Novak Djokovic is known for his hilarious impersonations of other tennis professionals, his hard work and dedication to the sport, and his amazing dexterity and skill on the court. But is this tennis star also talented with languages?
Novak Djokovic is fluent in his native language, Serbian, fluent or nearly fluent in English, German, French, and Italian. Djokovic also knows some phrases in Arabic, Japanese, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Portuguese.
Read more below to find out about Djokovic’s love of languages, the relationship between tennis and multilingualism, and other top tennis players who have an aptitude for learning different languages.
Djokovic the Polyglot
Djokovic is amazing at picking up languages, having eleven and maybe more in which he’s either fluent, a conversational speaker, or a beginner while knowing some phrases. Even though the tennis star never went to college, he discovered his love for learning and speaking different languages early on.
In a 2012 interview, Djokovic talked about how he didn’t have a normal high school or college experience. “I didn’t go to school every day. The high school, I had to come back and do the exams two, three times a year.”
There was no break between high school and becoming a professional player for him. At fourteen, he became an international player, winning various European titles, and then at sixteen, he went pro.
Djokovic said that he was “good enough” in school and that his aptitude for languages was natural to him. “I don’t think you can really learn that. You just have it in you. Both of my brothers speak a few languages. It’s something that I guess we have in the family,” he said.
And it looks like Djokovic has passed it on to his son, Stefan. In this Twitter post, Djokovic fans talk about how Stefan, born in 2015, already likes learning different languages.
Check out the YouTube video below to see Djokovic speak in all eleven languages that he knows.
The Internationality of Tennis
In the Historical Dictionary of Tennis, author John Grasso talks about the way in which tennis is so international, causing players to move and live around the world, it results in most tennis stars learning multiple languages.
“One interesting aspect of the international quality of the sport is the fact that most of its top players are bilingual as a minimum and often multilingual. Serbian Novak Djokovic, for example, upon winning a tournament in Italy, addressed the crowd in fluent Italian and then switched to near-perfect English for a television interview,” Grasso writes.
So who are some other tennis players with an ear for languages?
Stan Wawrinka, like Djokovic, is fluent or near-fluent in five languages, though Wawrinka’s are French, Italian, Czech, English, and German. While Wawrinka is currently ranked seventeenth in men’s singles tennis, his highest career ranking was third overall back in 2014.
Winner of 20 Grand slam singles titles, which is the most in history for a male player, and former longtime number one ranked player, Roger Federer knows his fair share of languages as well. Federer is fluent in Swiss-German, Standard German, French, and English, and he also knows some Italian and Swedish.
The former number one ranked player and the only Belarusian player to ever win a Grand Slam singles title, Victoria Azarenka is fluent in Belarussian, English, and Russian.
Rafael Nadal, currently ranked number two in men’s singles tennis and a former number one ranked player, is another language learner, knowing Spanish, Mallorcan, and some English.