Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Foreign Language-Learning Child Prodigies

Three Exceptional Children

Near the beginning of the eighteenth century, within the three years from 1719 to 1721, were born in different countries, three children of exceptional language-learning talent entirely without parallel to date in history.

John Lewis Candiac

The first of those, John Lewis Candiac, was born at Nismes, in 1719 This strangely gifted child, we are told, was able, in his third year, to speak not only his native French but also Latin. Before he was six years old he spoke also Greek and Hebrew. He was well versed, besides, in arithmetic, geography, ancient and modern history, and even heraldry. But, as might be expected, those premature efforts quickly exhausted his overtaxed powers, and he died of "water on the brain" (Hydrocephalia?) in 1726, at seven years of age.

Jean Philipe Baratier

The third of those marvels of precocity, Jean Philipe Baratier, (pictured) was born at Anspach in the same year with Heinecken, 1721. His career, however, was not so brief, as the ill-fated child just named. When Baratier was only four years old, he was able to speak Latin, French, and German. At six he spoke Greek; and at nine Hebrew ; in which latter language the soundness of his attainments is attested by a lexicon which he published in his eleventh year. Nor was Baratier a mere linguist. He is said to have mastered elementary mathematics in three months, and to have qualified himself by thirteen month's study for the ordinary thesis maintained at taking out the degree of Doctor of Laws. He was also well versed in architecture, in ancient and modern literature, in antiquities, and even the uncommon science of numismatics. He translated from the Hebrew Benjamin of Tudela's " Itinerary." He published a detailed and critical account of the Rabbinical Bible; and communicated to several societies elaborate papers on astronomical and mathematical subjects. This extraordinary youth died at the age of nineteen in 1760.

Giovanni Cristoforo Amaduzzi

Later in the same century was born at Rome a child named Giovanni Cristoforo Amaduzzi, if not quite so precocious as this extraordinary trio, at least of riper intellect, and destined to survive for greater distinction and for a more useful career. The precise dates of his various attainments do not appear to be chronicled; but, when he was only twelve years old, he published a poetical translation of the Hecuba of Euripides, which excited universal surprise; and a few years later, on the visit of the Emperor Joseph II. and his brother Leopold to Rome, he addressed to the Emperor a polyglot ode of welcome in Greek, Latin, Italian, and French. His after studies, however, were more serious and more practical. He is well-known, not only as a linguist, but also as a philologer of some merit; and in his capacity of corrector of the Propaganda Oriental Press, a post which he filled till his death, in 1792, he rendered many important services to Oriental studies.

Information of these texts, excluding images, were excerpted from the online posting “Infant Phenomena” at:

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 125 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "Can You REALLY Learn a Foreign Language While You Sleep?" by requesting the title at:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well this is really exceptional