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People Top 5
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- August 28, 2000
- Vol. 54
- No. 9
Power of Babel
Wherever You're From, Super-Linguist Gregg Cox Speaks Your Language
Cox, in fact, can speak 64 languages fluently, making him, says Guinness World Records, the planet's greatest linguist. "People are so surprised—not that I speak so many languages," says Cox, 37, an international marketing manager for a dental products firm who lives in Germany with his wife, Sabine, 34, and Trischa, their 4-year-old, "but that I'm an American and speak so many languages."
"Mr. Cox can be extremely proud," says Guinness rep Neil Hayes, noting that the Oregon native broke the old record of 58, held jointly by a Brazilian and a New Zealander now deceased. The son of David, a fruit processor, and Virginia, a homemaker, Cox developed his lust for lingo after his parents divorced when he was 5 and he moved with his mother to polyglot Los Angeles, where he acquired a multinational array of friends. Starting with Spanish, Cox learned Portuguese, Italian, German and a little Chinese. "By 12," he says, "I was so addicted to languages that my mom started taking my dictionaries away."
Eight years in the military allowed him to add nearly 30 tongues, and since his job requires considerable travel, he learns about another five a year. Appropriately, Cox is compiling a multilingual glossary. "When I tell people I'm writing a book, they get excited," he says. "Until I tell them it's a dictionary."
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