How many languages can you speak?

How many languages can you speak?

When you enter the world of language learning, before too long you will start to hear some interesting words. Someone may ask if you are a polyglot,or a hyperglot. They might inquire as to your motivation behind learning a language. This blog offers some simple definitions to help you navigate the vocabulary of language learning and speak like a pro!

Polyglot: “knowing or using several languages”

The definition of polyglot may seem simple enough but if you have ever met one, simple is probably not the word you would use to describe this neat skill set! A polyglot is someone who knows or uses several languages besides their native tongue. Generally, one is considered a polyglot if he or she knows three or more languages.

If you grew up speaking more than one language in your home and have studied an additional foreign language, you are a polyglot. If you lived in a location in the world where knowing more than one language connected you with surrounding countries, you are a polyglot. For many of our European friends, polyglots are so common place they really don’t need their own term. If you are studying a new language and already know several besides, you are a polyglot.

Hyperglot: knowing or using 6-10 languages

In recent years hyperglots have begun to differentiate themselves from polyglots. Hyperglots are a class of language learners unto themselves that know and use many languages. Though the exact number of languages one must have mastered to become a hyperglot is disputed, it is generally in the 6-10 language range.

Polygltos and hyperglots are not a new phenomenon. Noah Webster (1758-1843), a prolific writer and author, was said to have mastered more than 20 languages. Most know Webster for his role in helping to create the English dictionary. Among the languages that Noah studied were Gothic, German, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, Welsh, Russian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit.

J.R.R. Tolkien, famed writer of The Lord Of  The Rings trilogy was fluent in 13 languages, not to mention the ones that he created for his works. Pope John Paul II knew 17 languages well and used them to communicate in his travels around the world.

If you are striving for the title of polyglot or hyperglot you are joining a long line of men and women who have learned and mastered multiple languages to further their academic career, religious calling and professional expertise. Hold your head high and may the commitment and curiosity of those who have gone before be with you as you continue your language journey!

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