Knowing two languages is an awesome feat, which BBC estimates 60-75% of people have succeeded in. However, there is a very sharp falloff from bilingual to trilingual. Rosetta Stone claims that around 13% of people are trilingual.
As you can imagine, each language you add will widdle that number down quite quickly. Technically, any multiple-language speaker falls into the category of being a polyglot, or someone that knows and uses several languages. But there are some who truly hold the title of being a master polyglot, also known as a hyperpolyglot. These gifted few can fluently speak dozens of languages. Let’s take a look at some famous hyperpolyglots and their amazing feats.
Many consider Ziad Fazah to be the most accomplished living polyglot. He says he can speak 58 languages but that he can only speak 15 fluently without studying a language ahead of time. Fazah was featured in the 1998 Guinness Book of World Records for knowing 58 languages.
Powell Janulus was born in Canada in 1939 and is known for fluently speaking 42 languages. In order to prove his fluency, he had to take a two-hour test in each language. He was featured in the 1985 Guinness World Record book.
Cardinal Guiseppe Mezzofanti
Mezzofanti may be the oldest hyperpolyglot known in history, and it’s hard to know exactly how many languages he spoke. He was born in September 1774 in Bologna, Italy. It is estimated that he could speak anywhere between 30 and 70 languages. He was considered to be a very influential holy man of his time.
Cameron, or Kid Polyglot on YouTube, is the youngest person on the list. She is 15 years old and knows 27 languages. You can watch her use these languages in action on her YouTube page.
Sir Richard Burton
Sir Richard Burton led an existing life as both a British soldier and explorer and later a diplomat. Due to all the travel and international diplomacy, Burton became fluent in 26 languages. He also did some translations of famous texts.
Emil Krebs was a German diplomat in the 19th century who mastered 65 languages. Scientists were able to dissect Krebs’ brain in 2004. They found some very unique differences in the portion of the brain responsible for languages but they were unable to determine if those differences were there from birth or due to studying languages throughout life.
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