her. She wished to be differentiated from linguists, being more of a language enthusiast who learns languages for practical reasons as well as to satisfy her own interests.
Kató Lomb intended to pass on her enthusiasm through her books, radio works and interviews.
As an interpreter, she visited all five continents, saw forty countries of the world and shared her experience in her book, An interpreter around the world.
How many languages exactly?
It is a difficult task to count all the languages that she was familiar with. All we know for sure is that,
according to her own account, she earned money with sixteen languages (English, Bulgarian, Danish, French, Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese, Latin, Polish, German, Italian, Russian, Romanian, Spanish, Slovakian and Ukrainian).
However, she also mentions other languages in her books, so, adding everything up, including Hungarian,
she knew at least 28 languages well enough to read texts written in them.
What was her trick?
Seeing these impressive numbers, it is only natural that we wonder about Kató Lomb’s secret.
Well, she had none: she shared her strategy with everyone.
As she put it herself, she used three ‘autos’ in the world: autolexy, autography and autology. Meaning: self-reading, writing and speaking.
Her method included these three activities. Reading to herself and discovering a book on her own, thus always getting something new out of it. Writing about her own thoughts, experiences and about everyday events. It does not matter if the text is silly or contains mistakes. Finally, talking to herself. That is, expressing thoughts or whatever she saw looking around, in the language she was learning – just for herself.
The emphasis should be on motivation: if you are interested in what you are doing and can fight your inhibitions, you are going to succeed.
I hope that I have drawn your attention to this marvellous lady, and if you are now interested, you can read her book: Polyglot: How I Learn Languages. It is available in English and free to purchase by clicking here. Should you wish to hear about another Hungarian with a talent for languages, make sure to read about Árpád Göncz, the legendary literary translator.
Featured image: www.budapesttravelling.com