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What’s A Polyglot? | How To Be One

I remember the first time I learned about the “online polyglot community,” it was a bit like finding out that Santa Claus isn’t real. I always thought knowing 5+ languages was a super-spy type thing!

I was so surprised to find that people who seemed completely normal could learn 5, 10, or even 15 languages and retain them well enough to read, write, and have real conversations.

Through the years, I dropped all of the “Duolingo-like scams” and I spent a lot of time learning about how such polyglots achieved these incredible results.

In this article, we’ll go over what a polyglot and hyperpolyglot are, and how people reach that point, and I’ll refer you to my three favorite polyglot YouTubers so that you can learn from them too!

Are you ready to see what it takes to reach polyglot status? Let’s jump into it in this short article that might change your life like this information changed mine many years ago.

picture of many chat boxes with different languages and a title that says "what are polyglots?"

Summary: What’s A Polyglot & How To Be One

The word “Polyglot” comes from the ancient Greek “poly,” meaning "many," and "glōtta," meaning "language." So the word literally means “many languages.”

With this definition, we can see that the word doesn’t specify the number of languages that one needs to know to become a polyglot.

As for becoming what is widely accepted as a "polyglot," you need to learn 3 or more languages to a fluent level (B2 or higher). This is most commonly achieved by a mixture of learning with grammar and vocabulary books, and natural acquisition techniques.

If you’re interested in hearing advice from some of the best polyglots, check out:

  • Luca Lampariello - Best For Methods & Language Learning Info

  • Laoshu505000 - Best For Motivation & A Good Laugh

  • Lindie Botes - Best For Getting Common Language Learning Questions Answered

How Many Languages Do You Need To Know To Be A Polyglot?

No fixed number of languages makes you a polyglot, the word simply means “One who is fluent in many languages.” The word "polyglot" has its origins in ancient Greek.

It is derived from two Greek words: "poly," meaning "many," and "glōtta," meaning "tongue" or "language." So, when you put them together, "polyglot" essentially means "many tongues" or "many languages."

This term has been used in various languages over the centuries to describe individuals who can speak, read, or understand multiple languages fluently.

Polyglot Definition: A person who knows and is able to use several languages | Ancient Greek Origin: Poly - Many  Glotta - Languages

How Many Languages Do You Need To Know To Be A Hyperpolyglot?

While “Polyglot” doesn’t have a super specific definition, “Hyperpolyglot” does have a fixed number. To be considered a “Hyperpolyglot" one must be proficient in 6 or more languages. However, some people seem to disagree with that, saying the number should be 12.

Fun fact about hyperpolyglots:

A fun fact about hyperpolyglots is that their exceptional linguistic abilities often come with some quirky and unique habits.

For example, some hyperpolyglots report that they dream in multiple languages, and their dreams may even involve conversations with people speaking different languages.

Additionally, some hyperpolyglots find it difficult to stick to just one language when counting or doing mental calculations; they may count in different languages depending on the situation or context.

These idiosyncrasies highlight the fascinating ways in which hyperpolyglots' minds are wired to effortlessly navigate a multitude of languages.

Some cool polyglot facts - Multilingualism has cognitive benefits, such as improved problem-solving skills, multitasking abilities, and delayed cognitive decline in older age - most Multilingual individuals can seamlessly transition between languages -  Over time, if polyglots do not regularly use certain languages, they may forget certain words, phrases, etc - Ziad Fazah holds the Guinness Book of Records for the most languages spoken by one person (58 languages)

What Is The Definition Of Fluency In A Language?

Now that we know to be a polyglot, you just need to be fluent in multiple languages, to better understand what it means to be a polyglot we need to know what it means to be fluent.

So here’s another thing that so many people in our language learning community disagree on. In my experience, B2 is a level that indicates fluency in most situations.

B2 means that one can:

  • Engage in everyday conversations with native speakers and other learners comfortably

  • Travel to countries where the language is spoken and navigate everyday situations like ordering food, asking for directions, or booking accommodations

  • Read newspapers, magazines, and books in the language with a good level of comprehension

  • Write essays, emails, and reports in the language, even though there may be some grammatical errors or vocabulary gaps

  • Understand spoken language in a variety of contexts, such as movies, TV shows, and podcasts. While you might miss some nuances, you can follow the main points

  • Get some jobs that require a B2 level in a foreign language, particularly those in international business, translation, or tourism

  • Pursue academic studies in the language at many universities and institutions

a graph showing all of the CEFR level up until B2 and what a person with such level will be capable of doing

Linguist vs. Polyglot: What’s The Difference?

The distinction between a linguist and a polyglot lies in their areas of expertise and focus within the world of languages. A linguist is a professional who studies the scientific aspects of language, delving into the mechanics, structure, and evolution of languages.

They analyze linguistic phenomena, conduct research, and may specialize in subfields such as phonetics, syntax, or sociolinguistics.

On the other hand, a polyglot is an individual who possesses the remarkable ability to speak and understand multiple languages.

While a polyglot may have an in-depth practical knowledge of various languages, they typically lack the formal academic training and deep analytical approach that linguists bring to the study of language.

In essence, linguists explore the "hows" and "whys" of a language, while polyglots excel at learning to speak and understand multiple languages.

a graphic I made which demonstrates the difference between a linguist and a polyglot

How Do Polyglots Learn Languages?

The most common approach to language learning for polyglots is a mix of natural language acquisition techniques and grammar books.

I learned most of what I know from Luca Lampariello, a well-known hyperpolyglot from Italy. He has used these two approaches together to learn over 10 languages to fluency.

Some of the simplest and most effective methods you can to learn a language and become a polyglot are:

  • Acquire vocabulary through music

  • Read stories (websites like LinQ - Fable Cottage)

  • Watch comprehensible input videos on YouTube

  • Read grammar books (not to study them, but to be introduced to the concepts they contain)

  • Listen to podcasts

  • Use flashcards until you have about 1,000 word-vocabulary

Who Are Some Of The Best Polyglots To Listen To?

Now that you understand what a polyglot is and how they approach learning a new language, let me refer you to some wonderful polyglots that will inspire you and teach you a lot!

Here are my top 3 favorite polyglots!

Luca Lampariello - Best For Methods & Language Learning Info

On Luca’s YouTube channel, you can find many playlists such as: Q&A, Interviews, Talks, Vocabulary - Effective Techniques, Pronunciation - Revolutionary Techniques, Etc.

picture of Luca Lampariello's youtube channel

All of which will provide a ton of value to us as we are trying to get better at learning languages.

Luca also provides his courses on his website, which are much more descriptive and take us step by step through the learning methods that he has developed over the last decades.

Moses McCormick (Laoshu505000) - Best For Motivation & A Laugh

Moses McCormick was an extremely bright and unique polyglot before his passing in the year 2021. He inspired so many of us with his goofy videos of him “leveling up” on college campuses, at carnivals, and other events.

picture of moses mccormick (laoshu505000) youtube channel

When Moses was 18 years old he wrote 50 languages on a whiteboard and said “I’m going to learn all of these.”

As the years passed, he did get to study all of those languages, and he shared many videos of him using them in real life. These videos provide so much motivation because of all of the positive reactions of the people he speaks with.

Lindie Botes - Best For Getting Common Language Learning Questions Answered

Lindie’s videos have served so many people to understand better: How to learn a language, and how to stay disciplined & motivated, and she also creates interesting vlogs - showing us where she’s at and what she’s up to.

picture of Lindie Botes youtube channel

With an incredible amount of videos, surely you'll find some stuff that really interests you!

I suggest that you subscribe to her for mindset and self-discipline tips and her advice will benefit you as a language learner, and a person in general!

Tips From Some Polyglots | What They Say:

The following section includes the opinions of three of the best polyglots of our time. The information profited was taken from interviews with them where they expressed their methods and mindset they follow when learning a new language.


Luca gives 7 great tips on his website for learning a second language he says that

1) - You should study based on your particular circumstances/interests/preferences

2) - Your time spent learning should be enjoyable, and when reading and listening to podcasts and other forms of input, they should be based on things that interest you most

3) - Your learning method should be flexible – meaning that you enjoy it and it works to learn vocab from day 1 to day 1,000. He also suggests that you reflect on your study time once a month to see if you can improve your approach or make it more enjoyable for yourself

4)- Make sure your study plan makes you want to learn and engage in the language every day. Luca says that he had a friend who had been learning Japanese with no luck, and one day he decided to commit to one-hour-a-day study sessions. What happened? 6 months later he was having real conversations with natives!

5) - Your study sessions should prioritize and be built around Comprehensible Input

6) - Your study sessions should prioritize and be built around Comprehensible Inputeading, writing, speaking, and listening)

7) - Grow and evolve your approach to studying languages always, and base it on what works best for you.


Laoshu unfortunately never did many structured interviews in his life where he would have expressed the concrete "best ways to learn a language" according to him.

However, luckily he had recorded some unstructured videos where he talked about how he learned languages (up until his passing - when had been able to speak 55+ languages)

5 of my favorite tips he gave us are as follows:

1) - Learn phrases, and put them in flash cards – repetition, repetition, repetition

2) - “Listen, Listen, Listen,” he said in a live stream, after this comment he showed us that he has an ASIMIL course for every language he was learning on his iPod, so he could listen at all times

3) - “There is a difference between memorizing and absorbing words – I prefer to adsorb them”

4) - Anytime you learn a new phrase or word, do what you can to use it with a native speaker

5) - Avoid learning grammar until you have reached or surpassed the A2 level

POLYGLOT #3—Steven Kaufmann

Steve Kaufmann is a 77-year-old polyglot from Canada who has learned 16 languages to varying degrees. Steve has a YouTube channel where he discusses different languages and approaches to learning. His YouTube channel also includes interviews with other known language learners.

He is also known for having built the LingQ learning program with his son Mark Kaufmann. LingQ teaches language through stories full of comprehensible input, regardless of the learner's level.

My 5 favorite tips from Steve Kaufman to learn a language:

1) - Drop the Dictionary – Steve says that we should use a dictionary to get the general meaning and we should drop it, in and out quickly.

He explains that you probably won't remember the word at first sight of its definition, so just get exposure to it and its meaning and move on

2) - Be confident – Steve says we need to be confident in our ability to achieve our language goals and make sure that we are not doubting ourselves.

If we are - we must fix that little issue so we don’t throw in the towel out of lack of belief in ourselves

3) - Learning takes time – Steve mentions an incredibly insightful saying that is used usually in reference to gardens and it goes like this:

“The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps and the third year it leaps” and says that this is a wonderful rule to keep in mind in language learning

4) - Don’t focus on mistakes – He says that although he appreciates people wanting to help correct him, he knows that if he continues to learn and read in Arabic, he will learn the rules without having been corrected by people all the time.

5) - Use contextual learning – Steve compares learning words in context to when he is driving in the dense Canadian fog, and he doesn’t get all of the hints of where he is on the road exactly, so he doesn’t know exactly where he should be turning.

CONCLUSION: What's A Polyglot & How To Be One

A polyglot is a person who knows multiple languages. Some people become polyglots due to their environment and needs, however, some become polyglots simply because they love languages!

If you want to learn a language as quickly as a polyglot many rules should be applied including but not limited to

  • consistent study routines that revolve around comprehensible input

  • learning one language at a time

  • believing that you are capable of learning that language

If you want to get a free lesson with a tutor, click here and Italki will give you a free $10 credit when you schedule your first lesson within 48 hours!

Want to learn how to learn a language without headaches and textbooks? Check out this article called "Language Acquisition: How it works"


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