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Does the word polyglot, meaning "knowing or using several languages" translate directly into German, or is there an idiomatic equivalent? Google Translate just adds an extra "t" at the end, as German doubles consonants.

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4 Answers 4

In addition to "sprachbegabt/vielsprachig" there is also "Sprachtalent" if you are looking for a noun equivalent, which may make for more straight-forward translations.

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In addition to looper's answer, you could also say vielsprachig.

This next part is only because you said idiomatic. If you change your thinking a bit, you could say, "he has a talent for languages."

  • Er ist sprachbegabt.
  • Er hat eine Begabung für Sprachen.

It would be implied, although not necessarily true (as looper pointed out in the comment below), that he can speak several languages.

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Regarding "Er ist sprachbegabt", I'm not sure that's correct. I've frequently been described as "sprachbegabt" by native speakers because my German accent is quite light (/brag), though German is my only foreign language as far as they know. –  AmericanUmlaut Feb 20 '13 at 12:21
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There's a difference between "vielsprachig" und "sprachbegabt". I'm not "sprachbegabt", but I speak a lot of languages (=>vielsprachig). However, a friend of mine speaks two languages (English and German), learned German in around a year (outside of Germany and without help) and can now follow every conversation. He may be "sprachbegabt", but actually he's not "vielsprachig", because he's just too lazy. –  looper Feb 20 '13 at 13:09
    
AmericanUmlaut - love that name. –  Moshe Feb 20 '13 at 14:14
    
You are correct, looper, sprachbegabt refers a "gift in languages". I will make my answer more specific to clarify this. However, I would still argue that if you speak many languages that you are sprachbegabt whether or not you wish to be. –  macmadness86 Feb 20 '13 at 14:37
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Wiktionary lists the following synonyms for polyglott:

  • multilingual
  • polylingual
  • mehrsprachig

Uni Leipzig lists:

  • mehrsprachig
  • vielsprachig
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Polyglott is correct, but it's not widely known. You could use that, but the word mehrsprachig (which is the same), is more common, so I'd recommend using that.

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