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Before he became our 2nd president, john Adams was sent to Paris twice for extended periods come negotiate through France. When he to be serving there, he learned to speak French fluently.

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Thomas Jefferson was fluent in Spanish and could speak part French. Man Quincy Adams created in his diary that Jefferson told him he had learned Spanish in 19 job while crossing the Atlantic, v the aid of a copy that Don Quixote.

Quincy Adams likewise notes that Jefferson had actually a propensity to call “large stories” (i.e. Exaggerate).


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While his speaking abilities no evidenced, James Madison was stated to be rather proficient in composed Greek and also Latin in ~ a young age. Madison likewise studied Hebrew if attending Princeton University.


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Prior to coming to be the 5th U.S. President, James Monroe was a minister to France and also facilitated the Louisiana Purchase. Monroe and also his family members spoke French fluently.


While his father, the previously mentioned John Adams, was serving in Paris, man Quincy Adams add him and attended schools in Europe. That quickly became fluent in French, Dutch, and also German.

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Martin van Buren was born in Kinderhook, new York, a city of netherlands settlers. Dutch to be his first language, and he learned English together his second in school.

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Teddy Roosevelt can read in French, German, Italian, and also Latin, and also kept his library stocked with books in every one of those languages. He was additionally able come speak conversational French and German, though speaking them didn’t come easily to him, and also his Secretary that State man Hayonce claimed Roosevelt’s French was “lawless as to grammar” yet not difficult to understand.

Republican Presidential candidate Herbert Hoover is pictured in ~ his desk in his Washington headquarters, 1928 AP

Hoover’s wife, Lou, was his language-learning companion. Together they translated a 16th-century record from Latin come English over the food of number of years. They likewise learned Mandarin Chinese and also would speak it once they didn’t want staff members to eavesdrop on their conversations.

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FDR learned French and German indigenous a young age. Governesses from France and Germany taught him their corresponding languages, together did his Swiss governess. Additionally, Roosevelt’s household traveled to Germany for 5 consecutive summers to acquire treatment for his father’s sick heart. FDR attended institution there because that a while, wherein he continued to improve his language skills.

AP/Mark Humphrey

Though his grammar was far from perfect, Jimmy Carter was reasonably proficient in the Spanish language. He studied Spanish when he attend the United says Naval Academy. Carter ongoing to practice the language on Christian mission trips later in life, and likewise as president as soon as he made speeches in Spanish ~ above various nation visits. Carter said Spain was his favourite vacation spot, and he exercised his Spanish if there v his family.

invoice Clinton speak to the DNC. Alex Wong/Getty images

Bill Clinton learned German during his college job at Georgetown University. He became proficient in the language, and also spoke a tiny German in a decided at the Brandenburg door in 1994.

Barack Obama. AP

Although it seems like the basic trend the language proficiency among American presidents has decreased over the years, we would certainly be remiss not to provide honorable mentions to two of our 21st-century leaders:

George W. Bush (2001-2009) had some straightforward knowledge the Spanish indigenous his many years life in Texas, and he even sprinkled it right into a couple of of his speeches.

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Barack Obama (2009-2017) resided in Indonesia with his mother and also stepfather from period six to ten and also attended school there. He occurred a simple understanding of the Indonesian language and spoke a little bit in this speech.

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