Barry Farber

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Barry Farber is a radio personality, political commentator, and polyglot.


Farber was born in Baltimore, Maryland,[1] and grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Farber learned Mandarin Chinese by the end of 9th grade, and began learning Italian, Spanish, and French on his own before 10th. He started taking French and Spanish classes in his sophomore year and also learned Norwegian on his own while in high school. He graduated in 1948 from Greensboro Senior High School.

He then attended the University of North Carolina, where he learned Russian. As a delegate from the National Student Association to what he later called a "Tito propaganda fiesta called the Zagreb Peace Conference", he found other Slavic languages were closely related to Russian. A boat trip to the United States with Yugoslavs allowed him to practice his Serbo-Croatian.[2] After covering the Olympic Games in Helsinki one year in the 1950s, he learned Indonesian on another boat trip back to the U.S.[3]

When he was a newspaper reporter in 1956, Farber was invited by the United States Air Force to cover the airlift of Hungarian refugees from the uprising in Hungary that year. In an Austrian border village, Farber later wrote, he so impressed a Norwegian man, Thorvald Stoltenberg, with knowledge of the man's native tongue that he was allowed to go on one of the covert missions smuggling Hungarians into Austria.

Barry Farber has knowledge of more than 25 languages, including the ones mentioned above. He has published a book titled How to Learn Any Language that details his method for self-study.

Farber prefers to say that he is a student of a certain number of languages, rather than saying that he speaks them. Of the languages he has studied, half he "dates" and the other half he "marries". According to Farber: "By languages I date, I mean no grammar and no script, languages like Bengali."[4]

Aside from Bengali, the 25 foreign languages he has studied include these 19 ("marriage" or "dating" specified, when known): Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French (marriage), German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Mandarin, Norwegian (marriage), Portuguese, Russian (marriage), Serbo-Croatian, Spanish (marriage), Swedish and Yiddish.[5] as well as Bulgarian and Korean.[4]

His book, "How to Learn any Language" never specifies all of the 25 languages that his publicity materials say he has studied. He says in the book that when he was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1952, he was "tested and qualified for work in fourteen different languages" and has since learned more in some of those languages as well as the others.[6] He mentioned in the 2005 interview that he still constantly learns bits and pieces of new language—some Albanian phrases or a new phrase each time he went into a grocery store where a Tibetan woman works.[4]


"What do you expect from a country where hard-core pornography is the new freedom of expression and love of country is the new obscenity?" [7]



  2. Farber, Barry, Learn Any Language: Quickly, Easily, Inexpensively, Enjoyably, and on Your Own Time pages 22-23, hereafter: Learn Any Language
  3. Learn any Language, 25-26
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 [1] Law, Keith, Web page titled "Interview with Barry Farber" dated April 6, 2005, accessed September 17, 2006
  5. Learn Any Language, Chapter: "A Life of Language Learning", subchapter "New Friends", page 32
  6. Learn Any LanguageIntroduction, page 4