Matthew and Erika are both polyglots, multilinguals who speak five or more languages. Matthew is fluent in nine languages (English, Irish, French, Spanish, Catalan, German, Portuguese, Italian and Hebrew), while having various levels of proficiency in a dozen more languages like Faroese, Occitan and Papiamento; Erika is fluent in Italian, English, German, Spanish and French, but also knows some Portuguese and Slovenian. They both use their language skills every day in their work at Babbel. But our resident polyglots aren’t the only people flexing their language skills on the interwebs…
Simcott, a native of Wales, speaks more than 16 languages which technically makes him a hyperpolyglot. As co-founder of the Polyglot Conference, and a ubiquitous youtube presence, he is the internet’s de facto multilingual ambassador. He was one of the first polyglots to start sharing his passion via youtube videos and directly inspired many of the people on this list to join the conversation with their own videos.
Luca, an Italian who speaks nine languages, is the other co-founder of the Polyglot Conference. He works as a language coach and currently jets around the world as an in-demand specialist with lots of insight on language learning. His skills in are especially impressive because he is also a master of accents. He speaks English like a North American (with a bit of a Minnesota twang, actually) and offers sound advice on accents in his other videos. His youtube channel is a great resource for learners seeking advice on specific topics, and you can check out his conversation with Matthew where they discuss learning Spanish.
Alex Rawlings was voted “Britain’s Most Multilingual Student” in 2012 after passing a battery of tests for eleven different languages. He is also notable for his mastery of accents and his subtle sense for each language’s personality.
New Yorker Tim Doner is the youngest hyper-polyglot strutting his stuff on the web. He was only 16 when he posted the video above, and two years later he is still adding and perfecting languages in his repertoire. His skills really shine when he talks to native speakers in their own languages. Living in massively multilingual New York City, Tim is in a special position to do this on a daily basis.
As much as the words “genius” and “talent” get thrown around when talking about polyglots, Lewis is the most inspiring polyglot on the list because he was hopelessly monolingual until he was in his twenties. He decided to turn that around by dedicating his life to traveling and learning as many local languages as he could. After a decade of non-stop globetrotting he has busted all the myths about being too old to learn a language. In 2013 he was one of National Geographic’s “Travelers of the Year”.
If the polyglot community looks like a boys’ club – albeit an especially bookish, socially awkward boys’ club – then South African teen Lindi Botes will be a welcome revelation. She was inspired to share her language skills online because of Tim Doner’s videos and is another impressive member of the polyglot community’s next generation.
He’s not a Polyglot, but…
Dustin Luke grew up in the United States exclusively speaking English, but his first visit to Buenos Aires changed all that. He fell in love with Argentina and with Argentine Spanish, a very specific variety that he has mastered to the point that Argentinians are incredulous when he tries to explain that he’s American. He spreads the bilingual love far and wide, retaining a youtube viewership of Argentinians who love to laugh at Yanquis
and themselves. He deserves to be mentioned here because his dedication to language learning is just as passionate as the polyglots, but his love for one particular community has made that passion laser-focused.
Play the polyglot game at home!
If you’re a tech-savvy so-and-so (and we bet you are), you can use one of these smartphone apps,
for Android or iPhone to play the polyglot game yourself. And for those readers who are not polyglots yet, feel free to use all the inspiration above as fuel. Which language do you want to tackle?