Norwegian, French, English, Spanish Italian and Maltese – Why Americans are impressed with Buttigieg’s skill in languages.
Apart from English and Maltese. Buttigieg speaks Norwegian, French, Spanish and Italian.
The BBC reports that when the story of Mr Buttigieg’s language ability appeared on Twitter, people across the political spectrum were impressed.
“It’s an extraordinary story about intellectual curiosity,” says Tom Nichols, the author of The Death of Expertise. “And it’s such a contrast to the current occupant in the White House.”
Mr Nichols – and Trump supporters too – agreed that a Norwegian-speaking presidential candidate was an anomaly on the campaign trail.
“The fact that he learned Norwegian so he could read Norwegian makes me want to know more about him,” says Michael Caputo, a former adviser to Trump.
Mr Buttigieg’s mother, Anne Montgomery, is a linguist, and he grew up with languages.
The report adds that the fascination that Republicans and Democrats alike have shown in Mr Buttigieg’s skill as a language learner is part of a larger cultural story. In many ways the US is an insular society, and people there are less likely to study foreign languages than those who live in other parts of the world.
During this campaign season, other Democratic candidates have embraced the Spanish language and used their ability to speak the language to appeal to a broader swathe of voters.
Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke of Texas has launched Spanish campaign adverts. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey has done the same.
George W Bush also speaks passable Spanish (his brother Jeb is even better), but he is an outlier among presidents.
Few in the modern era have spoken a second language – Trump and Barack Obama, for example, are fluent only in English.
In the US, linguistic ability does not always work in a candidate’s favour.
For presidential candidates, everything is political, including the languages they speak, and on the campaign trail their use of language is seen through a partisan lens. In the past, a candidate’s facility for language has at times been cast in a negative light.