Scarlett is twelve years old and is trying to understand the world around her. She asks questions about everything, all the time. She also says that she already knows five languages …

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Here's Scarlett, in the garden of a friend's house in London on a sunny summer morning, the kind of mornings that are unusual in England. Scarlett is twelve years old ('Thirteen in November,' she tells me), and is trying to understand the world around her. She asks questions about everything, all the time.

I tell her that I want to ask her a question, and I ask her why she's called Scarlett, and what the name means, and if it comes from anywhere in particular, and she says: 'No, it's just a stupid name my parents chose because they liked it. It doesn't mean anything.'

I wonder if her parents named her after the heroine of a favourite film, perhaps, but then again, I know her dad and this sounds unlikely. I think they probably chose it just because they liked the sound of it.

Scarlett is worried about changing school after the summer. She worries that she's too short for her age and that the other children at the school will make fun of her. She shows me some pictures of the school she is at now and her classmates. I look at the picture and it shows children of all heights and shapes and sizes. Some are tall, some are short, some are fat and some are thin. Some are black and some are white, and most of them are somewhere in between. Some have red hair and some have blond hair, some have long hair and some have short hair.

I tell her not to worry about the new school, tell her that she'll be OK, and ask her about the new subjects she'll be studying. She tells me that she's worried about learning French, and I tell her not to worry, that it isn't a very difficult language. She tells me that she already knows five languages.

'Five languages!' I shout. 'That's impossible! How do you already know five languages?'

'Because I've got five languages in my body,' she says.

I ask her what she means, and she starts to tell me the story of her family. Some of the story I already know. I've already heard stories about her grandfather. He was from Scotland; he was a sailor, but not a very good sailor, so he only got as far as Portsmouth, a big navy town on the south coast of England, not very far from Scotland at all. When he got to Portsmouth, he stopped there, left the navy and became a boxer. He lost fights and drank a lot. However, he still managed to see the world by meeting a woman who came from Laos. Nobody really knows how this woman had ended up in Portsmouth, but she still lives there, and I tell Scarlett that she should try and find out her grandmother's story.

'No, she's too old now,' says Scarlett, 'and anyway, she's lived in Portsmouth nearly all her life.'

Scarlett's grandparents were only together long enough to produce a son – probably one of the only Scottish-Laotians in the world. They called him Bill, which is usually short for 'William', but his name was just 'Bill'. Bill inherited his father's personality and his mother's looks, so the only thing he thought he could do was become a rock star. He never really managed to become a rock star, though, so now he works as a graphic designer.

I don't know Scarlett's mum, so I ask her to tell me about her mum.

'My mum's Polish,' she says. 'Well, not really, because she was born in Brighton, but her mum and dad are from Poland. But they've lived there, like, for always. But I know that her mum was from somewhere that was Germany and then became Poland, so she's really German, I suppose. So that's another language that I've got in my body.'

I ask Scarlett if she can actually speak all the languages that she says she has 'in her body', and she looks at me like I'm stupid.

'Of course not!' she says. 'But I've still got them in me!'

We count up her 'languages': Scottish, Laotian, German, Polish.

'That's only four!' I tell her.

'No, there's English too!'

'Of course there is,' I say. And then I look at Scottish–Laotian–German–Polish–English Scarlett, with her name that comes from nowhere, and I ask her: 'And you, Scarlett, where are you from?'

She thinks for a long time – such a long time that I think perhaps she hasn't heard my question. But then, before I can repeat it, she looks up and at me.

'I'm from here,' she says. 'I'm from London.'

Chris Rose

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Submitted by vishnu_saddikuti on Fri, 05/11/2021 - 06:51


How can we infer that Scarlett's age is important to her?

Hello vishnu_saddikuti,

We can infer it from the comment near the beginning of the article:

"Scarlett is twelve years old ('Thirteen in November,' she tells me)"

Scarlett knows not only how old she is but also wants to tell us without being asked when she will be thirteen.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khin Yee Mon Khaing on Sat, 07/08/2021 - 05:58

No, I don't know anyone like Scarlett. My body speaks only the myanmar language. Although my father is Shan nation, I can't speak the shan language.

Submitted by ilayda muduroglu on Sun, 14/02/2021 - 17:56

Even if we have many languages of our origin,I don't think this is enough for us.The important thing is to be able to speak those languages.

Submitted by EdaMüdüroğlu on Sun, 14/02/2021 - 17:56

If we have more than one language in our body, we have to find our own identity. Because one must know herself.

Submitted by Umam on Wed, 10/02/2021 - 16:47

I've two languages in but I could speak only one which is my father's language

Submitted by cookym on Thu, 24/12/2020 - 20:35

I suppose that I don't know anybody like Scarlett. This feature isn't wide-spread among my relatives and friends..Personally, I have three languages in my body, but I can speak very well only one, the second language I can only understand and speak a bit. Unfortunately, I don't know anything the third language.In the future I want to learn Spanish and Korean(not except improving English), because these languages sound really cool.

Submitted by Madhushree on Tue, 22/12/2020 - 17:26

I never see in my life like scarett. When I was reading this it's getting curious but at the nothing good

Submitted by Thinthinmyoe on Fri, 18/12/2020 - 14:24

I have never meet anyone like Scarlett. I think we must touch and practise languages as much as possible to be proficient in them.

Submitted by BlaiChan on Sat, 05/12/2020 - 14:51

I guess it's hard to find someone like Scarlett. It's kind of complicated descent. My body speaks only one. It's 'MON' which is one the main ethnic groups in Myanmar. As far as I know the whole generation is descended from MON.

Submitted by danisep on Wed, 11/11/2020 - 01:13

I don't know a lot of about my heritage, I asked to my parents and they don't know where his parents came from so I don't care really, and about my languages, my mother language is Spanish and really I'm studying English because I like how sound and is very common nowadays, I would like to learn other languages like French because sounds poetic, sweet and one with a totally different spelling like Japanese or mandarin I think that learn languages is a funny hobby. But one by one.

Submitted by loveiseverything on Wed, 14/10/2020 - 09:56

English is used generally the most in the world even though the largest populations in the world speak Chinese. That's why I have to improve my English, people from different countries automatically speak to each other in English.

Submitted by Mya Nandar Aung on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 16:19

I don't know anybody like Scarlett. I can speak three languages Burmese which is my mother tongue, a little bit of basic chinese and conservation level of English.

Submitted by dan on Sun, 03/05/2020 - 07:05

I didn't know somebody like Scarlett, with so many different culture influence. I speak just native language, but in this moment i want to improve my English skill. As a child i spoke Hungarian very well because my grandmother and grandfather were Hungarians, from Transylvania. But now, i'm 50 years old and my grandparents are gone. Because of this i have no one to practice with, and i forgot to speak Hungarian.

Submitted by Nanya on Fri, 10/04/2020 - 16:22

Wow, I really envy Scarlett and anybody who can speak more than 2 languages. I only can speak Chinese and I am struggling to learn English.

Submitted by Pcarla on Wed, 08/04/2020 - 12:35

I don't know anyone like Scarlett. I know someone around me who have got three languages in his body and speak perfectly. I have two languages in my body: French and local languages and I'm there to improve my english skills.

Submitted by cittàutopica on Wed, 11/03/2020 - 18:30

I don't know anyone like Scarlett, who has five languages in her body, but I know many people who has come from Eastern Europe and has decided to settle down in my region. Adults of these have two languages and two cultures, but their sons are completely Italian.

Submitted by parisaach on Sat, 20/07/2019 - 07:51

Actually I don't know anybody with five languages in his body. I know people who can speak three or four languages not speaking perfect. In my country people speak Turkish in some regions and our official language is Farsi or Persian. all the children have to learn Arabic and English at school, so people who born in these regions can speak four languages after school, though people usually don't like Arabic but all the families send their children to English courses. I can speak Farsi and I'm trying to learn English and French I know some Arabic from school. But I can't calim that I speak four languages because the only one that I really can speak is Persian.