What is the record for the most languages spoken by one person?
There are many different languages of the world, so the answer for the most perfect polyglot depends on how high (or low) you set the bar of fluency.
Asked by: Anonymous
It depends on how high (or low) you set the bar of fluency. Ziad Fazah, born in Liberia, brought up in Beirut and now living in Brazil, claims to be the world's greatest living polyglot, speaking a total of 59 world languages. He has been 'tested' on Spanish television, where it was not clear just how well he could communicate in some of them.
His record, however, pales in comparison to some from the past. Cardinal Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti, born in 1774, spoke 38 languages and 40 dialects. The 10th-century Muslim polymath Al-Farabi was reputed to know 70 languages. The German Hans Conon von der Gabelentz, born in 1807, researched and published grammars of 80 languages. The record, though, probably belongs to Sir John Bowring, Governor of Hong Kong from 1854 to 1859, who was said to know 200 languages, and capable of speaking 100.
Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.
May Half Price Sale
- Save up to 52% when you subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine.
- Risk - free offer! Cancel at any time when you subscribe via Direct Debit.
- FREE UK delivery.
- Stay up to date with the latest developments in the worlds of science and technology.