While discussing this question, the conclusion was that apart from using Parseltongue to open the gate to the Chamber of Secrets, Harry didn't really use any magic and he might as well have been a Muggle or a Squib during his fight with Tom Riddle. This other question summarizes a JKR interview, where the conclusion is that

You can learn to understand it (like Dumbledore) and even mimic it to some degree (like Ron did), but actually knowing Parseltongue comes from one thing and one thing only: being a direct descendant of Salazar Slytherin

As mentioned in the quote above, Dumbledore understands Parseltongue (as shown in the Pensieve memory in HBP), Ron has no idea about Parseltongue but can speak it well enough to fool a magic door (as seen in DH), and given that Harry was able to beat Riddle without involving any magic,

Can I as a Muggle learn to understand and speak Parseltongue? Could a Muggle or a Squib learn Parseltongue, if not to a conversational level, then at least enough to string a few words together to impress Voldemort and join his army? Can a Muggle make hissing sounds like Ron did and approximate the command enough to open the door to the Chamber of Secrets?

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    Unlikely. If it's mainly a Slytherin-descendants feature, good luck trying to get one of these folks to teach that (or any) knowledge to a Muggle – Jenayah Dec 27 '18 at 12:53
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    I think the answer is the in the quote from JKR: mimick to a certain degree is possible. However, a Muggle or a Squib cannot possibly impress a Death Eater (let alone Voldemort) with anything. – TimSparrow Dec 27 '18 at 13:51
  • if dumbledore could do it why not you? – Antheloth Dec 27 '18 at 17:09
  • What's the difference between "understanding" and "knowing"? – Alex Dec 27 '18 at 17:25
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    @Alex - I know that planes fly. I don't understand how they do it. I know that 3 is the square root of 9, I don't understand how to calculate it. – Valorum Dec 27 '18 at 22:12

Probably not, but it may be possible.

J.K. Rowling says in an interview that the natural ability to speak Parseltongue is passed down through the Slytherin bloodline, and that she doesn’t think Ron would be able to speak it properly. However, she implies that one of the reasons that people don’t typically learn Parseltongue is that it’d be hard for them to find someone to teach it.

Q: Since Ron is able to speak Parseltongue in the last book, does that mean that Parseltongue is a language that most witches and wizards can learn or must a person be born with some ability to speak Parseltongue?

JKR: I don't see it really as a language you can learn. So few people speak it that who would teach you? This is a weird ability passed down through the Slytherin blood line. However Ron was with Harry when he said one word in Parseltongue, which I do not know so I cannot duplicate for you, but he heard him say "Open," and he was able to reproduce the sound. So it was one word. Whether he could learn to speak to snakes properly is a separate issue. I don't think he could. But he knew enough, he was smart enough, to duplicate one necessary sound.
- J.K. Rowling at Carnegie Hall (October 20, 2007)

From that, it’s somewhat implied that it may be possible to learn Parseltongue if they can find someone who would teach it. However, the question JKR is answering only was about if wizards could learn it - it doesn’t address whether a Muggle or Squib could learn Parseltongue. Ron didn’t inherit the ability, but he is a wizard. The only time it’s ever even obliquely addressed if magical ability is necessary to speak Parseltongue is that Marvolo Gaunt calls Merope a Squib, though she’s at least able to understand Parseltongue when it’s spoken. She was actually a witch, but if Marvolo had truly believed she was a Squib rather than it being an insult meaning her magic was weak, it’d imply it’s possible for a Squib to speak Parseltongue, otherwise that she could understand it would prove she wasn’t a Squib.

“You disgusting little Squib, you filthy little blood traitor!’ roared Gaunt, losing control, and his hands closed around his daughter’s throat.”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 10 (The House of Gaunt)

However, this isn’t anything close to concrete evidence that Squibs may be able to speak Parseltongue, as Marvolo was most likely insulting her magical ability rather than truly believing she was a Squib. As Valorum says in the comments, it seems very much like it’s only those who inherit the ability who can truly speak Parseltongue as a language, though anyone can mimic it.

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    That sounds pretty damned conclusive to me. Speaking it as a language requires actual magical heritage (and pretty rare heritage at that) whereas repeating the words foe-net-ick-al-ee is possible for anyone. – Valorum Dec 27 '18 at 19:49
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    @Valorum Thanks, I’ve added in your point! :) – Bellatrix Dec 27 '18 at 21:13

There appears to be only one example in the books of a non-natural-Parselmouth speaking Parseltongue. From Chapter of Deathly Hallows:

"But how did you get in there?" he asked, staring from the fangs to Ron. "You need to speak Parseltongue!"

"He did," whispered Hermione. "Show him, Ron!"

Ron made a horrible strangled hissing noise.

"It's what you did to open the locket," he told Harry apologetically. "I had to have a few goes to get it right, but," he shrugged modestly, "we got there in the end."

There are several interesting observations we can make from this

  • Ron, though not a born Parselmouth, was capable of performing the Parseltongue sounds.
  • Hermione apparently counts this as speaking Parseltongue.
  • Harry hears Ron's sounds as a hissing noise rather than as words.

This is interesting, because the first two observations would seem to indicate that there is nothing special about Parseltongue. It is simply a language consisting of particular sounds, and it is possible for someone to learn how the sounds correspond to word meanings. The only difference, then, between a Parselmouth and a non-Parselmouth would be that the former is born knowing the language while the latter has to learn it.

The third observation, however, seems to indicate that there may have been something fundamentally different between the sounds Ron made and standard Parseltongue. Throughout the rest of the books, Harry does not realize that he is hearing (or speaking) Parseltongue rather than English until someone points it out to him, yet in this case he appears to have heard Ron's hissing noises in the same fashion as a non-Parselmouth would have. This would imply that there might be some difference between true Parseltongue and the hissing sounds that Ron made.

If that is indeed the case then we might suppose that while anyone can learn to match up particular hissing sounds to particular meanings, and thus speak to snakes and understand snakes, only a true Parselmouth would perceive the hissing sounds as perfect English (or whatever their native tongue is).

So unless there is some enchantment that prevents Muggles from memorizing sound=definition, which seems quite unlikely, it would appear that a Muggle could learn the language of snakes, albeit without being a true Parselmouth.

However, it is hard to state anything definitively here, because the books don't actually explain why Harry normally hears Parseltongue as English.

Further confusion is caused by the fact that Harry routinely has trouble speaking Parseltongue when not faced with a snake. This would imply that a Parselmouth doesn't exactly know Parseltongue; rather, somehow Parseltongue gets transformed into a regular language somewhere between the ears and the brain of the Parselmouth. So we might argue that not only can Muggles learn Parseltongue, they can even surpass natural Parselmouths.


Yes, but it would have no practical use.

I don't see any obstacle to a Muggle "learning" Parseltongue in the sense that Dumbledore learned it. (We're never shown how Dumbledore learned it, but presumably he just used his intelligence, not magic, even though his level of comprehension seems pretty implausible to me given his lack of good learning materials.)

There are a few distinct points that I think need to be covered here. For clarity, I'll copy the definition of "Parselmouth" from an earlier question of mine:

  • A Parselmouth is a person who exhibits the magical ability to understand snakes, hearing what they "say" in verbal form, and who also is able to communicate verbally with snakes by speaking the language Parseltongue. A Parselmouth can speak and understand Parseltongue without being taught. Based on Harry's experience, Parselmouths don't necessarily realize when they are speaking Parseltongue: it happens automatically when they talk to snakes. And similarly, the speech of snakes, and other Parselmouths speaking Parseltongue, apparently sounds to Parselmouths like whatever human language they would expect to hear.

As far as I can tell, it isn't established in the books that snakes themselves communicate by speaking Parseltongue. So I think it would be impossible for a Muggle to learn how to understand snakes; at best, a Muggle would be able to learn how to understand wizards speaking Parseltongue (a particularly useless skill, given the extinction of Slytherin's bloodline as of the end of Deathly Hallows). I also very much doubt that a Muggle would be able to speak to snakes with Parseltongue: I would guess that, as with magic spells, that requires innate ability, not just the production of certain sounds.

It's unclear whether a Muggle could open the Chamber of Secrets.

The nature of the spell concealing the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets seems a bit problematic, actually. We know that Ron, who is not a Parselmouth, was able to get in just by imitating some of what Harry has said. But for some reason, Dumbledore, who can understand Parselmouth well enough to follow the Gaunts' conversation, was never able to figure out how to do this. To me, that actually seems like a minor plot hole, given what we're shown elsewhere about Dumbledore's magical skills and detective abilities.

I don't think the speaker would necessarily need magic to open the Chamber because the entrance is itself enchanted, and presumably that enchantment can be designed to trigger based on non-magical circumstances. (We know based on the existence of Arthur Weasley's job that magical artifacts may continue to behave magically even when Muggles are the only people interacting with them.)

So I'd say it comes down to whether the creator of the spell included a "check" for whether the speaker has magical ability. I think this could be argued either way: on the one hand, Slytherin obviously wouldn't want anybody nonmagical to get into the Chamber; but on the other hand, the idea that a nonmagical person would be resourceful enough to learn Parseltongue would never occur to a pureblood supremacist (we see that the door-maker didn't even take any extra steps to prevent a wizard who was not a Parselmouth from getting in).

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