Which U.S. President Spoke English as his Second Language?
By: Ricky vela
In this article, we will discuss which u.s. President Spoke English as his Second Language?
The US is the superpower of the world and English is the lingua franca. Therefore, nobody can accept any president of the US who cannot speak English. But to your surprise, there is one president that mastered another language before gaining proficiency in the English language.
Let’s find Out which US President Spoke English as his Second Language.
Table of Content
- 1. Martin Van Buren
- 2. John Adams
- 3. Thomas Jefferson
- 4. James Madison
- 5. James Monroe
- 6. John Quincy Adams
- 7. William Henry Harrison
- 8. John Tyler
- 9. James K. Polk
- 10. James Buchanan
- 11. Rutherford B. Hayes
- 12. James A. Garfield
- 13. Chester A. Arthur
- 14. Theodore Roosevelt
- 15. Woodrow Wilson
- 16. Herbert Hoover
- 17. Franklin D. Roosevelt
- 18. Jimmy Carter
- 19. Bill Clinton
- 20. George W. Bush
- 21. Barack Obama
- 22. Donald Trump
- 23. Joe Biden
1. Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren is the president that had learned English as his second language. Although Martin Van Buren was brought up in Kinderhook New York his parents were Dutch.
As his parents were Dutch, it can be the first reason that he learned Dutch. Moreover, he spends his childhood in the Dutch community.
Thus, he learned to speak Dutch before English. He is the only US president in history that learned English as a second language.
Martin Van Buren is the eighth president of the USA. He was born in 1782. He spoke Dutch at home and learned English as a second language. He was married in 1807 and he had five sons.
Her wife passed away in 1819. After that Martin did not marry again. He worked as a lawyer and then moved into politics. Before becoming the president, he worked as a U.S. Senator,
Secretary of State, and Governor of New York. Martin became president in 1837 and served the U.S till 1841. Not only did Martin Van Buren speak two languages.
There are 20 other presidents out of 46 that spoke more than two languages. Let’s have a glance at them.
2. John Adams
In the Eighteenth-century John Adams is the second president of the United States. He had learned Latin at a very tender age. He just attended school to improve his Latin proficiency.
The other language that John Adams learn was French. He learned this language during the revolutionary war.
3. Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson is the third president of the US. He was famous for speaking and reading multiple languages. He learned three languages during various traveling ventures in 1788.
These languages are Italian, Latin, and French. In 1817, he also learned to speak and read Spanish and Greek. Amazing thing is that he also learned to write Anglo-Saxon language.
In addition to it, he also learned the German language. After his death, people know that he has also learned many other languages like Arabic, Irish, and Welsh.
A library was made in his name Jefferson’s library which is full of books, dictionaries, and manuals of different languages that he learned during his life.
Jefferson learned the Spanish language during his visit from the United States to France in nineteen days.
In his learning venture, he took a copy of Don Quixote and Spanish grammar from his friend and read them on his journey.
4. James Madison
James Madison was the 4th president of the United States from 1807 to 1817. He began his studies in Latin when he was only twelve. Moreover, he learned Greek, Latin, and French when he joined the College of New Jersey.
The amazing part was, that he had done many translations of Latin lectures of Vattel, Pufendorf, and Grotius. He also learned the Greek language for getting admission to higher college.
In college, Madison read to learn and speak Hebrew. Even after his graduation, he stayed in the college for an extra year to study the Hebrew language in detail.
5. James Monroe
James Monroe is the 5th president of the United States from 1817 to 1825. He also served as governor of Virginia and ambassador to France and Britain.
He learned French and adopted many French customs during his stay in France.
His entire family knew the French language and they spoke it with each other while staying at home.
6. John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States. He attended school both in France and Netherland and learned French and Dutch fluently. John Quincy tried to improve their proficiency in the Dutch language throughout his life.
For this reason, he also translated some Dutch papers. The official documents that they translated were sent to the secretary of state of the United States so that they can be used properly. The father of John Quincy was appointed as an ambassador of Prussia.
In this state, Adams worked hard to increase proficiency in the German language so that the relationship between the two countries could get better. He also translated some articles from German to English making his political efforts successful.
Apart from these two languages, he also learned Italian and Russian. However, he didn’t achieve any fluency in them. In addition to it, Adams also read Latin. He translated Latin texts and also used to study classical Greek in his free time.
7. William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison was the ninth president of the USA. He joined Hampden-Sydney College and spend time learning the Latin language.
He loved reading books about ancient Rome's military history and the character of Julius Caesar. He also learned French.
8. John Tyler
John Tyler was the tenth president of the US. He was a brilliant student at school and learned Greek and Latin language.
9. James K. Polk
He was the eleventh president of the US. However, James K. Polk had no background in linguistics but when he entered the university, he learned the languages very quickly.
When he graduated from the University of North Carolina, he gave a welcoming speech in the Latin language.
He was very proficient in classical languages ad received an honors degree in Latin and Greek.
10. James Buchanan
James Buchanan was the fifteenth president of the US. He studied a traditional classical language that also includes Latin and Greek. In private old Stone Academy.
Before going to another Dickinson college, he was proficient in both languages.
11. Rutherford B. Hayes
Rutherford B. Hayes was the nineteenth president of the US. At Isaac Webb's school in Middletown, Connecticut, he studied Latin and Greek. He also learned French.
He works hard on the language and became proficient in them.
12. James A. Garfield
James A Garfield was the twentieth president of the US. He was proficient in Greek and Latin language. Moreover, he was the first president that campaigned in two languages that are English and German.
The most amazing thing about this president is that he was ambidextrous. Ambidextrous is a person that can use both his right and left hand together.
Garfield used to entertain his friends by telling them stories while writing in Latin language and answering their questions in another language in Greek.
The astonishing thing is that all this is not documented in history.
13. Chester A. Arthur
Chester Alan Arthur was the twentieth president of the US. He knew both these languages, Latin and Greek and he was able to converse with the people that knew these languages.
14. Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president of the US. He spoke the German language with a French accent. He was proficient in both French and German language and he had a large collection of books in his library.
He read books related to philosophy, history, and religion in both German and French language. He was more proficient in French. Therefore, he made two speeches in the French language in West Indies in 1916.
Roosevelt also learned the Italian language. At one point in his life, he considered Greek and Latin laborious work to translate.
15. Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson was the 26th president of the United States of America. He did his Ph.D. in history and political science at Johns Hopkins University and there he learned the German language.
He read German resources when they were available and often complained about the extra efforts that he had to put into the German language.
16. Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover was America's 31st President. He and his life Lou Hoover sacrificed five years of their life in translating the Latin mining tract De re Metallica.
During Hoover,s stay at Stanford University, he used to access the John Casper Branner. He also found a large variety of mining books which he translated into the English language.
Hoover also used to speak Mandarin Chinese. He learned that language in China. According to him, he never learned more than a hundred words of this language.
The couple spoke the Chinese language when they wanted to keep their conversation private from the press.
17. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the US. He was raised speaking two languages German and French. This was because his early coach was from Europe which helped him learn the language in his teens.
His coaches were both from Germany and France. Roosevelt spends one of their summers in Germany which allowed him to master both languages.
However, he spoke both of these languages in New England Accent. He also learned Latin from his coaches. He gave a bilingual speech in French and English in 1936 when he visited Quebec City.
18. Jimmy Carter
James Earl Carter was the 39th president of the US. He was proficient in the Spanish language. However, he was not perfect in grammar. He studied the language at the United States Naval Academy and continued his studies at United States Navy.
He spoke Spanish at television advertisement campaigns in 1976 in his native South Georgia accent. Carter had given many Spanish speeches and also spoke to its voters in Spanish.
To gain proficiency in Spanish, he and his wife read Bible in that language.
19. Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton was the 49th president of the USA. At Georgetown University, Bill Clinton had to select a foreign language. He selected the German language because of its precision and clarity.
He can talk casually in the German language. He also gave Speeches to 50,000 Germans.
20. George W. Bush
George W. Bush was the 43rd president of the USA. George W. Bush speaks Spanish. Therefore, he delivered many speeches in this language. His speeches contain many Englishers scattered throughout. People witnessed his proficiency in the language during his presidential campaign in 2000.
Some people say that he is fluent in the language while some are of the view that he has conversational proficiency rather than an entire hold on the language.
21. Barack Obama
Barack Obama was the 44th president of the US. From the age of six to ten, he lived in Jakarta, Indonesia, and learned the local Indonesian languages. He was known for exchanging pleasantries and greetings in the fluent Indonesian language.
During his interview at the white house, he revealed that although he is fluent in the Indonesian language he cannot take leverage from it as an adult. During his 2008, presidential campaign, when he was promoting education in multilanguage.
He said that he doesn’t speak a foreign language and this thing is embarrassing for him.
22. Donald Trump
Donald Trump was the 45th president of the US. Donald is one of the presidents that cannot write or read any language other than English.
23. Joe Biden
Joe Biden was the 46th and current president of the United States. Joe Biden cannot speak and write any language other than English. Although, he studied the French language for five years.
However, it cannot speak the French language fluently.
It is always beneficial for the president of the USA to have proficiency in one or two languages. This is because as a superpower of the world, the speeches of the US president hold great significance in the political and economic situations of the world. If the speech of the US president is not in the language that the politicians of your country understand then they take services of professional translation services.