Top 5 notable Polyglots in the world

A kind of a genius who can speak several languages is a polyglot and polyglotism is normal in many cultures. West of Ireland has several bilingual people (English and Irish) and in Quebec a lot of them speak both French and English. Many Europeans speak more than three languages quite fluently and surprisingly a lot of Indians speak more than five Indian languages which are quite different from each other. It is not easy to judge who is a polyglot as there is no uncontroversial definition of mastering a language. There have been many polyglot experts from centuries till date.

Top 5 best Polyglots in the world are:

Giuseppe Mezzofanti (1774-1849): He was an Italian cardinal and a famous linguist and hyperpolyglot. He became professor of Arabic at the University of Bologna and later became professor of oriental languages and Greek. He is well known as a hyperpolyglot who fluently spoke 39 languages, ranging from Hebrew to Guajarati and dozens of other dialects too. He was such a linguistic genius that after his death the people all over Europe wanted his skull.

John Bowring (1792-1872): He was an English economist, a traveler, a miscellenous writer, a polyglot and the 4th governor of Hong Kong. He knew 200 languages and could speak 100. His translation of most of the folk songs of the European nations is his major literary work, though he even wrote original poems, hymns and works on political and economic subjects.

Kenneth Hale (1934-2001): He was a linguist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is well known to have studied a huge variety of endangered languages of North America, Central America and Australia. He hypothesized that certain languages lacked the phrase structure. They display a set of properties clustering together like free word order, unpronounced pronouns and dispersal of semantically related words. Most of his research was devoted to the development of syntactic models explaining why the properties cluster. He educated native speakers in linguistics for their active participation in that language. He could pick up a language after listening to a native speaker for 10-15 minutes.

Georges Dumezil (1898-1986): Got interested in ancient languages at a very young age and could read the Aenid in Latin at the age of 9. By the end of his life he could speak almost 40 languages. By the time he entered Ecole Normale Superiure he was studying linguistics and the other classics. After he learned Turkish he became one of the major experts of Caucasian languages to work in French. He is best known for his work on mythography and social classes. He loved learning ancient languages and used a lot of primary source material.

William James Sidis (1898-1944): He was known to have learnt a language in a day. An American child prodigy with unnatural mathematical liabilities and a mastery over many languages. He went to Harvard at the age of 11 and finally he mastered up to 40 foreign languages and dialects. He even developed his own language called Vendergood.

There are many living polyglots as well and Ziad Fazah is the most talked about. The common thing about all of the above is that they believed in adding one new language every time. The life of a polyglot had one thing in common, the urge to learn was vehement in each of them.


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