Latest Issue

The Way We Were: Learning a foreign language

Extracts from memoirs and diaries

By Ian Irvine  

Chosen by Ian Irvine

Travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor at home in Greece in 2001, aged 86

On 27th January 1658, John Evelyn writes in his diary about his son Richard, who had died at the age of five:

“At that tender age [he was] a prodigy for wit and understanding… At two years and a half old, he could perfectly read any of the English, Latin, French, or Gothic letters, pronouncing the three first languages exactly. He had, before the fifth year, or in that year, not only skill…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect