The Prince and the Pauper – Chapter Six – Fun Fact

How many languages do you speak? Are you at least bilingual like over half of the world’s population? Or are you like the rest of us still working on mastering our first and only language? Today we focus on the wonders that are…


It’s always been a goal of mine to master at least one other language. I always envy those that can easily flip back and forth between multiple languages, especially children. So I chose this as our topic to explore for Chapter 6! Keep reading or watch the video below to explore what I found.

Reference in The Prince and the Pauper

[Lady Jane talking to “Edward” (actually Tom)]
“‘But bide thy time in patience: it will not be for long. Thou’lt yet be graced with learning like thy father, and make thy tongue master of as many languages as his, good my prince.’” (p. 29)

I always enjoy this part of the book because this quote is followed up by Tom stating that his father doesn’t speak any languages except for maybe the language of the pigs. This causes everyone in the room to give him a shocked look, since for them it sounds as if he is talking about King Henry. So he needs to quickly apologize and blame his “sickness”.

What is a polyglot?

A polyglot is someone who speaks or writes several languages, in other words, someone who is multilingual.

How many languages did Henry VIII speak?

It is hard to know for sure, but supposedly he spoke seven languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Latin, and Greek. At the time, Latin was used for discussing important issues, particularly with leaders in the church like Cardinal Wolsey. Henry also had two wives that came from other countries. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was from Spain and therefore spoke Spanish. His fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, came to England from Germany, so he may have spoken some German in order to communicate with her (and other important German figures).

Who are the most accomplished polyglots?

Technically anyone who knows 11 languages or more is called a hyperpolyglot. There are many known hyperpolyglots both in the past and present that have come to be known for their language aquisition skills.

First off there is Ziad Farah. He was born in Liberia, raised in Beirut, and lives in Brazil. As far as I can see, he holds the Guiness World Record for knowing the most languages. Some sites stated that he knows 58 and some said 59. Although there seems to be some controversy surrounding his title, he appears to be the most accomplished polyglot modern-day.

Then there’s John Bowring. He lived from 1792-1872. He was British and also was the fourth leader of Hong Kong. He claimed to know 200 languages and was able to speak 100. Though there is no way to verify this information for sure, he is thought to be the most accomplished polyglot of all time.

A last example is Cardinal Guiseppe Gaspardo Mezzofanti. He lived from 1774-1849. As an Italian member of the Catholic church, he had many opportunities to speak with people who spoke other languages. He spoke more than 38 languages fluently.

What are some benefits of being multilingual?

According to one article, here are eight benefits of being multilingual:

  1. A better understanding of how language works
  2. Less mental decline in old age
  3. A more efficient executive control system in brain
  4. Greater cognitive flexibility and problem-solving skills
  5. Improvements in learning abilities
  6. Changes in neurological processing
  7. More rational decision-making skills
  8. A more perceptive understanding of the world

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