List of polyglots

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A polyglot is a person who learns and uses five or more languages.[not verified in body] 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.[1][2] Other scholars apply the label to speakers of even more languages: twelve, sixteen, or in the most extreme cases, even fifty or more.[3]

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 attainment, and there is no basis for testing those levels, or at least those levels of ability have not been noted here. Rosetta Stone is an example of a program that teaches people to "speak" a language, but it does not offer the depth of linguistic knowledge attainable through higher academic education and other means of attaining higher levels of linguistic capability in foreign languages.

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

Notable living polyglots[edit]

The 2012 book Babel No More[4] 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",[5] featuring Canadian polyglots Axel Van Hout, Alexandre Coutu, Steve 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.


  • Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, a Ghanaian cardinal of the Catholic Church is able to speak English, Fante, French, Italian, German, and Hebrew, in addition to understanding Latin and Greek.[6]
  • Dikembe Mutombo, a former NBA player, is able to speak English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Tshiluba, Swahili, Lingala, and two other central African languages.[7]
  • Ziad Fazah, born in Liberia, and now living in Brazil, is known for his not corroborated claim of being able to speak, read, and understand fifty-nine languages.

The Americas[edit]

  • 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.[8]
  • 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.
  • Timothy Doner, then a seventeen-year-old New York City-based student, was featured in the New York Times for his ability to speak over twenty languages to various levels, including English, French, Hausa, Wolof, Russian, German, Yiddish, Hebrew, Arabic, Pashto, Persian, Mandarin, Italian, Turkish, Indonesian, Dutch, Xhosa, Kiswahili, Hindi, Ojibwe, Kinyarwanda, and Creole.[9] In June 2012, Doner published a fifteen-minute video of himself speaking twenty languages on his YouTube channel "PolyglotPal".[10]
  • Dr. Carlos do Amaral Freire, a Brazilian scholar, linguist, and translator has publicly stated that he has studied over a hundred languages.[11] He has translated sixty languages into Portuguese and is engaged in a project that is more than forty years old to study two new languages every year.[12]
  • Pope Francis, 266th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. He is conversational in Spanish, Latin, Italian, German,[13] French,[14] Portuguese and [15] English,[16][17] and he understands the Piedmontese language and some Genoese.[18]
  • Sara Forsberg, also known as SAARA, is a Finnish singer-songwriter, and YouTuber who is famous for having a rare knack for languages and pseudo-languages. She natively speaks Finnish, Swedish, and English, as she has lived in Texas and the United Kingdom as a young child. She also speaks, with near-fluency, Arabic, Persian, Russian, Hindustani, and French. Forsberg was also the main creator behind the alien language in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. She plans on "one day... polishing it up... I want to someday even make it teachable, so people can learn it like they can Klingon or Elvish."
  • Steve Kaufmann is a Canadian polyglot who speaks 15 languages.[19] He is author of a book on language learning,[20] and co-founder of the language learning website Lingq.[21] He is an enthusiastic endorser of the theories of Stephen Krashen, on the importance of input (reading) in language learning.
  • Vera Dragilyova, a cognitive scientist and UX designer, studied 67 languages, of which 7 are at near-native proficiency, and 13 more are at conversational level.
  • Nicholas Kontovas is a New York City native currently teaching Uyghur, Turkish, and Ottoman Turkish at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul.[22] He has studied and is able to speak at least eighteen languages at a conversational level or higher, many at a native proficiency, including English, Turkish, French, Uyghur, Persian, Chinese, Uzbek, Greek, Spanish, Kurdish (Kurmanji), Occitan, Russian, German, Moroccan Arabic, Laz, Yiddish, Urdu, and Romani, and those in which he has reading proficiency Chaghatay, Ottoman Turkish, Old Turkic, Latin, Middle Persian, and Classical Chinese. He has additional knowledge and basic proficiency in Balochi, Evenki, Zulu and Middle Egyptian.


  • Shoichi Funaki is a professional wrestler. He is fluent in Japanese, English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.
  • Jackson Wang is a Hongkonger and a member of Got7 (kpop boy group by JYPE). He speaks Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, English, Japanese and French.
  • Aayan Das is an Indian – American student and owner of a Chinese language school Ni Hao! Calcutta [1]. He speaks English, Bengali, Hindi, Bangal (Bangladesh), Chinese Mandarin, and some Korean and Japanese.
  • Abhi Subedi, a Nepali poet and playwright who speaks Nepali, Newari, English, Hindi, Japanese, Bengali and French.
  • Ali Manikfan is an Indian marine researcher, ecologist, shipbuilder, and a polyglot.[23][24] Besides his mother tongue Divehi (Mahl), he learned English, Hindi and Malayalam, Arabic, Latin, French, Russian, German, Sinhalese, Persian, Sanskrit, Tamil and Urdu. His other areas of interest are marine biology, marine research, geography, astronomy, social science, traditional shipbuilding, education, fisheries, agriculture and horticulture.
  • Asin is an Indian actress who can fluently speak Malayalam (her mother-tongue), Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, English, Sanskrit, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali, Urdu, French, Italian, Spanish and German.[25]
  • B-Reft, real name Jigar Mehta AKA Jerry Radwick. A 1987-born Indian IT professional and rapper, with native proficiency in English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, working proficiency in Spanish and elementary proficiency in French and Mandarin.
  • George Fernandes, an Indian politician who is well-versed in ten languages: Konkani, English, Hindi, Tulu, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Malayalam and Latin.[26]
  • Janet Hsieh, Taiwanese-American television personality, violinist, author, and model. She is fluent in English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, and Taiwanese.[27]
  • 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."[28]
  • Mickey Curtis, a Japanese actor, singer, and television celebrity born to Japanese-English parents. He speaks Japanese, English, French, German, Italian and Thai.[29]
  • K. Luke, a Kerala Catholic priest of Syrian Church, belonged to Capuchin Congregation, died in 2010. He obtained Ph.D in Philology from Chicago University. He had mastery over 45 languages. He was very fluent in more than 15 languages. He was not very much known to the outside world since he lived within the confines of monastery as a simple Capuchin friar. Perhaps, he is the first among all Asian philologists.
  • Kamal Haasan, an Indian actor who can speak Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam and English.[30]
  • 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.[31]
  • Priya Anand, an Indian actress who can speak Tamil, Telugu, English, Bengali, Hindi, Marathi and Spanish languages.[32]
  • Sidhartha Yalavarthi, an Indian Software Engineer and Chef who can speak 14 languages. He speaks Telugu (Mother Tongue), Hindi, English, Tamil, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Italian, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Ukrainian and Dutch.[33]
  • R. Sarathkumar, an Indian actor who can speak Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi, Russian and English fluently.[34]
  • Rajnikant, an Indian actor who can speak Marathi (his mother tongue), Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi, and English fluently.[34]
  • 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.[35][36][37]
  • Shilpa Shetty, an Indian actress who fluently speaks Tulu (Mother Tongue) English, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, Punjabi, Konkani, Sanskrit and French.[38]
  • 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 varieties of Chinese, Malay, and English[39]


  • Helen Abadzi is a Greek cognitive psychologist who in 2016 spoke nineteen languages at least at an intermediate level (two or three more at elementary level). She participated in the 1990 Polyglot of Europe contest. She uses the languages for work in international education and past age sixty-five she continues to learn new ones as needed (see academic publications at The languages include Greek, English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Albanian, Romanian, Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi, Nepali, Bangla, Sinhala, Bahasa, Malagasy, Russian, Swahili. More elementary knowledge (in 2016) was in Japanese, Khmer, Chichewa. Her accomplishments as of 2012 were mentioned in M. Errard's "Babel No More" on hyperpolyglots.
  • Ferenc Kemény, translator, who was able to work with up to 40 languages.
  • Zaharije Orfelin is 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 you had to know German, Hungarian, Latin, Italian, Romanian, and all the Slavic languages if you wanted to achieve a standing.
  • Alexander Stubb is a Finnish politician. Stubb speaks five languages: Swedish, Finnish, English, French and German.
  • 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.
  • José Mourinho is a Portuguese football manager, known as one of the world's best, 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.[40][41]
  • 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.[42]
  • Mišo Juzmeski is a Macedonian writer who speaks nine languages: Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbian, English, French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish and German.[43]
  • Anatoly Moskvin, Russian linguist and polyglot, arrested in 2011 after the bodies of twenty-six mummified young women were discovered in his home.
  • Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Armenian football player.[44] As of 2013 he spoke five languages (Armenian, Russian, English, French, Portuguese) and was learning German.[45]
  • Levon Ter-Petrosyan, Armenian politician, first president of independent Armenia. He speaks at least seven languages (Armenian, Assyrian,[46] Russian, French, English, German, Arabic) and has published academic papers in three (Armenian, Russian, French).[47]
  • 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.
  • Ramona Irgolic, singer, songwriter, world traveler and model with extreme long legs is autodidact. As she has a good ear, Ramona taught herself several languages. She is fluent in English, German, Slovenian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and Croatian. She is currently learning Serbian, Indonesian, Sundanese (one of the major languages of Indonesia), Malay, Dutch and understands Russian, Czech, Slovak, Polish among some more.
  • Benny Lewis, an Irish traveller who speaks eleven languages including Spanish, French, Portuguese, Esperanto, German, Irish, and American sign language. He has given a number of TEDx talks and has written a book about language learning published by HarperCollins.[48][49][50]
  • 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.[51]
  • 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.[52]
  • Richard Simcott born in Chester in the UK and currently living in Macedonia knows and speaks twenty languages including English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Latvian, Russian, Macedonian, Norwegian, Swedish, Chinese and ladino.[53]
  • Kostyantyn Tyschenko (uk) — Ukrainian linguist, author of numerous works, presented with Order of the White Rose of Finland, as well as Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. Teaches about twenty languages to students of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, while fluently speaking more than forty. Founder of the Linguistic Educational Museum of Kiev.
  • 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 five languages: English, German, Italian, French, and Swiss German.
  • Arsène Wenger, current manager of Arsenal F.C. He grew up speaking French and German, and has learnt English, Spanish and Italian.[54] He also knows some Japanese.[55]
  • Roy Hodgson, former manager of England. He speaks fluent English, Norwegian, Swedish, German and Italian, as well as some Danish, French and Finnish.[56]
  • Viggo Mortensen, Danish actor. He speaks fluent English, Danish, and Spanish, is conversational in French and Italian, and understands Norwegian and Swedish.[57] and also has some knowledge of Catalan.[58]
  • Gianni Infantino, current president of FIFA. He is fluent in Italian, French and German and also knows English, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.[59]
  • Luís Figo, retired footballer. He is fluent in five languages: Portuguese, Spanish, English, Italian and French.[60]
  • 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.[61]
  • Clarence Seedorf, retired footballer and former manager of A.C. Milan. Seedorf speaks six languages fluently:[62][63][64][65][66][67] Dutch, English,[68] Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Surinamese.
  • Martti Ahtisaari, Finnish politician, speaks Finnish, Swedish, English, French and German.

Notable deceased reputed polyglots[edit]

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

  • Elizabeth I of England (1533–1603 AD) could speak ten languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Latin, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish and Irish. The Venetian Ambassador once said: "it is as if she possessed these languages as if they were her mother tongue"
  • Mithridates VI of Pontus (134–63 BC) could supposedly speak the languages of all twenty-two nations within his kingdom.[69]
  • Cleopatra VII (69–30 BC), the last ruling Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, could, according to the Roman biographer Plutarch, speak nine languages and was the only member of her dynasty who could speak Egyptian as well as her native Greek.[70]
  • al-Farabi (872–950/951), a Persian polymath who mastered over seventy languages.[71]
  • Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula Thera (1408–1491)[72] was a Buddhist monk and an eminent scholar,[73] who lived in the fifteenth century in Sri Lanka.[74] He was a multi-linguist who was given the title "Shad Bhasha Parameshwara" due to his mastery in six oriental languages which prevailed in the Indian subcontinent.[75]
  • Athanasius Kircher (1601?–1680), German Jesuit polymath and scholar. Claimed knowledge of twelve languages; among them: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Coptic, as well as several modern languages. He also pioneered the study of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Classical Chinese characters.[citation needed]
  • John Milton (1608–1674), an English poet who is famous for the epic work Paradise Lost, could speak English, Latin, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, Aramaic, Syriac, and Old English. Milton coined 630 terms in the English language.[76]
  • Wojciech Bobowski or Ali Ufki (1610–1675) a Polish musician based in the Ottoman Empire who mastered sixteen languages.
  • Gavril Stefanović Venclović (1670–1749) was a Serbian priest, writer, poet, orator, philosopher, polyglot, and illuminator.
  • Adam František Kollár (1718–1783), a Slovak writer, spoke Slovak, Czech, Serbian, Polish, Rusin, Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Slovenian, Croatian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, German, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Turkish, Chinese, Persian, Arabic, Italian, Romanian, French, Dutch, and English.[77]
  • Sir William Jones (1746–1794), an Anglo-Welsh philologist known for founding comparative linguistics through proposing the existence of a relationship between European and Indian languages (the Indo-European Languages). Alongside his native English and Welsh languages, he learned Greek, Latin, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew and the basics of Chinese writing at an early age. In all, Jones could speak forty-one languages (at least thirteen fluently).[78][79]
  • Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832), a French classical scholar, philologist, and orientalist, was the first to decipher the inscription on the Rosetta Stone, an achievement that facilitated the translation of the Egyptian Hieroglyphs—the titles "Father of Egyptology"[80] and "the founder of scientific Egyptology" have since been bestowed upon Champollion.[81] He specialized in Oriental languages while he was a student at the College de France between 1807 and 1809, and his linguistic repertoire eventually consisted of Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Pahlavi, Arabic, Persian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Zend, and his native French.[80][81][82]
  • Matija Čop (1797–1835) was a Slovenian polymath and linguist, and was said to speak nineteen languages, among which were his native Slovene, Latin, ancient Greek, German, English, French, Italian, Serbian, Polish, Ukrainian, Czech, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Hungarian, Occitan and Hebrew.
  • Noah Webster (1758–1843), a lexicographer, English spelling reformer, and author, mastered twenty-three languages.[citation needed]
  • Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti (1774–1849), an Italian Cardinal, knew the following thirty-nine languages, speaking many fluently and teaching some:[83] Biblical Hebrew, Rabbinical Hebrew, Arabic, Coptic, Ancient Armenian, Modern Armenian, Persian, Turkish, Albanian, Maltese, Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, English, Illyrian, Russian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Chinese, Syriac, Ge'ez, Hindustani, Amharic, Gujarati, Basque, Romanian, and Algonquin.
  • John Bowring (1792–1872), an English political economist, traveler, writer, and the fourth governor of Hong Kong. Reputed to have known over two hundred languages, and to have had varying speaking ability in one hundred.
  • Friedrich Engels (1820–1895), a German-English industrialist, social scientist, and cofounder of Marxist theory alongside Karl Marx, mastered over twenty languages.[84]
  • Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821–1890) was a British explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat; his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures amounted to having "mastered at least twenty-five languages—or forty, if distinct dialects are counted."[85]
  • Heinrich Schliemann (1822–1890) was a German businessman and a pioneer of field archaeology. He was an advocate of the historical reality of places mentioned in the works of Homer. Schliemann was an archaeological excavator of Hissarlik, now presumed to be the site of Troy, along with the Mycenaean sites Mycenae and Tiryns. Mastered over fifteen languages.
  • Georg Sauerwein (1831–1904) was a German publisher, polyglot, poet, and linguist. Sauerwein mastered about seventy-five languages, including: Latin, ancient Greek, modern Greek, Hebrew, French, Italian, Spanish, Basque, Portuguese, English, Welsh, Cornish, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx Gaelic, Dutch, Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Sami, Finnish, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Sorbian, Serbian, Croatian, Hungarian, Romanian, Albanian, Turkish, Azerbaijani, Chuvash (a Turkic language), Tamil, Kashgar (spoken in Siberia, similar to the language of Uzbekistan), Kumyk (spoken in Siberia), Persian, Armenian, Georgian, Sanskrit, Romani, Hindustani, Ethiopian, Tigrinya (another language of Ethiopia), Coptic or ancient Egyptian, Arabic, Malagasy (the language of Madagascar), Malay, Samoan, Hawaiian, different dialects of Chinese, and Aneitum (a language spoken in the New Hebrides).
  • James Augustus Henry Murray (1837–1915), was a Scottish lexicographer, instrumental in the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, and its primary editor from 1879 until his death. In an application letter written to the British Museum Library in November 1866, he claimed abilities in Italian, French, Catalan, Spanish, and Latin, and "in a less degree" Portuguese, Provençal, Dutch, German, Flemish, and Danish. The letter also referred to Murray's study of Celtic, Russian, Persian, Hebrew, and Syriac, among other languages and dialects.[86]
  • Yaqub Sanu (1839–1912), Egyptian journalist.
  • Arthur Rimbaud (1854–1891) French Symbolist poet. After retiring from writing he went on ambitious language learning program while traveling around Europe and the Middle East; mastering Latin, Ancient and Modern Greek, English, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Dutch, Arabic, Hindi, Amharic,[87] as well as developing a working knowledge of several native African languages while living in Ethiopia.[88]
  • Chiragh Ali (1844–1895), an Islamic scholar who, apart from his native Urdu, mastered Persian, Arabic, English, French, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin and Greek.[89]
  • Nikola Tesla (1856–1943), Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist, best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. Read and memorized many entire books, and was capable of speaking eight languages: Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin.[90]
  • Robert Dick Wilson (1856–1930), American Bible scholar, spoke forty-five languages including Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, as well as all the languages into which the Scriptures had been translated up to 600 CE.
  • Ludwig Zamenhof (1859–1917), creator of the constructed language Esperanto, spoke eleven languages besides his own: Aramaic, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Polish, his native Russian, Volapük, and Yiddish. He also had an interest in Arabic, Italian, and Lithuanian, though he never claimed fluency in those.[citation needed]
  • José Rizal (1861–1896), was a Filipino nationalist, writer and revolutionary. He was able to speak twenty-two languages including Spanish, French, Latin, Greek, German, Portuguese, Italian, English, Dutch, and Japanese. Rizal also made translations from Arabic, Swedish, Russian, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew and Sanskrit. He translated the poetry of Schiller into his native Tagalog. In addition he had at least some knowledge of Malay, Chavacano, Cebuano, Ilocano, and Subanun.[91][92][93]
  • Minakata Kumagusu (1867–1941), a Japanese author, biologist and naturalist.
  • Emil Krebs (1867-1930) was a German polyglot and sinologist. He mastered sixty-eight languages in speech and writing, and studied 120 others.
  • Rıza Tevfik Bölükbaşı (1869–1949), a Turkish philosopher and politician, who "...was proficient in eight languages, including Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Persian, and Spanish"[94] in addition to Hebrew, Albanian and Armenian.[95]
  • Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950), an Indian philosopher who, apart from his native Bengali and educational English, knew ancient Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian, Spanish and other Indian languages like Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati.[96]
  • Harold Williams (1876–1928), a New Zealand journalist and linguist, spoke more than fifty-eight languages.[97]
  • Hrachia Adjarian (1876–1953), Armenian linguist. He spoke Armenian, Greek, Hebrew, French, English, German, Italian, Persian, Latin, Sanskrit, and Laz.[98]
  • Sir Mohammed Iqbal (b. 9 November 1877) perhaps one of the greatest poets of the Persian language. Among his work of poetry, Asrar-e-Khudi, appeared in the Persian language in 1915, and other books of poetry include Rumuz-i-Bekhudi, Payam-i-Mashriq and Zabur-i-Ajam. Amongst these his best known Urdu works are Bang-i-Dara, Bal-i-Jibril, Zarb-i Kalim and a part of Armughan-e-Hijaz. Mohammed Iqbal was fluent in Persian, Panjabi, Arabic, Hindi, Latin, Greek and English.
  • Martin Buber (1878–1965), Austrian Jewish philosopher, who "spoke German, Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, English, French and Italian and read, in addition to these, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Dutch and other languages".[99]
  • Ho Chi Minh (1890–1969), the Vietnamese Communist leader, became fluent in French, English, Russian, Cantonese, and Mandarin, in addition to his native Vietnamese, through study and many years spent in exile.[100]
  • Harinath De (1877–1911) could speak thirty-four languages including many eastern and western languages such as Chinese, Tibetan, Pali, Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, English, Greek, Latin, out of which he was M.A in fourteen.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien (1892–1973), English writer, poet, linguist and university professor who could speak thirty-five languages and constructed several fictional ones. The most developed of these are Quenya and Sindarin, which he used in his books The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. He used his understanding in language to correct translators and translations of his books in other languages.
  • Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan (1893–1963) could speak thirty-six languages and wrote in more than six.[101]
  • William James Sidis (1898–1944), an American child prodigy who knew nine languages (Latin, Greek, German, French, Russian, Hebrew, Turkish and Armenian) when eight years old and claimed to speak about forty languages shortly before his death. He also created his own artificial language, which was called Vendergood. Although Sidis was supposed to have an IQ between 250 and 300 measured through psychological analysis, this was never confirmed.[102]
  • Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977) claimed to be trilingual "in the proper sense of writing, not only speaking, three languages". He wrote in English, Russian, and French.[103]
  • Sukarno (1901–1970), the first President of Indonesia, was able to speak Javanese, Sundanese, Balinese, Indonesian, Dutch, German, English, French, Arabic, and Japanese.[104]
  • John von Neumann (1903–1957), mathematician. While better known for his work in mathematics, Von Neumann was a polyglot; fluent in French, German, Latin, Greek, English and Yiddish, as well as his native Hungarian.[citation needed]
  • S. Srikanta Sastri (1904–1974), eminent Indian Historian, Indologist, and epigraphist at the University of Mysore, was fluent in over fourteen languages, including Greek, Latin, Hittite, Sanskrit, Pali, and Prakrit.[105][106]
  • Nathan Leopold Jr. (1904–1971) was born to a wealthy Jewish family. He spoke his first words at four months. He reportedly had an intelligence quotient of 210, and claimed to have been able to speak twenty-seven languages by the time he was nineteen.[107] More likely he was only fluent in nine or ten languages.[108] He was involved in the murder of Robert "Bobby" Franks with friend Richard Loeb. He served thirty-three years in prison before receiving parole.
  • João Guimarães Rosa (1908–1967) was a Brazilian writer, considered by many to be one of the greatest Brazilian novelists born in the 20th century, and a self-taught polyglot. In a letter he claimed to speak Portuguese, German, French, English, Spanish, Italian, Esperanto, and some Russian. He also claimed to read Swedish, Dutch, Latin and Greek, but with the use of a dictionary. He also professed some understanding of German dialects, and study of Hungarian, Arabic, Sanskrit, Lithuanian, Polish, Tupi, Hebrew, Japanese, Czech, Finnish, and Danish grammar. Guimarães Rosa suggested that studying other languages helped him understand the national language of Brazil more deeply, but that he studied primarily for pleasure.[109]
  • Muhammad Hamidullah (1908–2002), an Islamic scholar, knew twenty-two languages and learned Thai at eighty-five.
  • Uku Masing (1909–1985), an Estonian linguist, theologian, ethnologist, and poet, claimed to know approximately sixty-five languages, and could translate twenty.[110]
  • Kató Lomb (1909–2003), a Hungarian interpreter, translator, and one of the first simultaneous interpreters in the world, was able to interpret fluently in ten languages.[111]
  • George Campbell (1912–2004), a Scottish polyglot and a linguist at the BBC, who could speak and write fluently in at least forty-four languages and had a working knowledge of perhaps twenty others.[112]
  • Meredith Gardner (1912–2002), an American linguist and codebreaker. German, Old High German, Middle High German, Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, Lithuanian, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, and Japanese.[113]
  • Enoch Powell (1912–1998), an English politician, classical scholar, linguist, and poet. English, French, German, Italian, Urdu, Modern Greek, Classical Greek, Latin, Welsh, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Hebrew.[114]
  • Ahmad Hasan Dani (1920–2009), a Pakistani intellectual, archaeologist, historian, and linguist, who mastered thirty-five languages.
  • Christopher Lee (1922–2015), English actor, singer, author, and World War II veteran who spoke fluent English, Italian, French, Spanish and German, and was moderately proficient in Swedish, Russian and Greek.[115]
  • Michael Ventris (1922–1956), an English linguist and architect. French, German, Swiss German, Polish, Russian, Swedish, Danish, Italian, Spanish, some Turkish, and Modern Greek.[116]
  • P. B. Sreenivas (1930–2013), an Indian singer and poet, spoke and wrote in eight languages, including Kannada, English and Urdu.[117]
  • Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou (1930–1989), a Kurdish political activist and economist, mastered eight languages that included his mother tongue.[118][119][120]
  • Kenneth L. Hale (1934–2001) was an American professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He spoke over fifty languages, including Basque, Dutch, French, Hopi, Irish Gaelic, Japanese, Jemez, Lardil, Navajo, O'odham, Polish, Spanish, Warlpiri, and Wômpanâak.[121][122]
  • P. V. Narasimha Rao (1921–2004), who served as the tenth Prime Minister of India (1991–1996), could fluently speak seven Indian languages Telugu, Marathi, Hindi, Urdu, Oriya, Tamil and Bengali and six Foreign languages English, French, German, Spanish, Arabic, and Persian.<[123]
  • Sergei Starostin (1953–2005), a Russian linguist, recognised as one of the creators of hypothetical Sino-Caucasian language family. He claimed to have known up to fifteen languages and to read forty without a dictionary.[124]
  • Shahab Ahmed (1966–2015), a university professor and scholar of Islam from Pakistan who was "master of perhaps 15 languages".[125]
  • Pope John Paul II, could speak many languages but reportedly was only fluent in Polish, Italian, Spanish, French, German, and Latin.[126]
  • Hassan al-Turabi (1932–2016), a Sudanese Islamist leader, was fluent in Arabic, English, French, German, and many European languages.[127]
  • Thomas Joseph Odhiambo "Tom" Mboya, (1930 – 1969) a Kenyan trade unionist, educationist, Pan Africanist, author, and politician could speak English as well as several Kenyan languages such as KiKamba, Kikuyu and his mother tongue DhoLuo.
  • Hagop Baronian, (1843-1891), notable Armenian writer and playwright. He was fluent in 6 languages including French, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian and his native Armenian


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