Celebrate International Women’s Day by Learning about these 8 Polyglot Women

International Women’s Day may only be one day in March (March 8th), but this entire month is pretty much an opportunity to celebrate women—what with it being Women’s History Month and all. It seems like a great time to cast a spotlight on some of the women out there who are, or were, true multilingual masters. Read on to learn about some of the most kickass female polyglots in the world!

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1. Audrey Hepburn

Your probably familiar with the actress Audrey Hepburn because of her leading role in the iconic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but outside of acting Hepburn was also a very skilled polyglot. Hepburn had a Belgian mother and grew up speaking Dutch and French, but also went on to become fluent in 4 other languages: English, Spanish, German, and Italian. In fact, learning new languages was a life-long aspiration for Hepburn who picked up Spanish much later in life as a Goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.

2. Queen Elizabeth I

The current Queen Elizabeth may be fluent in more than one language, but she doesn’t really hold a candle to her namesake, Queen Elizabeth I, who was reportedly able to speak 10 different languages. Besides English, she had a strong mastery of French, Italian, and Latin, and was able to converse in Spanish, Dutch, Latin, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish and Irish as well!

3. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman is one of the most famous actresses in the world today, but there’s more to this bad ass woman than just good looks and great acting chops. Portman speaks conversational Arabic, French, German, Spanish, and Japanese, and is fluent in English and Hebrew. That makes for a whopping 6 languages in total! Meanwhile, I’m over here barely struggling through my third…

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4. Cleopatra

As if being the last active ruler of Egypt wasn’t kickass enough, Cleopatra was reportedly also quite the talented polyglot. Besides being fluent in her native Greek, Cleopatra supposedly spoke 9 languages in total including Egyptian, Syrian, Persian, and Arabic. Cleopatra must have been one heck of a multi-tasker because learning a new language on top of ruling a kingdom sounds way too hard to me!  

5. Kató Lomb

Kató Lomb was a renowned translator and interpreter, and is perhaps most famous for being one of the first simultaneous interpreters in the world. Lomb was able to interpret fluently in up to 10 languages, and had some degree of fluency in around 17. Suffice to say, Lomb could probably travel almost anywhere in the world and have conversations with locals in their native tongues!

6. Asin

Bilingualism may be pretty common in a country like India—which has 22 official languages and over 700 dialects—but Bollywood actress Asin still stands out as a bit of a language machine. Asin’s mother tongue is Malayalam, which is native to her home state of Kerala, but she’s also fluent in Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit, English, Hindi and French, and speaks a bit of Italian and Marathi too!

Photo via Wikipedia

7. Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa is one of the most well-known humanitarians in the world, and her name is pretty much synonymous with compassion and selflessness. As an Albanian, Mother Teresa spoke Albanian and Serbo-Croatian, but also counted English and Hindi as part of her language arsenal. When she moved to Calcutta, Mother Teresa picked up yet another language: Bengali. This allowed her to communicate better with the locals and meant she spoke a total of 5 languages!

8. Queen Silvia of Sweden

Knowing how to speak more than one language is an important aspect of being royalty, and is a vital means of enhancing negotiation and diplomatic skills. However, Queen Silvia of Sweden has taken this concept to a whole new level with her language acquisition. The Queen can speak Swedish, German, Portuguese, French, Spanish, and English, but perhaps the language skills that have made her most popular (and endeared her to many) is her learning of the Swedish Sign Language.

Are these kick ass polyglot women inspiring you to learn another language? It’s never too late to start your language learning journey, and being able to speak multiple tongues will not only provide you with useful skills, but it’ll also make you feel like a badass too!

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Who are some of the polyglots that inspire you?