What do you think of Timothy Doner?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Big_Dog, Oct 25, 2014.

  1. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

    Jan 11, 2014
    Native Language:
    Advanced Languages:
    Intermediate Languages:
    French, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian, Swahili, Thai
    Basic Languages:
    I recently read this article posted by Josquin over at HTLAL. Personally, I've often thought he is the youtube polyglot with most potential. He's reached a high level in 5 or 6 languages, and played with about 15 others. He's only 18. He seems to have better publicity and support than just about any other polyglot. But there are 2 things that makes him stand out in my mind.

    1) His accents. Compared to other multi A1/A2 polyglots, his accents are much better. Even though they still require work, they are very coherent, and not anything like the accents of typical native english speakers. If I didn't know he was American, I wouldn't have guessed that he was a native english speaker. I say this from seeing his French, Russian, Mandarin and Swahili in this video that he made 2 years ago. I understand how he tackles an accent; he really tries to sound like a native. He doesn't merely learn pronunciation from a book, and then force people to listen to his version of their pronunciation. That's what I always feel that Benny and Laoshu, the most famous of the A1/A2 polyglots, are doing. I think this is because he's a mimic, as I was when I was a kid. He was also a child actor and has some voice acting to his credit. He really likes to imitate different and amusing sounds.

    His Russian accent, while not great, is pretty cool and unique. As in all his languages, he distinguishes the sounds that need to be distinguished, even though the sounds themselves aren't "right-on". He has a lot of intonation issues, but is still easy to understand. His Mandarin accent is quite good, but makes quite a few tone mistakes. He often overdoes the 4th tone, which is a really common learner error. His Swahili, again very unique and cool sounding, seems to be based on Italian. Even though I think it's funny to listen to intonation wise, I still like the accent. And to repeat, none of these sound like typical American or British accents.

    2) His method of internal translating. He says that while he talks to someone in one language, he translates that in his mind to another language. And he does this all the time. I'm not sure how exactly this works, and I remember reading that he was going to write a book about it, but judging from his results, I'm very interested in it. Not only does it distinguish him from other polyglots, but it may be the factor that has given him the edge over the average aspiring polyglots of his age.

    Questions about the future. He's in Uni now, and it sounds like he's backing off of languages a little bit. He's not taking any language courses right now, for example. It will take dedication to become a legend, so we will wait and see. But I hope he publishes his book soon, and goes on the be one of the world's best polyglots.

    I'm curious to know what you guys think of Timothy.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2014
    Josquin likes this.
  2. tastyonions

    tastyonions Member VIP member

    Apr 27, 2014
    Native Language:
    Intermediate Languages:
    French, Spanish
    I didn't know he was writing a book.

    I agree that he has a lot of potential. The number and diversity of languages presented in his videos got him the label of "showoff" (or sometimes "faker") right away, but I think he was most just emulating the polyglot talking-head trend that was popular at the time. It didn't help that the media blew up with "speaks twenty languages" headlines even though he would always clarify, when asked, that he spoke a few foreign languages well and dabbled in a bunch of others.

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