5 Famous People Who Were Polyglots

Get to know famous people who could speak several languages
Famous People Who Were Polyglots

Language learning is something we inherit during our childhood, particularly our mother tongue. But as we grow older, learning another language can become exponentially difficult, though not entirely impossible. In fact, there are a number of people all around the world who are polyglots.

Polyglots, or multilinguists, are people who know how to speak more than one language. Here are five famous people who were well-known in their respective fields, such as entertainment and politics, but were lesser known for their linguistic ability.

1. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (J.R.R. Tolkien)

The Lord of the Rings trilogy author was not only gifted in writing; he was also a polyglot who could speak (and had actually created) several languages.

Tolkien knew how to speak Latin, French, German, Middle English, Old Norse, Spanish, Welsh, and Finnish. He was also familiar with Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, and Russian. Tolkien reportedly learned Finnish all by himself!

Perhaps the most notable linguistic ability Tolkien had was his talent in creating a new language from scratch. Known as the “Inventor of Languages,” Tolkien created the fictional language of Quenya and Sindarin (the Elvish languages), Dwarvish, Entish, and Black speech.

2. Karol Józef Wojtyła (Pope John Paul II)

Before becoming a pope, Karol Wojtyla (better known internationally as Pope John Paul II) has learned how to speak several languages. He knows English, German, French, Polish, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Latin.

Pope John Paul II was not only fluent in many languages; he could also speak other foreign languages not listed above and had at least a working knowledge in all of them. In fact, during the Christmas of 2004, he sent greetings all around the world in 62 languages.

3. Thomas Jefferson

Being President of the United States of America has its own set of skills needed for the job, but being able to communicate in other foreign languages is a definite advantage. Thomas Jefferson is one exemplary president who was a polyglot of six languages.

Jefferson could speak English, French, Italian, and Latin. He could read in Greek and Anglo-Saxon, and reportedly attempted to learn German. He was known to be passionate about learning foreign languages but did not achieve a level of fluency in all. Jefferson also had dictionaries in several languages in his library, including Arabic, Gaelic, and Welsh.

4. Cleopatra

The Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt was not only known for her beauty and leadership skills; she was also a polyglot by heart. She could speak fluently in Egyptian, as well as Greek, her native language. She reportedly was able to speak seven other languages, including the languages of the Medes, Parthians, Jews, Arabs, Syrians, Trogodytae, and Ethiopians.

5. Audrey Hepburn

This Hollywood icon was not only beauty and brains, Audrey Hepburn was also gifted with a tongue that could speak many languages. In fact, she was fluent in six languages: English, Dutch, French, Spanish, German, and Italian. This was brought about by her multinational background, coupled with the frequent traveling she did with her family because of her father’s work.

Learning a new language can be daunting, but technology nowadays has made it easier for us to learn a foreign language without having to go to formal schools. Joining a language exchange group can also be a good way to facilitate your learning, which is why language communities like LinguaVirtua exist.

With a little help from like-minded people in LinguaVirtua, you can become a polyglot just like these famous people!

Tinny is a writer from the Philippines. She fluently speaks Cebuano, Tagalog, and English, and knows a little Spanish, Butuanon, and Surigaonon. When she is not writing, she loves to read books.