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List of polyglots

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A polyglot is a person with a command of many languages.[1] A polyglot may also be called a multilingual person; the label "multilingual" is used for communities as well as individual speakers.

Richard Hudson, professor emeritus of linguistics at University College London, coined the term "hyperpolyglot" for a person who can speak twelve or more languages fluently.[2][3] Other scholars apply the label to speakers of even more languages: twelve, sixteen, or in the most extreme cases, even fifty or more.[4]

It is difficult to judge which individuals are polyglots, as there is no uncontroversial definition for what it means to "master" a language, and because it is not always clear where to distinguish a dialect from a language. Being able to communicate in a language does not mean the person has "mastered" a language. There are far fewer who have attained higher levels of multi-linguistic skill, and there is no basis for testing those levels, or at least those levels of ability have not been noted here.

This list consists of people who have been noted in news media, historical texts, or academic work as speaking five or more languages fluently. For general discussion of the phenomenon, including discussion of polyglot savants, see polyglotism.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
    8 675
    6 826 892
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  • 10 Amazing Polyglots You Won't Believe
  • Teen Speaks Over 20 Languages
  • Man Speaks 25 Languages (With English Subtitles)
  • First Words of Any Language Project - Calling all Polyglots, Native Speakers and Language Learners
  • My current list of languages over the next 10 years or so.MP4



Notable living polyglots

The 2012 book Babel No More[5] by Michael Erard highlights some polyglots around the globe, including Alexander Argüelles. Canada's Global TV also brought out a piece on hyperpolyglots on their 16x9 show, entitled "Word Play",[6] featuring Canadian polyglots Axel Van Hout, Alexandre Coutu, Steven Kaufmann, James Chang and Keith Swayne. Tim Doner (US) and Richard Simcott (UK) also appear in the programme to describe their experiences speaking multiple languages.




  • Alexander Argüelles is an American polyglot. He speaks around a dozen languages and has a reading knowledge of many more. He was profiled in Michael Erard's Babel No More.[10]
  • Andrew Divoff is an actor and producer polyglot. He fluently speaks nine languages: English, Spanish, Italian, French, Catalan, Russian, German, Portuguese and Swedish. He used to speak Romanian but he forgot the language when he had no one with whom to speak it.
  • Pope Francis, in addition to his native Spanish, speaks fluent Italian (the official language of Vatican City and the "everyday language" of the Holy See), German (quarter),[11] French (average),[12] Portuguese[13] and English (quarter),[14][15] is conversant in Latin (the official language of the Holy See), and he understands the Piedmontese language and some Genoese.[16]
  • Powell Janulus (born 1939) is a notable living polyglot, also known as "the most fluent person on earth." In 1985, Powell Janulus was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for fluency in forty-two languages.
  • Melania Trump (Melania Knauss), Slovene-American former model and the current First Lady of the United States. She speaks English, French, Italian, German, Serbo-Croatian and her native Slovene.[17]
  • Henry Lau is a Canadian singer, rapper, dancer, composer, record producer, beatboxer, actor and entertainer mostly active in South Korea. He is quintilingual. Aside from speaking native English, Lau is also fluent in Mandarin, Korean, French and Cantonese.[18]
  • Wena Poon, Singaporean-American lawyer and novelist, speaks English, French, Mandarin, Teochew, Cantonese and Hokkien.
  • Naphtali D. Brooks is an American actor, model and comedian. He speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Galician and Catalan.[3][19]


  • Shoichi Funaki is a professional wrestler. He is fluent in Japanese, English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.
  • Jackson Wang is a Chinese singer, rapper and dancer from Hong Kong and a member of Got7. He speaks Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, English, Shanghainese, Japanese and basic French.[20]
  • Asin is an Indian actress who can speak Malayalam (her mother-tongue), Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, English, Sanskrit, and French. She speaks some Marathi, Italian, Spanish and German.[21]
  • Ambassador Naela Chohan is a polyglot, artist, and current Ambassador of Pakistan to Australia and former Ambassador of Pakistan for Latin America. She is fluent in 7 Indo-European languages: English, French, Bengali, Urdu, Punjabi, Persian (acquired at age 35), and Spanish (acquired at age 51).
  • George Fernandes, an Indian politician who is well-versed in ten languages: Konkani (mother tongue), English, Hindi (official language), Tulu, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Malayalam and Latin.[22]
  • Janet Hsieh, Taiwanese-American television personality, violinist, author, and model. She is fluent in English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, and Taiwanese.[23]
  • Lokesh Chandra, one of the world's foremost scholars of Buddhism, the Indian researcher is described as "a polyglot and knows Pali, Avesta, Old Persian, Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Indonesian, Greek, Latin, German, French and Russian besides Hindi, Sanskrit and English."[24]
  • Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, a Sri Lankan Catholic prelate, is fluent in 11 languages: Sinhala, Tamil, English, (the 3 official languages of Sri Lanka), German, French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Indonesian.[25]
  • Mickey Curtis, a Japanese actor, singer, and television celebrity born to Japanese-English parents. He speaks Japanese, English, French, German, Italian and Thai.[26]
  • Kamal Haasan, an Indian actor who can speak Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam and English.[27]
  • Péter Frankl, juggler and mathematician, speaks twelve languages (English, Russian, Swedish, French, Spanish, Polish, German, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean).
  • Prakash Raj is an Indian actor who can speak Tulu (his mother tongue), Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Hindi and Malayalam.[28]
  • Priya Anand, an Indian actress who can speak Tamil, Telugu, English, Bengali, Hindi, Marathi and Spanish languages.[29]
  • R. Sarathkumar, an Indian actor who can speak Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi, Russian and English fluently.[30]
  • Rajinikanth, an Indian actor who can speak Marathi (his mother tongue), Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi, and English fluently.[30]
  • Swami Rambhadracharya, a Hindu religious leader and Sanskrit scholar based in Chitrakoot, India, can speak twenty-two languages, including Sanskrit, Hindi, English, French, Bhojpuri, Maithili, Oriya, Gujarati, Punjabi, Marathi, Magadhi, Awadhi, and Braj. Rambhadracharya has been blind since the age of two months and received no formal education until the age of seventeen. He has never used braille, or any other aid, to learn or compose his works and has authored more than 100 books.[31][32][33]
  • Suman Pokhrel, a Nepali poet who speaks Nepali, English, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Maithili.
  • Abin Shrestha, a Nepali scholar who can speak Nepali, Newari, English, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Spanish.
  • Ling Tan, Malaysian supermodel, speaks four[which?] varieties of Chinese, Malay, and English.[34]
  • Karen Mok, Hong Kong-Chinese actress and singer, speaks English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Italian, German and French.[35]
  • Ziad Fazah, known for his claim of being able to speak, read and understand 59 languages. He was listed in the Guinness World Records up until 1998 as the person who could speak the most languages.


  • Zaharije Orfelin was a Serbian writer, artist, and polyglot who spoke more than 10 languages, and understood many more.
  • Dositej Obradović is a Serbian writer. Obradović spoke and wrote in German, French, Italian, English, Greek, Albanian, Latin, Turkish, Hungarian, Romanian and all of the Slavic languages, including Russian and Church Slavonic.
  • Jovan Rajić is a Serbian writer and cleric who spoke and wrote in many languages in his time. He was born in the Habsburg Empire where one had to know German, Hungarian, Latin, Italian, Romanian, and all the Slavic languages if one wanted to achieve a standing.
  • Johan Vandewalle is a Belgian philologist and civil engineer. In 1987 the Polyglot of Flanders/Babel Prize judged him as able to speak 31 living languages.
  • Mateo Kovačić is a Croatian football player & plays for Real Madrid. He's fluent in Spanish, Italian, English, German & Croatian.
  • José Mourinho is a Portuguese football manager, who can speak Spanish, Italian, English and French as well as his native Portuguese.
  • Frans Timmermans, a Dutch politician and diplomat, the First Vice-President of the European Commission, was Minister of Foreign Affairs (from 2012 to 2014). Speaks seven languages; Dutch, Limburgish, English, German, French, Italian and Russian.[36][37]
  • Zdeno Chára is a Slovakian professional ice hockey player in the NHL who speaks seven languages. These are: Slovak, Czech, Polish, Swedish, Russian, German and English.[38]
  • Mišo Juzmeski is a Macedonian writer who speaks nine languages: Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbian, English, French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish and German.[39]
  • Anatoly Moskvin, Russian linguist and polyglot, arrested in 2011 after the bodies of twenty-six mummified young women were discovered in his home.
  • Levon Ter-Petrosyan, Armenian politician, first president of independent Armenia. He speaks at least seven languages (Armenian, Assyrian,[40] Russian, French, English, German, Arabic) and has published academic papers in three (Armenian, Russian, French).[41]
  • Daniel Tammet, an English savant, 'knows' ten languages: English, Finnish, French, German, Lithuanian, Esperanto, Spanish, Romanian, Icelandic, and Welsh. He learned Icelandic in one week for a TV show experiment.
  • Benny Lewis, an Irish traveller who is fluent in six languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Esperanto, and Portuguese. He can speak Mandarin, American sign language, Dutch, and Irish Gaelic at a conversational level.[42] He has given a number of TEDx talks and has written a book about language learning published by HarperCollins.[43][44][45]
  • Nicolas Tournadre, a specialist of Tibetic languages who has some knowledge of languages belonging to seven families.
  • Connie Nielsen, a Danish actress who speaks eight languages: Danish, English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, and a little Spanish.[46]
  • Ioannis Ikonomou a translator for the European Commission in Brussels knows thirty-two languages including Greek, English, German, Italian, Russian, East African Swahili, Hebrew, Arabic, Mandarin and Bengali, plus some dead languages like Old Church Slavic.[47]
  • Queen Silvia of Sweden speaks Swedish as well as her native German, her mother's language of Portuguese, along with French, Spanish, and English. She has some fluency in Swedish Sign Language, a national sign language used by the deaf community in Sweden.
  • Dmitrij Petrov is a language interpreter who speaks thirty languages and reads in fifty. His native language is Russian and he actively works with eight foreign languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Czech, Greek and Hindi.
  • Claudio Castagnoli is a professional wrestler and is fluent in four languages: English, German, Italian, and French.
  • Arsène Wenger, football manager of Arsenal F.C. He grew up speaking French and German, and has learnt English, Spanish and Italian.[48] He also knows some Japanese.[49]
  • Roy Hodgson, former football manager of England. He speaks fluent English, Norwegian, Swedish, German and Italian, as well as some Danish, French and Finnish.[50]
  • Viggo Mortensen, Danish actor. He speaks fluent English, Danish, and Spanish, is conversational in French and Italian, and understands Norwegian and Swedish.[51] He also has some knowledge of Catalan.[52]
  • Gianni Infantino, current president of FIFA. He is fluent in Italian, French and German, and also knows English, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.[53]
  • Luís Figo, retired footballer. He is fluent in five languages: Portuguese, Spanish, English, Italian and French.[54]
  • Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Kalmyk multi-millionaire businessman and politician. In addition to his native Kalmyk and Russian, he is fluent in English, Japanese, and a little Korean, Mongolian and Chinese.[55]
  • Clarence Seedorf, retired footballer and former football manager of A.C. Milan. Seedorf speaks six languages fluently:[56][57][58][59][60][61] Dutch, English,[62] Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Surinamese
  • Richard Simcott lives in Chester UK, is a hyperpolyglot who speaks 16 languages fluently, but can speak about 30 languages in total to some degree.[63]. He is regarded as one of the most profecient Polyglots in the UK.[64] [65] Simcott can learn languages in very short periods of time, and has passed C1 Fluency exams after 3 months of study.
  • Michele San Pietro lives in Reggio Emilia (Italy), is a hyperpolyglot who can speak about 10 languages fluently and has a more limited knowledge of another 10 languages.

Notable deceased reputed polyglots

The following list consists of deceased individuals who are associated with claims of polyglotism, by year of birth.

External links


  1. ^ "polyglot | Collins Dictionary". Collins Dictionary. Retrieved 4 December 2016. 
  2. ^ Hudson, Richard (2008). "Word grammar, cognitive linguistics, and second language learning and teaching". In P. Robinson and N. Ellis. Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition. Routledge. pp. 89–113. 
  3. ^ Erard, Michael (June 2012). "The Polyglot of Bologna". Public Domain Review. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Erard, Michael (3 November 2005). "How many languages is it possible for a person to speak?". The Five Minute Linguist. Archived from the original on 13 April 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Babel No More". Jamie-Lee Nardone at Duckworth Publishers. 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  6. ^ 16x9onglobal (7 May 2012). "Word Play" (Video upload). YouTube. Google, Inc. Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  7. ^ Dr Anna Goldsworthy: VOICES OF THE LAND (In Port Augusta, an Israeli linguist is helping the Barngarla people reclaim their language), The Monthly, September 2014
  8. ^ Sam Jones; Afua Hirsch (11 February 2013). "Who will be the next pope? The contenders for Vatican's top job". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "Dikembe Mutombo". NBA Media Ventures, LLC. 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
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  11. ^ "Pope Francis: 13 key facts about the new pontiff". The Guardian. London. 13 March 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013. 
  12. ^ "Briefing di padre Lombardi". The Vatican Today. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  13. ^ "Francis and those humble gestures by the Pope, he does not sit on a throne, paying the bill at the hotel" (in Italian). Corriere Della Sera. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  14. ^ Peter Walker, Paul Owen & David Batty (14 March 2013). "Pope Francis, first day after election". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 19 March 2013. 
  15. ^ Willey, David, News analysis sidebar to "Pope Francis delivers Easter plea for peace", BBC News, 31 March 2013, Retrieved 31 March 2013
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