Ziad Fazah – Does He Speak 58 Languages Or Not?


Ziad Fazah is supposedly the worlds greatest living polyglot who can converse in 58 languages. That’s the story I had heard. Personally, I have never met Ziad but I heard he wrote books about languages and he spoke to some people in different languages. That was what I used to know.

That was until I saw this video (in Spanish):

Summary of the video: he gets asked a bunch of questions in a bunch of languages and he doesn’t answer any while just providing “off-the-point” translations, confusing Russian with Serbian and reading Farsi as Arabic.

That’s all I knew after the video. I also found a forum post talking about it but there didn’t seem to be much real-life evidence provided there.

Today, I was browsing through some of the blogs I follow and I ended up reading this blog post by The Linguist Blogger. The part that is relevant is here:
How Would You Like Your Worst Day at Work Broadcasted on Youtube?

A little while ago there was a deceitful video on youtube that made Ziad look very bad. Before he went on that Chilean program the producers had told him that he would simply be interviewed and not tested. He went to the studio finding that they had brought diplomats from many different countries that were going to test him in their native languages. A lack of preparation, nerves and jetlag got the better of Ziad and he responded incorrectly to a few of their questions. To this day he wishes he would have walked off the set instead of going on live TV but that’s life. The video on youtube was edited to only show the incorrect responses and not the many correct responses that he gave.

How does the author know that? Well, he knows Ziad and he provides proof of that.

Now I don’t know anything else about the story but I thought the only thing I could do would be to watch the video again and see if there are any signs it has been edited.

Well, I am pretty certain it has. I guess it would be most evident when they switch between speakers. So I checked a few of these. Some are continuous. Some don’t seem to be. For example, check out the video at 4 minutes 33 seconds. One second Ziad is looking at the lady speaking and another second he already has the paper in his hands.

Another, and I guess even more evident one is at 6 minutes 45 seconds. One person is speaking and then suddenly the camera shows the Russian guy ask his question. Consider that the second guy would have to make sure the first guy had finished his sentence and then the Russian guy would have to stand up get the microphone and and take his time to ask. You can’t do that in half a second and it seems to me that at least some of the video has been edited and therefore it’s not continuous.

Have they just cut out the boring parts (i.e. getting the microphone and so on) or have they also cut some of the answers out? I don’t know that.

I’m not with either side here but I thought people should know both sides of the story. At least I’d like that for myself. I’d like to know more about this as well. Currently I’m still puzzled.

Do you know anything about this, have you found any more evidence or perhaps you can confirm/deny my observations that the video has been edited? Drop a comment then!

P.S. I just got an idea about how one could research this. Contact the speakers! They have their names below in the subtitles so I figured perhaps it would be possible to contact them personally somehow (even more so that they are diplomats) and ask about the game show. The problem is that the video seems to be a bit old but, for example, the Google search for the Finnish lady returned some results. Too bad they’re all in Finnish. Perhaps one should do the other speakers as well.

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  1. Name

    Some of the gaps you mentioned are in another shorter version of the video that was originally posted:[URL=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XA1Ifi-ntE]Original Cut Video[/URL]

  2. ·

    He doen't know the languages that's clear given that he didn't understand such basic questions as “which day is today” Whether he knew them sometime, I don't know but at the moment of that TV show he didn't.

  3. ·

    That is really funny. First of all, I cant even believe that one person could excel in speaking so many languages. You have explained the things behind the scene clearly.

  4. Jim Carter Axlendar III

    Hey Hi, GUys,…!!

    According to Wikipedia online ensyclopedia website there are few person in the world who can speak few language i would recommend three wonderful people who can write and understand the languages very well.

    Jose Rizal – Spoke 22 Languages of the World (Died)Harold Williams – Spoke over 58 Languages of the World (Died)Faizan Ali Varya – Spoke 26 Languages of the World (22 Years Old Youngest in the world – Still Alive)Ziad Fazah – Spoke 58 Languages of the World (22 Years – living 57 Years Old Still Alive)

  5. ·

    I’m not defending Ziad Fazah, but as a speaker of several foreign languages I do experience some difficulties when switching languages. It takes some time to “load” a new one.

    This is especially evident when I use two similar languages such as Serbian and Russian.

    I believe it’s possible to learn 58 languages, but it would take you a few decades of hard work and long hours.

  6. Crijaher97

    No creo que Ziad Fazah sea capaz de dominar 58 (o más) lenguas ya que 
    con preguntas tan simples como ¿Qué día es hoy? y no poder dar una respuesta….(-.-)? inclusive repitieron la pregunta previamente mencionada en dos idiomas diferentes y ni siquiera en uno poder argumentar.
    Pese a que cambiaba de lenguaje, no creo que debiera ser un obstáculo para dar respuesta a preguntas. Sobre todo esto añado que intentando dar traducciones concretas se equivoco muchas veces dando traducciones completamente desorientadas. NO CREO QUE HABLE 58 IDIOMAS.  

  7. Dada

    He didn’t read Persian as Arabic. He tried to guess the words.

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