Thinking about studying languages, I’ve wondered how many words we can actually remember. The average person these days seems to know about ten thousand words, which is apparently less than in the past. But for those of us who are studying more than one language, can we reach a limit?
There are polyglots who can speak many languages fluently. So, I have to imagine that we can remember a large number of words. And we are always developing new memories, though old ones tend to fade. Is that just new memories replacing old ones? Or just a degradation of memory due to the lack of use? But then, there are people who remember details from when they were very young that no one else can remember. And those who can remember detailed maps and navigate using that built in mental Google Maps (me!).
Well, it turns out that we know the limit. The memory capacity of the human brain is at least one petabyte, but easily more. How much is that? World of Warcraft uses 1.3 petabytes to maintain itself. It would require 2000 years to listen to 1 petabyte of mp3 files.
So, I guess we should have no problem learning several hundred languages. The only problem is time.