Polyglot Presidents
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John Adams, the second president of the United States, learned to read Latin at a young age. Later in his life, he became fluent in French.


John Adams, the second
president of the United States, learned to read Latin at a young age. Later in his life, he became fluent in French.
The principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson was fluent in multiple languages including Latin, Italian, French, Spanish and Greek.
The principal author of the Declaration of Independence
and the third president of the United States of America,
Thomas Jefferson was fluent
in multiple languages including Latin, Italian, French, Spanish
and Greek.
'America’s fourth president studied Latin before he turned 13. He also mastered Greek and remained in college an additional year to study ethics and Hebrew.


America’s fourth president studied Latin before he turned 13. He also mastered Greek and remained in college an additional year to study ethics and Hebrew.
The fifth President of the United States, James Monroe adopted many French customs while a diplomat in Paris, including learning fluent French. The entire Monroe family knew the language and often spoke it with one another at home..

The fifth President of the
United States, James Monroe adopted many French customs while a diplomat in Paris, including learning fluent French. The entire Monroe family knew the language and often spoke it with one another at home.
During his early years overseas, the 6th President of the United States became fluent in French and Dutch, and familiar with German. Mainly through the influence of his father, he also excelled in classical studies and reached high fluency of Latin and Greek.
During his early years
overseas, the 6th President
of the United States became
fluent in French and Dutch, and familiar with German. Mainly through the influence of his father, he also excelled in classical studies and reached high fluency of Latin and Greek.







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Martin Van Buren is the only U.S. president who did not speak English as his first language. His native language is Dutch. Besides learning English, he also studied Latin.

Martin Van Buren is the only
U.S. president who did not
speak English as his first language. His native language
is Dutch. Besides learning
English, he also studied Latin.
William Henry Harrison spent a considerable time learning Latin to aid in his study of military history. He also learned a small amount of French.


William Henry Harrison spent
a considerable time learning
Latin to aid in his study of
military history. He also learned
a small amount of French.
John Tyler excelled at school, where he learned both Latin and Greek.



John Tyler excelled at
school, where he learned
both Latin and Greek.
James K. Polk had no background in foreign languages upon entering college, but became proficient in classical languages and received honors in both Greek and Latin. The fact that President Polk had no proficiency in foreign languages upon entering college, but gave the welcoming address at graduation in Latin should encourage any student who believes he or she can’t learn a foreign language.


James K. Polk had no background in foreign languages upon entering college, but became proficient in classical languages and received honors in both Greek and Latin.
James Buchanan studied a traditional classical curriculum, which included Latin and Greek.



James Buchanan studied a traditional classical curriculum, which included Latin and Greek.
Initially Rutherford B. Hayes struggled with languages, but soon became proficient in Latin and Greek. He also briefly studied French.


Initially Rutherford B. Hayes struggled with languages, but
soon became proficient in Latin and Greek. He also briefly
studied French.
James A. Garfield excelled in the classics and actually taught both Latin and Greek. Garfield was the first president to campaign in multiple languages and often spoke German with German-Americans.

James A. Garfield excelled
in the classics and actually
taught both Latin and Greek. Garfield was the first president
to campaign in multiple languages and often spoke German with German-Americans.
Chester A. Arthur was known to be comfortable enough in Latin and Greek to converse with other men who knew the languages.


Chester A. Arthur was known to
be comfortable enough in Latin and Greek to converse with other men who knew the languages.
Theodore Roosevelt was adept at reading German and French. He often read books in both languages. He taught songs in Dutch to his children and grandchildren and could read Italian. He studied Greek and Latin as well, but called them “dreary.”
Theodore Roosevelt was adept
at reading German and French.
He often read books in both languages. He taught songs
in Dutch to his children and grandchildren and could read Italian. He studied Greek and Latin as well, but called them “dreary.”
Woodrow Wilson learned German as part of earning his Ph.D. in history and political science from Johns Hopkins University.


Woodrow Wilson learned German as part of earning his Ph.D. in history and political science from Johns Hopkins University.
President Herbert Hoover learned Chinese while he was working in China. Hoover’s wife, Lou Henry Hoover, is the only First Lady of the United States to have spoken an Asian language. Her background is varied and inspiring.

President Herbert Hoover
learned Chinese while he was working in China. Hoover’s wife, Lou Henry Hoover, is the only First Lady of the United States to have spoken an Asian language. Her background is varied and inspiring.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was raised speaking German and French. Though he never had a mastery of the language, he also learned a limited amount of Latin.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt was raised speaking German and French. Though he never had a mastery of the language, he also learned a limited amount of Latin.
Jimmy Carter occasionally spoke Spanish in his 1976 campaign ads and in a number of addresses as president. Carter and his wife Rosalynn would practice the language by reading the Bible in Spanish.

Jimmy Carter occasionally
spoke Spanish in his 1976 campaign ads and in a number
of addresses as president. Carter and his wife Rosalynn would practice the language by reading the Bible in Spanish.
Bill Clinton studied German in college because he was “impressed by the clarity and precision of the language.” During his presidency, Clinton gave a speech at the Brandenburg Gate, pledging to the 50,000 Germans gathered there that “Amerika steht an Ihrer Seite jetzt und für immer” (America stands on your side, now and forever.)

During his presidency, Bill Clinton gave a speech at the Brandenburg Gate, pledging to the 50,000 Germans gathered there that “Amerika steht an Ihrer Seite jetzt und für immer” (America stands on your side, now and forever.)
George W. Bush was the first president to deliver the Weekly Radio Address of the President of the United States in both English and Spanish.


George W. Bush was the first president to deliver the Weekly Radio Address of the President
of the United States in both English and Spanish.
Barack Obama has a basic understanding of Indonesian from having lived in Indonesia as a child. He has demonstrated his facility with the language in both interviews and speeches—notably the 2011 address he gave to the University of Indonesia.
Barack Obama has a basic understanding of Indonesian from having lived in Indonesia as a child. He has demonstrated his facility with the language in both interviews and speeches—notably the 2011 address he gave to the University of Indonesia.