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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…

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