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Political Leaders and Languages

 Language Learning Forum : Polyglots Post Reply
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ifihadahammer
Diglot
Newbie
United Kingdom
Joined 4949 days ago

30 posts - 33 votes
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: German, Italian

 
 Message 49 of 142
11 March 2007 at 6:36am | IP Logged 
Lenin was mentioned a few pages back. Apparently he knew English well enough to translate English works into Russian for publication. He translated Sidney and Beatrice Webb's 1897 "History of Trade Unionism" at one stage so that Russian Marxists could find out more about the labour movement in Britain. It's 600 or so pages.
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Jerrod
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4977 days ago

168 posts - 176 votes 
Studies: Russian, Spanish

 
 Message 50 of 142
11 March 2007 at 2:52pm | IP Logged 
About Lenin.
Lenin, in school studied Greek and Latin. His mother spoke multiple languages as well. I saw his report card and he received 'A's' in all classes. In his biography it is noted, he requested a German-Greek dictionary in 1922. So for sure he had a working knowledge at least reading.
Lenin also studied German and French. He moved to Berlin and, in one letter to his mother commented that he was learning the slang. He, as mentioned, also spoke French.
During his conferences he would deliver his speechs in Russian, German, and French. So for sure he was fluent in these language.
Lenin and Krupskaya did translate a book in Siberia in 2 weeks in English. But when Lenin got to England he did not speak English. He wrote multiple books from the material in British library and I once saw an English letter he wrote, it had the normal mistakes most Russians would make (i.e. articles etc..). Multiple journalists commented he had excellent English it was just spoken slowly.
He lived in Finland, so I am sure he had a basic knowledge (you can't live in a small town like Tampere with out it, even now days). Though everything I see written about this time, he used Swedish.
Lenin also lived in Krakow a number of years and seeing how close Polish and Russian are, he had to have picked some of it up.
He went to Italy once, drove there, so I am sure he had a basic knowledge.
In a soviet propaganda book, it states he spoke 15 languages. The above is all I know of.
Trotsky also spoke multiple languages.
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FuroraCeltica
Triglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 5339 days ago

1187 posts - 1427 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, French

 
 Message 51 of 142
03 April 2007 at 5:04am | IP Logged 
I was in the gallery at the European Parliament a few days ago and I noticed Barroso gave a speech in Portuguese then suddenly switched to French in mid-speech. He has also given interviews in English. I also saw a German woman MEP (whose name escapes me) who gave a speech in English.

De Villepin is very good at English. During the build up to the Iraq war he sat at the UN meetings without a headset for translation on as the US/UK diplomats spoke in English.

I read that Stalin spoke Georgian as a youth, and didn't learn Russian until early adulthood. There is a story that as Stalin was sat in a meeting, Lavrenty Beria, his fellow Georgian and NKVD chief said something to him in Georgian to which he calmly replied in Russian "If you want to say something to me, say it in Russian".

The Iraqi information minister is bi-lingual at least, speaking superb English and Arabic. I remember he once argued that he spoke better English than Bush.

Pope John Paul II was a gifted linguist, as is Benedict XVI, who speaks German, Italian and English perfectly, and apparently can read Latin and Ancient Greek.

Edited by FuroraCeltica on 03 April 2007 at 5:19am

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Jerrod
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4977 days ago

168 posts - 176 votes 
Studies: Russian, Spanish

 
 Message 52 of 142
08 May 2007 at 12:37am | IP Logged 
Trotsky, Lenin's second in command, spoke French, German, Russian, and Spanish fluently. He did live in Odessa so I am assuming he spoke Ukrainian as well. I am reading a book about him, so I figured I would add this.
Jerrod
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ferdi
Tetraglot
Groupie
Netherlands
Joined 5549 days ago

41 posts - 41 votes
Speaks: Turkish, Dutch*, English, German

 
 Message 53 of 142
20 June 2007 at 7:12pm | IP Logged 
Jerrod wrote:
Trotsky, Lenin's second in command, spoke French, German, Russian, and Spanish fluently. He did live in Odessa so I am assuming he spoke Ukrainian as well. I am reading a book about him, so I figured I would add this.
Jerrod

trotsky also spoke english and hebrew
lenin only spoke German and russian fluently, he had a basic knowledge of french and english.
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vuisminebitz
Triglot
Groupie
United States
Joined 5048 days ago

86 posts - 108 votes 
Speaks: Yiddish, English*, Spanish
Studies: Swahili

 
 Message 54 of 142
28 June 2007 at 10:53pm | IP Logged 
According to Wikipedia in English John Paul 2 spoke 18 languages, they
list
many languages. I know for a fact that in addition to the languages
mentioned he spoke fluent Yiddish, I've heard recordings (he has a very
native sounding Southwestern Accent) and he lived in an area that was
entirely Jewish and Yiddish speaking until the Holocaust, so Yiddish was
almost
certainly the second language he learned. In fact the Pope,
remembered as a great
football player (real football for us Americans, he was a goalkeeper), he
actually started his career in the Jewish league because there weren't
enough Christians to field a team in his town for kids under about 12.
Among the languages
credited on Wikipedia
are Latin, Ukrainian, Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German,
English, Chinese, Japanese, Croatian, Arabic, Persian, Romanian, Turkish,
Korean and of course Polish. I can also attest that his Spanish and
English were both flawless. The Spanish Wikipedia credits him as well
with some Tagalog and Japanese, fluent Hungarian and Esperanto and
some fluency with "various African languages".

President Bush's Spanish skills are not perfect but they are quite passable,
I heard him ask a Mexican-American "who were the two sets of father and
son to be presidents?", I also saw a 2000 campaign message in good
Spanish as well.

Carter also spoke Spanish, how well I'm not sure.

Colin Powell speaks a good amount of Yiddish and I don't think any other
languages but English (only I'd know that one I guess, completly random
but relevant to the topic).

One president, I can't remember which one spoke some Chinese and
would communicate with his wife in it when he did not want to be
understood.

This Indian politican was very multilingual. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Narasimha_Rao

Although Paul Robeson wasn't a world leader he spoke many languages
as well, around 12 by some counts including Chinese, Russian, German,
Yiddish, and Spanish (those are the ones I've heard recordings of).

Garfield was an absolute genius mathematician (one of his proofs of the
pathogorean theorem is still
standard teaching in American geography) and apparently knew several
languages
and could translate texts into two languages simultanously using both
hands (ancient Latin and Ancient Greek were his favorite to do this with).

Jackson spoke some Muscogee (Creek) but how well is a matter of debate
as he used a translator while operating as a general in a war against the
people (genocide is a better word but I don't want this to become political
but calling the Creek war a war is a joke).
If I think of anyone else whose obvious I'll post it.

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vuisminebitz
Triglot
Groupie
United States
Joined 5048 days ago

86 posts - 108 votes 
Speaks: Yiddish, English*, Spanish
Studies: Swahili

 
 Message 55 of 142
28 June 2007 at 11:11pm | IP Logged 
OK, it was Hoover who spoke some Chinese though his wife was apparently
better, they would communicate in it to keep secrets.
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Marc Frisch
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 5139 days ago

1001 posts - 1169 votes 
Speaks: German*, French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Italian
Studies: Persian, Tamil

 
 Message 56 of 142
29 June 2007 at 4:38am | IP Logged 
vuisminebitz wrote:
According to Wikipedia in English John Paul 2 spoke 18 languages, they list many languages
[...]
Among the languages
credited on Wikipedia
are Latin, Ukrainian, Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, English, Chinese, Japanese, Croatian, Arabic, Persian, Romanian, Turkish, Korean and of course Polish. I can also attest that his Spanish and
English were both flawless. The Spanish Wikipedia credits him as well with some Tagalog and Japanese, fluent Hungarian and Esperanto and some fluency with "various African languages".


Well, don't trust Wikipedia! I'm sure he spoke Polish, Italian, Spanish, English, French, and German fluently (German with a rather heavy accent), probably Portuguese, some Russian, and read Latin, Ancient Greek, Hebrew. Maybe some more, but claims that he spoke Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese are ridiculous (okay, maybe he had some knowledge in one or two of them, but come on).

The 'Urbi et orbi' blessing is usually given in dozens of languages (he read them off, probably in phonetically transcribed form for most of the languages), so that might explain, why some people might give him credit for languages he didn't know.

EDIT: I checked Wikipedia and didn't find any reference to the languages you mentioned, probably the article has changed...

Edited by Marc Frisch on 29 June 2007 at 4:43am



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