A SHETLAND teacher has won an EC-wide competition and the title

Polygot of Europe by proving he can speak 22 languages.

Mr Derick Herning, 57, was awarded a bronze trophy worth #2000 and a

cash prize of #4300 by the Provincial Institute for Modern Language

Studies in Hasselt, Belgium. The judges found he easily speaks more

languages than the other 147 contestants.

Mr Herning's command of tongues ranges from Afrikaans to Friesian,

Russian, and Norwegian. The judges had to fly in an examiner from

Torshavn after he offered Faroese as one of his specialities. Bulgarian,

Polish, Czech, Serbo-Croat, and Irish and Scots Gaelic are also in his


He travelled to Belgium at the weekend to receive the prize from EC

Commissioner Mr Karel Van Miert. The second and third prizes were

awarded to a Dutchman and a Belgian.

The institute's director, Mr Gene Herman, pronounced Mr Herning a

genius and revealed that the school would be submitting his name to the

Guinness Book of Records. The current record holder can read and write

26 languages but cannot speak them all. Mr Herning can hold a

conversation in 22 languages. His other hobbies are jogging and bird


In Fife-accented English, he said yesterday that his main problem in

winning the award had been the trophy.

''I had a heck of a job getting it home. It's very heavy. It has 12

heads carved on it to symbolise the European Community and I can't find

anywhere in my little house where it'll look nice,'' he said.

Mr Herning began teaching himself languages while at primary school in

Kirkcaldy, improved his French and German at Edinburgh University and

learned Russian during his National Service with the Army. That skill

has proved to be much in demand since he moved to Lerwick where he is

principal teacher of modern languages at Anderson High School.

He has flown in a Coastguard rescue helicopter to interpret for a

Russian fisherman with a stomach ulcer. At the town's hospital he has

had to tell a Soviet casualty that surgeons would have to amputate his


Last month he accompanied a truckload of relief supplies sent by

islanders to Romania, another language in which he is fluent.