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Celebrating Women in Languages this International Women’s Day

Mhairi MacLeod

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Mhairi, our Deputy Editor in Chief, lists some top female linguists to celebrate intelligent females across the globe for International Women's Day

It’s that time of year again. The day when people come together all over the world to celebrate women. In honor of International Women’s Day 2022, I would like to present five incredibly inspiring female polyglots. But what is a polyglot, I hear you ask. A polyglot is a person who has the ability to know and speak several languages. The following five women, although they are certainly not the only ones, are all lucky enough to have this remarkable skill and I know that I am definitely slightly envious.

Cleopatra


First up, we are traveling back in time all the way to Ancient Egypt. Many people know of Cleopatra as the Queen of Ancient Egypt who ruled for three decades, yet few people are aware of her impressive language skills. Reportedly, Cleopatra was an extremely clever woman who could speak nine languages including Greek, Egyptian, Hebrew, and Arabic.


Malala Yousafzai



Fast forward to 2022 and we have the incredible Malala Yousafzai. Malala is a Pakistani activist for female education and the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Her native language is Pashto however she also speaks Urdu, the national language of Pakistan. In October 2012, Malala was shot in the head by a gunman on the way home from school for speaking out about female education. After this horrific incident, she was hospitalised in Birmingham, where she eventually moved with her family. This helped her to become fluent in English and on top of this she can also speak Swahili. This woman can definitely do a lot.

Check out the video below to see Malala's language skills!


Audrey Hepburn


Next up, we have the ever glamourous and talented Audrey Hepburn, most famous for her role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Audrey Hepburn was born in Belgium to Dutch parents and then moved to the Netherlands where she grew up, making Dutch her mother tongue. According the actress’ youngest son, she was fluent in English, French, Dutch and Italian whilst also practicing Spanish. Take a look at the video below to watch her speaking each language and sounding like a native in each one.


Queen Elizabeth I


Going back to the past again, this time to the first Queen Elizabeth (1533-1603) the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Despite the unfortunate circumstances for her mother, Queen Elizabeth was said to be an extremely intelligent woman and was able to speak a grand total of ten languages. Her main languages were English, French, Latin, and Italian and she was also known to speak Spanish, Dutch, Welsh, and Cornish. She was certainly an international woman.

Natalie Portman



Finally, we have the Hollywood actress and Harvard graduate Natalie Portman who speaks a total of six languages and has been learning others including Arabic. Natalie was born in Jerusalem and grew up speaking Hebrew and English and has since learned French, Japanese, German and Spanish. Natalie proves that you can always have languages in your life, no matter what career you have.

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