Vaughn Smith lives in Maryland. He’s 46 years old. He also learns languages with the seeming ease of a run around the block — including endangered indigenous tongues like Salish. In this fascinating profile that’s part ridealong and part science dive, Jessica Contrera takes you inside the life (and brain) of a man with a very particular set of skills.
When I introduced him to Richard Simcott, who organizes an international conference for polyglots, Vaughn switched between 10 languages as they spoke, telling stories in Welsh, Bulgarian, Serbian, Norwegian and more.
Because for Vaughn, every language is really a story about the people it connected him to.
“An Internet mob wanted to rescue a 13-year-old girl. Instead, they terrified her, derailed real trafficking investigations, and incited ‘save the children’ violence.”
“The criminal justice system mishandled 15-year-old Alexis Martin’s case. Now she’s living with the consequences.”
“A cash-strapped rancher, a virus-stricken meatpacker, an underpaid chef, a hungry engineer: the journey of a single burger during a pandemic.”
The story of a child in 2016, whose life revolves around her phone and social networks.