Language and Culture

Xander Bogaerts Speaks Four Languages

A minor league player before playing for the Red Sox, Xander Bogaerts speaks four languages. (“Xander Bogaerts on March 2, 2013.jpg” by Trevor Grieve is licensed under CC BY 3.0.)

Did you know that Xander Bogaerts speaks four languages?

A native of Aruba, the 21-year-old ballplayer speaks Dutch, English, Spanish, and Papiamento.

While his language skills are uncommon, he’s probably better known for his athletic prowess. He plays third base and shortstop for the Boston Red Sox.

Bogaerts is also the youngest player to start in a postseason game for the Sox. (The next youngest? Some guy by the name of Babe Ruth.)

It’s no longer surprising to see a ballplayer speak two languages (English and Spanish).

In fact,  according to a 2011 ESPN article, 27% of players in the Major Leagues are Hispanic. (I’m guessing that number has since gone up a bit.) But four languages?

Xander Bogaerts speaks four languages because he grew up in Aruba. Several languages are spoken on the island.


Lying just off the northern coast of South America, the island of Aruba is part of the Dutch Antilles. (Today it is one of the four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.) For a long time, Dutch was the only official language in Aruba. Still, only about 5,000 people there speak it today.


Papiamento, designated an official language in 2003, is Aruba’s main language. In fact, according to Ethnologue, half of the island’s 100,000 inhabitants use it. So it’s no big surprise that Bogaerts speaks Papiamento.


Tourism is one of the main industries in Aruba, so speaking English has become common there.


Spaniards colonized Aruba in the 16th century. So how good is Bogaerts’s Spanish? Apparently he has interpreted for some of the native Spanish speakers in the big leagues.

Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. (“Fenway Park 2009.jpg” by Werner Kunz is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.)

Xander Bogaerts Speaks Four Languages, You Say?

Your friends might know traditional baseball stats. But just think of the bar bets that you can win with your knowledge of obscure baseball facts!

You can say, “Well, I don’t know the guy’s batting average, but I know that Xander Bogaerts speaks four languages. And I can name all of them.”

“Aruba.” Wikipedia. Accessed October 18, 2013.
“Is Major League Baseball Too Hispanic?” ESPN. October 4, 2011.
“Aruba.” Ethnologue.
“Bogaerts Youngest Red Sox to Start in Postseason” (Sports Illustrated). October 18, 2013.


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