Nearly half of the entrants spoke four languages or more, but two entrants, including the winner, Alex Rawlings, amazed the judges by being able to speak eleven languages.
The panel were mightily impressed by the range of languages spoken by the entrants too: the more traditional European languages were well represented, while some entrants offered languages such as Azerbaijani, Balochi, Farsi, Pasto, Igbo, Bulgarian, and Dari. Other languages presented included Gaelic, Latvian, Esperanto, Cantonese, Japanese, Arabic, Dutch, and Sindhi.
Eleven native-speaking judges tested Alex's language skills in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Greek, Catalan, Dutch, Hebrew, Afrikaans, Russian (and English!), and each one independently reported that he exceeded the pre-intermediate/intermediate level required of him to meet the competition's criteria. They were in awe with the way Alex was able to switch effortlessly from one language to another when they tested him via Skype in January.
Catherine Whitaker, publishing director of the Collins Livemocha Active courses said “we wanted our competition to reflect the social aspect of learning languages offered by the Livemocha network, which now has over ten million members worldwide, so decided to connect with young language learners in the UK in person. We are thrilled to discover such a talented linguist as Alex, and hope that this accolade will lead him to great success in his future career”.
The judges were not the only ones to be impressed! On 21st February coverage of Alex’s talents spread far and wide. The BBC visited Collins' London office to film Alex speaking his 11 languages for their BBC News Online site (see video above). Actor and comedian Stephen Fry also expressed his awe via Twitter to his 3,941,419 followers. Since then Alex has been interviewed on radio stations as far and wide as Israel and South Africa, and has been featured in the Huffington Post and MSN Australia.