Stuart Jay Raj, speaker of 15 or so languages.

I read about Stuart Jay Raj the other day at the Tower of Confusion. Here is the original post about the fellow in question, Stuart Jay Raj. Stuart can read, write, and speak in more than 15 languages. The YouTube videos, which are all availabe here on Stuart’s blog, are extremely interesting. It’s all in Thai subtitles (barring the sections where Stuart demonstrates his ability in other languages), but it’s well worth the reading of the subtitles.

One thing that blew me away about the interview is that he said that when he starts learning a new language, he’ll spend the first week or so just reading a dictionary, picking up 3,000-5,000 words to work with. He mentioned that he uses a lot of mnemonics to link works to things outside of language, which surely helps, but still – 5,000 words in a week? If that’s really the case, that’s simply amazing.

I mentioned this at the Tower of Confusion in the comments, but I did find something a bit ironic. He had a chart showing what languages he knew, and his proficiency in the specific languages in the sections of reading, writing, and speaking. For English, he gave himself “5” on all of the sections (5 being the highest, on a scale of 1 to 5). The irony? On his blog, at the top of the page, is this:

Whether your into Thai, Lao, Cambodian,…

You need you’re right there, Stuart, not your. 😉 Oh well. Everyone makes mistakes!

As an aside, it’s a pity that Stuart doesn’t blog that often. He’s only written one post during all of 2007, and that’s the post with the YouTube videos. Considering his knowledge of languages and his skill at learning them, I’m sure a regularly updated blog from him would be outstanding.

7 thoughts on “Stuart Jay Raj, speaker of 15 or so languages.”

  1. Thanks for the comment re. my blog.

    You know, when I was a kid my spelling was a lot better! … have just gone in and fixed up the mistake (likely to be one of many). At the age of 4 and 5, my grandfather used to go through and correct the American grammar and slang in blue pen in my “Sesame Street Encylopaedia” series before he’d let me read them… He’d be rolling in his grave if he saw me make a mistake like that. Nowadays I think more in sounds than I do correct spelling. Don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing.
    As for blogging, I would like to blog a lot more than I do. Let me know of any topics you’re interested in.

    Stu.

  2. Hey Stu,

    I certainly didn’t expect you to end up here! 🙂 Nice to see you drop by.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the your / you’re blunder. That’s something that native English speakers (at least the American variety of us) make all the time.

    Regarding any topics I’m interested in… well, after watching the videos, I have many questions, actually! You were asked how many hows a day you spent reading language books / dictionaries, but you ended up being cut off when the hosts took you over to your piles of books. I was curious about the number of hours you spent on language acquisition.

    I was also curious about an elaboration on the sounds to shapes bit. I watched it twice, and was still a bit confused about what was going on.

    Lastly, do you use the typical mnemonic systems – pegs, links, stories, etc. – to memorize such a huge amount of words (3-5K in one week), or do you do something different than the most of us?

    Sorry for all of the questions, but hey, you offered. If I can get language learning advice from a fellow who can speak more than a dozen languages, I’ll take it!

  3. Hey Josh,
    How many days do I spend learning? In my classes I talk about creating an environment that teaches you around the clock rather than thinking you have to put aside so many hours a day to learn a language. It’s a bit easier for expats over here in Thailand to do it as the language that they’re learning (Thai) is spoken all around them. When I’m learning a language that isn’t spoken in my immediate environment, I create that environment as best I can around me. Buy as many books as I can, internet radio (used to use Short Wave radio a lot more before the internet), MSN / Skype with people who speak the language I’m learning and then ohh yes.. the bathroom! Mine is a library! To give you an idea of what I’ve read so far since this morning –
    woke up at 5:30 AM – read a few blogs and internet articles on Vedic Sanskrit and Pali
    7:00’ish – reviewing my old sanskrit books – got frustrated ’cause the pages were all falling out
    09:00 – tried to develop a system that would make it easy for Thais to learn the Sanskrit case system easily (teaching sanskrit to some yoga instructors here in BKK at the moment)
    13:00 went for lunch – took books with me on Pwo and Pali to read at stop lights on the way to the restaurant
    14:30 – went into bookstore in town to find a new version of my Sanskrit book that was falling to pieces – was out of stock, but bought 3 more books – Pali Grammar, Advanced Italian grammar and Cambodian
    16:00 spent about 2 hours reading through the 3 books
    19:00 – went to dinner – took the pali with me and read over dinner
    21:00 – now writing this blog comment – about to logoff and read my new cambodian book for about an hour

    In the meantime, I’ve had telephone conversations with clients and friends in Hong Kong, China, Indonesia and a Swedish group that are hiring me to run a workshop on cross-cultural communication. With all of these people, used the various relevant languages. …
    So – how much time do I spend a day? It’s my life. I’ve built my life up around things that allow me to use the languages – people now pay me to do it!

    As for remembering vocab, I use mnemonics, pegging and other ‘standard’ tools, but also link meanings into sounds, colours, shapes, emotions, experiences and other words and extralinguistic things that I already have from other languages. When I meet a new word, in most cases I can relate it to another word(s) that I know – I can probably figure the etymology – and understand the sound / meaning shifts that have occured, and will then look for other related meanings.
    Example – this is one story i used to remember the Indonesian days of the week when i was a kid-
    On Sunday, people mingle (Minggu) at church,
    On Monday, people are back to sinnin’ (Senin)
    On Tuesday like Mario the Italian from Mario Bros shaking his hands in the air, they say ‘At lasta (Selasa)- Monday’s over)
    On Wednesday, to cleanse the sins from Monday, the Rabi (Rabu) Comes (Kamis) and performs a strange sin cleansing ceremony by jumping up and down vigorously on a mat (Jumat)- just in time for the Sabbath (Sabtu) and going to church to mingle (Minggu) again on Sunday –
    Sunday – Minggu
    Monday – Senin
    Tuesday – Selasa
    Wednesday – Rabu
    Thursday – Kamis
    Friday – Jumat
    Saturday – Sabtu
    Sunday – Minggu

    I t only takes a few seconds to put these kinds of stories together – and they stick! (try to go over all the stories i make up each day as I’m dozing off to sleep each night … and when I wake up in the middle of the night)… actually, sometimes they keep me from sleeping!

    When I’m in my element, I can remember a lot of stuff… but at the same time, I might forget where I placed my car keys.

    Hope this helps
    Stu.

  4. Question… you said:

    16:00 spent about 2 hours reading through the 3 books

    Can you explain that? You read three grammar books in 2 hours? Or do you mean you browsed over all of them for a couple of hours?

  5. I want to know the ranking of Stuart’s languages, because I tried to enter to the website that appears in his blog, but I couldn’t, so please help me¡¡ Thanks a lot¡¡¡

  6. Antonio: There’s a series of videos on YouTube, in which Stuart is interviewed on (I believe) Thai television. In the interview, he shows a chart of the languages he knows with the rankings he has in each for different activities (reading, writing, listening, speaking).

  7. Hi Stuart,
    My name is Duncan and I actually work beside your brother Chris. He was telling me of your talent with learning multiple languages and I was hoping that you may be able to give me a little direction.
    I am actually seeing an Italian girl and will be travelling there for Christams. I would love to have some conversational Italian under my belt before I go so I can converse a little with her family but I am struggling to find anything on the Gold Coast that might assist me (course / tutor). Chris mentioned that you had alot of contacts and I thought you might be able to make some suggestions. Appreciate any of your thoughts. Duncan

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