Top 10 Polyglot Athletes (Hint: The Winner Speaks 11!)
Unsplash: Julian Schiemann
In the world of sports, we often think and talk about the accomplishments of the athletes. Their wins and losses, upcoming matches, and future strategies. But what we sometimes forget is that there’s more to their life than their star status.
Did you know that many athletes are skilled multilinguals? Yes, that is correct – many athletes are multilingual. They speak more than two languages and they show this impressive talent in interviews, press conferences, and even by talking with their teammates.
Learning a second language is like learning a sport. It takes time, dedication, and practice. And in the world of language learning, the more you immerse and interact in your target language, the better and the more fluent you become.
1. Novak Djokovic — 11 Languages
Novak Djokovic is a Serbian professional tennis player, who is ranked number 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals. Besides being a champion tennis player, Djokovic is also a gifted polyglot. He speaks a total of 11 languages such as Serbian, English, Italian, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, Portuguese, and Russian. It is uncertain whether he can make full conversations in Japanese, Arabic, and Russian, but he makes a genuine effort to answer journalists in their local languages.
2. Romelu Lukaku — 8 Languages
Romelu Lukaku is a Belgian soccer player who speaks 8 languages. Lukaku grew up speaking both French and Flemish. He also speaks Lingala, English, Portuguese, Spanish, German, and Italian.
When he joined Inter Milan in 2019, Lukaku learned Italian and was able to answer post-match interviews in full Italian. He believes that it is important for him to communicate with his teammates in Italian so they can understand each other.
3. Pa-Modou Kah — 8 Languages
Pa-Modou Kah is a Gambian-Norwegian soccer coach. He is currently the head coach of the Canadian Premier League club Pacific FC. Kah speaks a total of 8 languages such as Dutch, Arabic, French, English, German, Norwegian, Swedish, and Wolof. When he was 8 years old, his family moved from Gambia to Norway. More likely, Kah is fluent in both Norwegian and Wolof.
4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 7 languages
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a Swedish professional football player. He is a striker for the Sweden National Team and for Serie A club AC Milan. Ibrahimovic is a native speaker of both Bosnian and Swedish. After playing in several countries, he also became fluent in Italian, French, English, and Spanish. And he also understands a certain sign language.
5. Gelson Fernandes – 7 languages
Gelson Fernandes is a former international football player who was born in Cape Verde. When he was five years old, Fernandes and his mother moved to Switzerland while his father was playing as a groundskeeper for FC Sion.
Fernandes speaks his native Portuguese, as well as French, German, Creole, Spanish, Italian, and English. He’s currently learning Chinese for fun.
6. Arsène Wenger — 6 Languages
Arsène Wenger, a former French football manager, is FIFA's current Chief of Global Football Development. He speaks a total of 6 languages: French, German, English, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese.
Wenger was voted as the United Kingdom’s first-ever Public League Champion by the Guardian's reader in 2013 for his dedication to languages and his work in language learning for children through sports.
7. Daniela Hantuchová — 6 Languages
Daniela Hantuchová is a retired Slovak tennis player and a tennis commentator. Hantuchová is not only a tennis star, but she’s also a classically trained pianist. Hantuchová is multilingual. She fluently speaks German, Slovak, English, and Czech. She also speaks Croatian and Italian.
Hantuchová explained to Cambridge University Press that playing sports has helped her transition to learn languages. She believes that sports is a universal language that is a great starting point for language learning.
8. Roger Federer –– 4 languages
Roger Federer is a Swiss professional tennis player. He is ranked as No. 16 in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals. Besides being a Swiss tennis legend, Federer speaks 4 languages fluently. He speaks his native Swiss German, along with English, French, and German. Federer is known to be able to switch between languages in interviews and press conferences.
9. Fernando Alonso –– 4 languages
Fernando Alonso is a Spanish Formula One racer. He won the “World Drivers’ Competition” in 2005 and 2006. Alonso speaks Spanish, English, French, and Italian. He’s also reported to be learning Russian.
10. Cesc Fabregas –– 4 languages
Francesc “Cesc” Fabregas is a Barcelona footballer who plays for Ligue 1 club Monaco. Fabregas speaks four languages such as Spanish, Catalan, French, and English. He doesn’t shy away from being multilingual and his social media shows it. Back in 2005, Fabregas was asked about his language skills and he responded by saying “These days you have to keep studying, not least because my mum tells me so.”