As one of history’s greatest mathematical minds, Albert Einstein is a name that’s known by people all over the world. That being said, maths and language skills are completely different ballgames!
For someone who spent their entire life in pursuit of knowledge, we might naturally assume that Albert Einstein could speak a whole host of different languages. Growing up in central Europe, it is normal for people to speak multiple languages.
So, what languages did Albert Einstein speak and how fluent was he? Let’s dive in and find out more!
How Many Languages Does Albert Einstein Speak?
Albert Einstein could speak four languages, with varying degrees of fluency. Given that he grew up in Germany, surrounded by countries all speaking other languages this isn’t particularly surprising.
Growing up in Germany, Albert Einstein would have learned several languages in school, especially languages that are spoken by neighboring countries. As he moved further into academia, he would’ve traveled and given talks in other countries, so his language skills would need to be up to standard.
What Languages Does Albert Einstein Speak?
The four languages that Albert Einstein could speak are German, English, Italian, and French. He was a native speaker of German, having grown up there to German parents.
The other languages he acquired through his schooling and traveling around different countries either for business or for pleasure throughout his life.
Can Albert Einstein Speak German?
Yes, Albert Einstein was a native German speaker. He was born and grew up in Ulm in Germany, so German is his first language. Albert Einstein has remarked in interviews that German is the only language that he truly feels comfortable speaking.
This isn’t surprising, and I think a lot of us would prefer to speak our native languages!
Can Albert Einstein Speak English?
Yes, Albert Einstein could speak English. There are numerous clips of Albert Einstein speaking English, but you might be surprised to learn that he didn’t actually start learning the language until he was 34.
When Albert Einstein was at school, English was not taught as standard in German schools, so he only started learning it in 1913 when he was deep in academia.
His English language learning experience improved in 1933 when he emigrated to the US due to the rise of Hitler and fascism in Germany. At 54, his language skills improved due to immersion and necessity.
Was Albert Einstein Fluent in English?
In later life, Albert Einstein was fairly fluent in English but did speak with a pretty heavy German accent. As Einstein only learned English in his mid-30s and only started speaking it regularly in his mid-50s, it’s highly impressive that he became fluent in the language.
There are plenty of clips and instances of Albert Einstein speaking English to reporters, in lecture halls, and at events over the years, and although his accent is strong, it’s clear that Albert Einstein was fluent in English.
This is likely due to his immersion in the language once he emigrated to the States in the 1930s. Immersion has long been reported to be the best way to learn a language.
Can Albert Einstein Speak Italian?
Yes, Albert Einstein could speak Italian. When he was a child, the Einstein family moved to Milan and Pavia for six months, so it’s likely that he picked up some of the languages while he was there.
It’s been recorded that Einstein also learned Italian in school which isn’t surprising considering the long border that Germany and Italy share.
The combination of living in Italy for six months as a child and learning the language in school means that Albert Einstein’s Italian skills were pretty good, even if he described them himself as “modest” in a letter to an Italian mathematician.
Can Albert Einstein Speak French?
Yes, Albert Einstein did speak French. When Einstein was growing up, French was a mandatory requirement in German schools, so he had lessons throughout his childhood.
With that being said, there is evidence saying that Einstein’s French grades were really poor, suggesting that he had only grasped the basics of the language, rather than being fluent.
Despite this, there are recordings of him giving a 90-minute lecture in French at a university in Palestine. Although he likely had time to prepare and practice this lecture, his command of pronunciation and flow in French much still be pretty good!
Can Albert Einstein Understand Latin?
Albert Einstein could understand some Latin, having studied it at school, but he wasn’t very good at it. Again, at the time when Albert Einstein was at school, learning Latin was compulsory.
As his grades have been released, we can see that his Latin skills, much like his French skills, weren’t very good, with low grades given across the board. That being said, as Latin is the root of a lot of different languages, these fundamentals may have given him a good base to improve his other language skills over the years.
Predominantly, Latin was taught to read and write, rather than in a more practical listening and speaking way, so Albert Einstein might have understood more Latin than he could actually speak. Of course, there is very little evidence of that, other than his grades from school!
Was Albert Einstein Good at Languages?
Despite speaking four languages, it has been reported that Albert Einstein wasn’t very good at learning languages. In fact, with the exception of physics and mathematics, all of Albert Einstein’s school grades were pretty awful. That should be reassuring for anyone who didn’t do fantastic at school!
Albert Einstein himself has said that he wasn’t very good at learning languages and in fact didn’t really care about learning them. This was definitely reflected in his school grades! When we’re not interested in a subject, we’re much less likely to invest effort.
Given that physics and maths were the only grades that Einstein scored highly in, it shows where his ultimate interests and skills were!
He also said that he only really learned English out of necessity, not particularly because he wanted to. This definitely tracks with a large proportion of academia publishing and presenting in English, as well as his emigration to the US in the 1930s.
Necessity is a major reason why a lot of people learn languages, whether it’s for school, relocation purposes, or if you’re traveling. If we know that we’re not going to be understood or will struggle to communicate, we know we at least need to learn a few words and phrases in order to get by, especially in case there’s an emergency that arises!
Where Can I Learn Languages Like Albert Einstein?
There are plenty of apps out there to help you learn languages on the go. Drops is a beautifully-design vocabulary building app that uses flashcards to help you improve your bank of words and phrases. You can easily download it and use it when you’re traveling to brush up on your skills before you arrive at your final destination.
If you want something more intensive, check out iTalki, a site, and app that connects native language tutors with learners all over the world. You simply pick your tutor and conduct one-to-one lessons over video chat. It’s a great way to learn languages in a practical way and get yourself to speak your target language as soon as possible!
Albert Einstein is a Linguistic Physicist!
All in all, Albert Einstein could speak four different languages with varying degrees of success. While he was fluent in both English and German, he could also get by in French and Italian thanks to his school studies and living abroad from time to time.
It’s also worth noting that Einstein wasn’t particularly good at learning languages, but he persevered out of necessity and became multi-lingual – something that’s massively important if you’re in academia and giving lectures all around the world!