Sure, some people say learning languages just takes practice and persistence. No doubt. Obviously, however, there are a few who seem to be able to pick languages up even easier than your average teen idol picks up shrieking, pigeon-toed groupies; yet meanwhile poor souls like myself struggle with one foreign language for years (in my case Japanese) and never quite get a feeling for it.
So my question is: what's the deal? Is the ability to absorb a 2nd language merely a matter of IQ? Is it perhaps more similar in nature to artistic ability? Could it be a genetic thing? Hereditary? Are certain races known to just be more naturally endowed with linguistic aptitude? If so, which?
To make a point... I was in the tiny African country of Djibouti not too long ago (where this whole question started for me) and I was in for a bit of a shock... First, they've got 2 "national languages" (French and Arabic), then there's the languages of their 2 main tribes (Somali and Afar), neighboring Ethiopia and Eritrea's national languages (Amharic and Tigrinya, respectively), plus add some Oromo (another Ethiopian tribal language), Italian (due to past occupation of Eritrea), and a few even more obscure ones...and many Djiboutians speak them all! Even street kids who've never been to school. (By the way, none of those names I listed are mere dialects. They're all weird in their own very special ways.)
Any explanations for this Djiboutian phenomenon out there besides
mine (which centers around an elaborate conspiracy involving infiltration by extraterrestrials with the sole, calculated purpose of making me look like an oaf)?
Another thing that plays into my obviously well-thought-out suspicions of Djibouti's sinister nature quite nicely is that in directly-neighboring Ethiopia (where I lived for a longer period), things are just the opposite. There, like me, the majority speak just the one language of the tribe they belong to. (And since Ethiopia's got over 200 tribes and over 80 languages to choose from.....well, think The Tower of Babel, but with lots more Kaleshnikovs to go around.
Enlightenment is needed to put my tiny mind at ease. Anyone have any insight on any of this?