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The Ziad’s Thread is Finally Closed October 8, 2007

Posted by Edwin in Forums.

The Ziad’s thread is one of the longest-lasting threads in the forums. It is probably the most intriguing, controversial, and dramatic thread by far. Today, an administrator decided to close it for good.

Ziad Fazah is the living legendary polyglot who claimed to be able to speak 58 languages, and he claimed to have learnt most of them before he was 20!

The thread was started by one of the administrators of the forums back in March 2005 and it contains 377 posts as of today. The administrator was wondering if Ziad Fazah really existed, and if so, how true his legend was. Apparently, there was not a lot of information about this polyglot on the Internet, and this made a lot of people puzzled. I knew about the thread from Simon the Omniglot who blogged about this thread more than a year ago. I have been following the thread since then.

In the beginning of the thread, people debated if such a person really existed. The first dramatic point came about when someone popped up and claimed to know Ziad personally. Apparently, Ziad is now in his 50’s and has been living in Brazil as a language tutor for many years.

This acquaintance of Ziad claimed to be a student of him and was seeing him more than once a week. When people asked the guy for evidents that he really knew Ziad, he came up with all sorts of reasons to keep everyone suspended. Just as people began to call him a liar, the guy posted the polyglot’s contact number. Some people tried to call Ziad and were indeed able to reach him! Still, it seemed to be impossible to get Ziad to join the discussion.

The thread went dormant for a few months until about a week ago, when a video clip of Ziad surfaced on YouTube. It was from a Spanish TV channel showing Ziad being tested back in 1997. He failed some simple tests on several languages he claimed to be fluent in. Many of us were disappointed after seeing the clip.

Today, the administrator who started the thread 2 and a half years ago decided to close it. With the absence of Ziad himself, he saw no point of continuing the discussion. I think he was feeling that some people began to get personal. The administrator left us with his final comment:

The man exists, but the legend does not. Who is really surprised at this?



1. chris(mandarin_student) - October 9, 2007

fascinating, I could understand barely a word but it is obvious he messed that up ;).

The Chinese guy, I can’t make out what he says at the end.
I think he says

“You understand fifty eight languages ? you truly are a terrible language ambassador. Because you have said (first said) Chinese Mandarin is beset with difficulties, therefore I want to ask you a simple question.” Then I get a bit stuck, I can hear lots of words and “cabable of seeing a sole” but can’t quite work it out. Something about human or humanity? Help! (I am much better with women speaking so deliberately trying to listen to men speak especially older ones)

2. Edwin - October 9, 2007

Very good. Not far off.

你懂得五十八种语言 – You know fifty eight languages
真可谓是语言大师 – You are a great linguist
正因为你所说的 – Because of what you have said
中国普通话是较困难 – Mandarin is quite difficult
那麽(我)向你题一个简单的问题 – So I am going to ask you a simple question
在地球上…在月球上能够看到唯一的地球上的 人造工程是什麽? – From the Earth … from the moon, what is the only man-made object that can be seen on earth?

His answer:
Dónde aprendió los conocimientos del idioma chino? e también en qué lugar usted lo absorbió con facilidad?

Where did you learn Chinese? And where did you learn it with ease?

[After the guy shakes his head, the announcer says “it seems you need to keep practising a little more…”]

3. chris(mandarin_student) - October 10, 2007

Excellent :):)
Thanks quite funny really that I turned “you are a great linguist” into “you are a terrible language ambassador”. 🙂
It was a good example of my next hurdle, getting better at hearing tones in speech. It is not such that I can’t hear them just that I often forget to listen too them, particularly if my brain thinks it has a word that fits.
真可谓是语言大师 -> 真可畏是语言大使 that is my spur to dig down deep.

I also suffer from having listened to too many women speaking, I fear.

4. Keith - October 13, 2007

It’s too bad the thread was closed. I would have thought that a lot of people would have called Ziad and he would have been flooded with calls since there are a lot of members on the forum, but apparently that was not the case. Only a few people reported speaking to Ziad. I will have to contact Ziad myself. But I will not just surprise him with a phone call. I will email him first and find out when he accepts calls.

5. Keith - October 14, 2007

Another thought:
There was no reason for the administrator to close the thread. He didn’t even bother to contact Ziad and ask him to join the forum or to speak in 1 or more of 56 languages. That administrator claims to be able to speak many languages himself and yet he also provides us with no evidence of his achievements. No sound clips, no video clips, nothing.

6. Edwin - October 15, 2007

Now you mentioned it. I always wonder why so many people in the forum claim to speak multiple languages, but yet only a few of them care to record their own voices in different languages.

In fact, I posted a thread a few weeks ago to ask that question. Only a few people replied.

I mean, if someone can speak multiple languages well, he must have put in a lot of hard work. He should be eager to demonstrate his ability in speaking different languages. A sound clip of 1 or 2 sentences is good enough, and should not be hard to do, even for intermediate learners.

I am not saying all of them are lying, just that many claims are suspicious.

7. Keith - October 16, 2007

I talked to Ziad. He is alive and well!

8. Edwin - October 16, 2007

I found the recording from your blog. Thanks for your effort. I might call him some day!

BTW, how did you arrange the call? Did you email him first, or just called him right away?

9. Keith - October 19, 2007

Edwin, I am surprised by this line of questioning.
The answer to your question is in comment 5 which says I posted it on October 13, 2007.

10. Edwin - October 19, 2007

Your original comment was in future sense. Now that it happened, I just want to confirm that. Thanks.

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