Famous Linguists

We’re currently on the hunt for community interpreters here at Vandu and history is littered with famous figures interested in linguistics. In this blog, we’ll name a few that we wouldn’t mind taking on at Vandu.


Sir Richard Burton

Richard Francis Burton was a famous English explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. Born in 1821, he would go on to become one of the most well studied linguists in history, and according to some accounts could speak 29 different languages from Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as having a deep knowledge of the cultures around these languages. Burton was very eccentric by Victorian-era standards and defied many cultural taboos, such as criticising British colonial policies, and inter-racial relations. However, in 1886 he was recognised with a knighthood for his contributions to British society, before passing away four years later.


Queen Elizabeth I

Born in 1533, daughter of King Henry VIII of England and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s 44-year reign as Queen was considered a stable and prosperous time and the arts, particularly English drama, flourished during her era thanks to the likes of Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. Elizabeth had several teachers during her youth, receiving an education fit for a princess and resulting in Elizabeth being able to speak Greek, Italian, French, Flemish, and later would learn Welsh and Cornish. Being the Queen of England would require a knowledge of languages and foreign cultures, and according to historians, a Venetian ambassador remarked that Elizabeth “possessed languages so thoroughly that each appeared to be her native tongue". Elizabeth passed away at the age of 70 in 1603.


Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman is a half-American, half-Israeli born in 1981. Though she has won an Oscar for best actress in the film Black Swan, Portman has always placed education and languages over her acting career stating that she would “rather be smart, than be a movie star”. Portman took time out of her acting to earn a degree at Harvard and attend the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Along with Hebrew, Portman can speak French, Japanese, German and Arabic, and has professed her interest in languages since her youth.


José Mourinho

Currently the boss at Manchester United F.C, Mourinho is amongst the best football managers in Europe, and some would argue he already has made his place in managerial history. Football is perhaps the most international game in the world, and being a top manager in the English Premier League requires a grasp of different languages and an understanding of different cultures. Born in Portugal in 1963, Mourinho has gone on to win trophies in Portugal, England, Spain and Italy, and can speak their respective languages -including Catalan- as well as French (maybe in case PSG come calling?)