Polyglots – in other words, people who can speak several languages – are interested in more than being multilingual, however. Their motivations come from their sheer love of language, so they accumulate new languages whenever they can.
Polyglots naturally gravitate towards careers where they can take advantage of their passion for language – who knows, maybe you could nurture their talents in your global-reaching business.
In this article, we share a few tips from successful polyglots – and, for fun, we also highlight a few famous polyglots that might inspire you as you learn.
Helpful Tips from Influential Polyglots
With their love of language, it is no surprise to find that many notable polyglots are language teachers (and yes, we have several multilingual language lovers in our offices too!). Here are a few tips from the experts to think about as you journey from beginner to intermediate-level and beyond:
• Learn through stories (Olly Richards, I Will Teach You a Language): Olly advises language learners to read stories to build their language prowess. Stories introduce you to new words and help to reinforce grammar, but they do so in a fun and engaging way! They also place your language learning into an authentic context, so you pick up more than just how to book a taxi, buy an apple or ask for directions.
• Utilise your interests (Simon Ager, Omniglot): Simon recommends that you focus on your interests and find ways to explore your passions using your new language. This approach allows you to tap into your enthusiasm for the subject you are reading/writing/speaking about, which should then become more memorable for you as you develop your language skills.
• Create your own learning materials (Kerstin Cable, Fluent Language): Be creative when you learn by making your own flashcards, writing notes in the language you are learning and keeping a diary in your chosen language. Developing this personal connection with your learning is a great suggestion, and one that we can all make work for us alongside our formal language training.
As you learn what works for you, it may be that you develop some helpful tips of your own. If so, consider sharing these with your language-learning friends and colleagues – your experiences might help them too!
Famous Polyglots, from Ancient History to the Silver Screen
You can find fascinating examples of famous polyglots throughout history, from influential monarchs to modern-day celebrities:
• Queen Cleopatra VII, the infamous Egyptian pharaoh, is rumoured to have spoken up to nine languages, including Greek and Egyptian. She wielded considerable power and influence in her time, and her story lives on today via plays such as Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and big screen outings starring the likes of Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor.
• Queen Elizabeth I is another powerful historical queen, and she is believed to have spoken at least seven languages – in fact, the Venetian ambassador at the time commented that she ‘possessed nine languages so thoroughly that each appeared to be her native tongue’. Seven or nine, her linguistic capability was one facet of a formidable personality – one which has also made her a significant figure at the movies, played by superstars such as Cate Blanchett and Margot Robbie.
• Viggo Mortensen, the award-winning Danish-American actor famous for starring in The Lord of the Rings and Green Book, can speak English, Spanish and Danish fluently, and he has conversational French and Italian skills. He also has a degree of confidence in Norwegian, Swedish and Catalan. He has acted in both Spanish and English and he once said that he finds he can ‘get to the heart of the matter’ more effectively when speaking in Spanish.
• Tom Hiddleston is another actor famous for his linguistic prowess. He speaks four languages: English, French, Spanish and Greek. He even starred in the Sophocles production Electra earlier in his career, performing in Greek.
Other famous polyglots include football manager Arsène Wenger, actresses Jodie Foster and Natalie Portman, and comedian and TV presenter Trevor Noah, who all speak at least five languages to some degree of fluency.
Whether these famous figures have a love of language or the course of their lives made multiple languages valuable and necessary, it is inspiring to think that your language-learning journey could expand in so many exciting directions. Perhaps learning French will be your gateway to some of the other romance languages (Spanish, Italian or Portuguese), or maybe you will find that tackling a new alphabet might lead to a passion for similar languages (such as getting comfortable with the Cyrillic alphabet through Russian, then tackling Bulgarian or Ukrainian).
Language learning can be fun and may ignite a passionate interest in the way people communicate around the world, helping you to develop skills that you can leverage in both a personal and professional capacity. Contact Simon & Simon today to find out more about the bespoke language training solutions we provide.