(Washington Post) The remarkable brain of a carpet cleaner who speaks 24 languages

From then on, he was entranced by every language he encountered. His mom’s French record albums. A German dictionary he found at one of his dad’s handyman jobs. A boy from the Soviet Union who joined his junior high class. By then, one of Vaughn’s favorite places was the library. He checked out a beginner’s guide to Russian.

Soon after, he overheard a Russian woman in a grocery store.

“Здравствуйте, как поживаете?”. Vaughn asked. Hello, how are you? He explained that he was trying to learn Russian.

He liked the look he put on that woman’s face.

“Like she was hit with a splash of happiness,” Vaughn remembers.

His teachers and his parents, meanwhile, so often looked at him with disappointment. He’d chosen the wrong sentence when it was his turn to read aloud in class, again. His teacher called his mother to say he wasn’t paying attention, again. His dad was sending him back to his mom’s house, again. Always, it felt to Vaughn like there was something wrong with him.

“I feel like I didn’t know how to guide him to do better,” his mom, Sandra Vargas, says now.

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Posted in Anthropology