Some people are gifted with languages — and some very special people are gifted at sounding as if they are gifted with languages.
During the Israeli War of Independence, my father was extremely ill and spent some time in a hospital. Since this was a military hospital, he wasn’t in a private or even a semi-private room but was, instead, in a ward, along with a rotating crop of several other patients. Although he was too out of it to be a participant in the following story, he witnessed the events and he and my mother both swore to their truth.
The men in the ward (some of whom were sick, as was my father and some who were wounded) mostly kept to themselves. One day, though a new man showed up in the ward and he appeared to be not just convivial but amazingly multilingual.
The Israeli Defense Force was, of course, a multilingual military, comprised as it was of Jewish soldiers from all over the world. Each individual soldier, though spoke only one, maybe two, languages, with a tiny fraction speaking as many as three or four. This man, though, went far beyond that. [Read more…]