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How many languages can you speak?

Did you know two-thirds of the world’s children are raised as bilingual speakers? Or that 832 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea?

This week, 14-year-old Bruce Baillie-Hamilton from Fife, who speaks seven languages fluently, was named Britain’s most multilingual teenager. He says he chose to learn “difficult” languages such as Russian and Mandarin, as he wanted a new challenge.

It’s certainly an impressive feat. But in many parts of the world, speaking multiple languages is the rule, not the exception. If you grow up in a country such as India, which has 15 official languages, getting by in just one is pretty hard. And not surprisingly, multilingual translators are much in demand!

According to Worldwatch Institute, around 66 per cent of the world population are bilingual, compared to fewer than 5 per cent in the UK. Of course, many more people learn a second language, either as children or adults.

We asked Lingo24’s founder Christian Arno: “How many languages can you speak?” Surprisingly, he found it quite a difficult question to answer!

Whether it’s vague memories of classroom French, or Spanish picked up on the Costa Brava, few of us are totally monolingual.

Many people also use different languages in different situations. A British child with Polish-speaking parents might use the language at home, but feel more comfortable writing in English.  Speakers of different Indian languages might use Hindi to make themselves understood. And many people speak “business French” or “holiday Italian”!

Of course, getting by in a foreign language isn’t enough to make you a translator! In fact, fluency in another language is just one of the skills a professional multilingual translator needs. You also need a knowledge of the country’s culture, understanding of the linguistic structure of all your languages,  and excellent writing skills in your native tongue. It also helps to have specialist knowledge of subjects such as law, marketing or technology.

Here at Lingo24, all our multilingual translators work into their native tongue and are fluent in one or more languages. We think we have most widely-spoken languages covered – from Azerbaijani to Zulu.  Do drop by to find out more, or tell us how many languages you can speak!

Hazel Mollison

Hazel Mollison edits and writes for the Lingo24 blog. After studying Italian and German at Cambridge University, she worked as a journalist for five years with regional and national newspapers. She enjoys writing about languages, translation, online marketing, and helping small businesses explore new opportunities.

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