Ziad Youssef Fazah (born June 10, 1954 in Monrovia, Liberia) is a Liberian-born Lebanese polyglot. Fazah himself claims to speak 59 languages and maintains that he has proved this in several television shows, where he "successfully" communicated with native speakers of a large number of foreign languages.
Over the past twenty years, he has been featured many times showcasing his talents on television programs in several European and South American countries including Greece, Argentina, Spain and Brazil. In the early 1990’s, Ziad was approached by the Guinness Book of World Records and asked if it would be all right for him to appear in the 1993 UK edition as the “world’s greatest linguist.” Mr. Fazah’s abilities have inspired, awed and educated, however, they have also been criticized, understandably doubted and unfairly defamed.
Ziad’s parents were Lebanese, though his father was born in Colombia. In 1953 Ziad’s father had moved his family to Liberia, for work reasons, when Ziad made the newest addition to their family. A few months later the Fazahs moved to Lebanon where Ziad was raised. Arabic was the language at home but in school he was also taught French and English. Many Armenian families were living in Lebanon at the time and Ziad became curious enough to learn their language. At age fourteen he decided to learn “all of the world’s languages” and started buying cassette courses and books to first learn German and then every other major language of the world. Lebanon was a fairly peaceful and cosmopolitan place back then so he was able to practice speaking the vast majority of the languages that he was studying.
His list includes 59 languages/dialects:
He studied philology for four years at the American University at Beirut and had plans to become an interpreter for the UN. Fate had other plans. Lebanon became a scary place so, like thousands of other Lebanese people, the entire Fazah family immigrated to Brazil. Ironically, Portuguese wasn’t one of the languages that Ziad had studied at that time. This is somewhat surprising since Ziad’s Portuguese now sounds absolutely native. Soon after settling in Brazil, Ziad started offering his services as a tutor and has taught many languages to many people. His students are usually young people trying to learn English in preparation for studying in the USA, Australia or Great Britain but he also finds himself teaching languages like Arabic, Farsi, French, German and Mandarin Chinese.
Ziad Fazah’s Methodology
Ziad says that everyone should build up his or her own methodology but that there are three basic steps to follow that he has used and finds very effective.
1. Listen to the target language for at least half an hour a day. In a week you should be very familiar with the sound system of the language.
2. Study the language (written form) for another half an hour a day. In two weeks you should have a good grasp on it.
3. Shadow or recite the language out loud for at least fifteen minutes a day. What you recite isn’t nearly as important as doing it out loud for at least fifteen minutes a day.
According to Ziad, if you follow these steps, you will be speaking the language well in three to six months, depending on the language and the capabilities of the learner.
Does He Really Speak 59 Languages?
Ziad is a very talented human being, however, he is still a human being. For the past two and a half decades he has only had the chance to speak Portuguese and Arabic on a regular basis. Besides these two, he also feels quite comfortable speaking French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, German, Danish, Papiamento, English and Russian. His grasp on the other languages varies but after a few days of study and review he says that he feels confident going on television and speaking any one of his 59 languages with native speakers of those languages.
Studying with Ziad Fazah
Are you curious about Ziad Fazah? Would you like to talk to him? Would you like to learn from him? Ziad said that he would be open to teaching people on the phone, via Skype or in person, if you live in the Rio de Janeiro area. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are no good videos of Ziad showing his language abilities. He has contacted the different television stations that he’s been on but none have sent him a copy of programs that featured him. 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.