In which we meet the “Special One”

At his very first press conference in England, José Mourinho, a charismatic football coach from Portugal, startled the assembled press by proclaiming himself to be the “Special One”.

It is one of the aims of this book to prove that you can be – in one area, at least – just as special as he is.

We are not, of course, referring to his achievements in football, which are indeed undeniably impressive, but rather his linguistic skills, for it has been said that he speaks six languages “fluently”.

Interesting word “fluently”.

What does it mean to speak a language fluently? Does it mean having no accent? Then José is disqualified, since his Portuguese accent is very much to the fore when he speaks English.

Does it mean speaking without hesitation? If so, then most of us fail even in our own language, since we hem and haw frequently during conversation.

Does it mean speaking perfectly-formed grammatical sentences? Mourinho fails again.

It would therefore be more accurate to say that Senhor Mourinho can communicate effectively in six languages. That does seem impressive, but does that make him “special”? If by “special” we mean “unique” or “exceptional”, then, no he is not.

The authors of this book spent many years as linguists in Africa – and frequently met people who spoke eight, nine or ten languages. Most of these people would not consider themselves remarkable in any way. Some of them could not even read. But, unwittingly, all of them had stumbled upon The Language Secret. And it is our pleasure to reveal it to you in our book.

None of the information we present is new or unknown in academia. It is, however, almost entirely absent from language teaching in classrooms, and lamentably under-used in self-help language books. Some very simple, but powerful ideas and linguistic discoveries have remained a secret to non-specialists, even in countries where people tend to speak several languages as a matter of course. But The Language Secret should be available to everyone who wants to know it.