What Languages Did Robert E. Lee Speak?

JeffBrooks

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#1
I assume he spoke Spanish reasonably well, since he often is reported questioning Mexican civilians during his reconnaissance missions in the Mexican War. I have read that Lee could read Latin, even if he did not have a taste for the Roman classics. Given his West Point education, I assume he could read and speak French, as that was part of the curriculum of the time.

So. . . Spanish, Latin and French?
 

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#3
So. . . Spanish, Latin and French?
I don't know how much Spanish he could speak, but I doubt if it was much given the time he was in Mexico. As for Latin and Greek in preparatory schools and French at West Point, the focus was on comprehension, not speaking. At WP there was not enough time for cadets to become fluent in the language. The men would have to have had more practice outside of the Academy.
 

WJC

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#4
As a boy, Lee read classics in both Greek and Latin. I don't recall any mention of Lee's fluency in any other foreign language than French. At graduation from West Point, he scored 98.5/100 in French.
<Douglas S. Freeman, R. E. Lee, a Biography. (New York: Charles Scribner & Sons, 1934), Vol. 1. pp. 36, 82.>
 
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#11
French at the time was an international language, much as Latin had been in the past or English is today.
This. We live in a world where an educated person can reasonably get by with English only. This is a new phenomena. During Lee’s time, French and Spanish were at least as common as English on the world stage. Educated people would have received instruction in both Latin and Greek in order to read the classics. French was the language of military studies and affairs.

Lee served as an officer and a scout in Mexico then was stationed for a time in Texas. Spanish has always been a common language in Texas. It’s reasonable to assume he had at least a working conversational understanding of Spanish.

I would think Lee could read and write English and French along with some Latin and Greek (the latter two not in much use since his school days), and speak English, French, and some Spanish.
 



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