A Message from
Dr. Usman W. Chohan
Greetings to current and prospective members!
It is my pleasure to share with you my excitement in founding HYPIA for hyperpolyglots around the world to improve, authenticate, attest, and grow their fluency in the many languages that they speak, write, and communicate through. Hyperpolyglots represent something truly beautiful and exceptional in the world, and our organisation is committed to the same ideals which initially inspire all hyperpolyglots: a curiosity and a sense of wonder; a desire to connect with others, and the longing for a greater bond with, and understanding about, our world.
It struck me as something quite odd that an association equivalent to HYPIA had not yet existed. I found this strange because there is a growing international body of hyperpolyglots who excel in a great many languages and who in many cases apply this to their professional and personal lives with great frequency and still greater ease. In a world defined by greater globalization, there is a pressing need to distinguish between those who are polyglots (more than three languages), and those who are bona fide hyperpolyglots (more than six).
Having identified this gap in the practitioner sphere, I worked towards founding HYPIA in late 2016 and was met with great initial reception from hyperpolyglots around the world. Most of them have joined or are in the process of joining today. It brings me supreme pleasure to see my motivation reinforced by the passion of new members. These hyperpolyglots are, through perhaps a natural gift but certainly through dedication and skill, a special breed entirely in the world, and represent the very best of the human mind at work.
I personally draw inspiration from my ancestral connection with linguistics. The first scientific linguistic work was done by a 5th century scholar of Sanskrit named Panini. He was born in Charsadda, Pakistan at the height of the Gandhara period. In a sense, I see my work in HYPIA as continuing that ancient practitioner interest in studying languages. HYPIA should represent both a continuity with the world-spirit of inquiry into languages, and it must also be a vehicle for globalization that unites people in disparate geographies towards a goal of celebrating and enhancing linguistic diversity.
I began to acquire fluency at the hyperpolyglot level at a late age (mid-twenties), but I have mustered a singular dedication to the acquisition of new languages at regular intervals. Such a linguistic portfolio has enriched not just my personal life, as I count friends from so many countries, but also my professional life – particularly given that I have worked with or through the most culturally diverse organizations on earth. But I am on the slightly tempered side compared to some of our more outstanding members, who have attained remarkable fluency in a panoply of languages. My own story does not seem odd when juxtaposed against the lived experience of other members of the community at HYPIA, because I have called nine countries on five different continents my “home,” by which I mean that I have lived in each of those countries for two years or more.
Yet HYPIA is not about me or about any other single individual. It is about a collective, united towards the realization of a more ideal form of person - one who exhibits tolerance and equanimity as they explore the marvelous extent of international linguistic diversity - not to mention one who explores the fuller potential of their own mind. This dual exploration of the beauty within and the beauty without is a recurring theme in my discussions with existing members of the organization.
HYPIA is an anarchist organization: it is driven by an egalitarian ethos, it is decentralized in its structure, it fosters a volunteer spirit, and it thrives on mutual reinforcement and mutual respect. It rejects the debasement of the hyperpolyglot archetype that has contaminated the public imagination, as through the showmanship of polyglots self-aggrandizing themselves on YouTube, driven by a promotional objective and the profit motive.
It is an organization that one joins for free, liberated by the constraints of financial effects, and judged on one's merit alone. HYPIA is therefore a redoubt for the unsung heroes: women and men who study in a contemplative silence, enriching their minds and opening pathways to engage with the family of man in a spirit of humility and kindness. Their labor is what is shared by the HYPIA community, without the transactional baggage of the ego projected outwards. It is, in a sense, a beacon to those who yearn to cultivate their own spirit, and perceive the world and their place in it anew.
The time that has elapsed since HYPIA's founding has shown me that the tolerant and welcoming ethos of the organization has served as a reprieve for members, bombarded as they are by the daily newsflow of incessant antagonisms that mark a troubled world. Our time is one of fervent hostilities and prejudice, many would say, but HYPIA offers an antithesis to the misanthropist zeitgeist that weighs down on the world. As such, it is by no means an exaggeration to say that the symbolic power of HYPIA embodies something far larger than was intended at its inception.
Between the pathos of clownish self-promoting YouTubers, and the rage of reactionaries in the public sphere, HYPIA offers a third way: celebrating ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things. Yet as many HYPIA members will tell you, their personal journey has hardly just begun.
Language is the rich fabric that enshrouds all experience that is truly human. Those who are hyperpolyglots therefore adorn multiple layers of beautiful fabrics at the same time. They have multiple lives in one sense; and they certainly have multiple souls. It is my honour to welcome new hyperpolyglots to that fold so that we can attest to one another’s hard work and celebrate what is likely to be the greatest achievement in each of our lives.
Usman W. Chohan, PhD
Founder and President,
The International Association