Here in the United States, we’re remembering Black History Month. And yes, we should be remembering all year round those who have been sidelined from our country’s archives. There are many amazing political activists, politicians, artists, architects, writers, teachers, and more but I wanted to dedicate this post to famous polyglots.
I came upon this enormous list of polyglots from the website blackgirlslearnlanguages.com You can follow the link HERE to go to the article I’m going to discuss today. And if you have any African American female polyglot friends, check out the merchandise for some great gift ideas.
Somehow in our country we think that bilingualism is rare, nearly impossible, and sometimes harmful. And this is somehow especially true for those who are immigrants or who are from diverse backgrounds. Our country’s educational system does a pretty lousy job when it comes to educating students to be multilingual and even worse at educating those who come from bilingual households. Most schools don’t offer a second language until students are in junior high school, and we somehow expect that one fifty-minute class per day studying verbs is going to help a child learn a second language.
Inequity exists when it comes to access to bilingual and dual language programs for African American students. This has a social impact and a financial impact as more job opportunities come with multilingualism. I have worked in areas where I’ve seen diverse students and children of immigrants being shut out of bilingual education programs. African American students who come from English speaking homes aren’t offered the opportunity to learn a second language, and those who come from Spanish speaking homes are streamlined pronto into learning English.
So, part of the issue is access to bilingual education and another part is representation. We don’t have enough bilingual representation and models for students to follow. Bilingualism is hardly ever mentioned when we go through the list of attributes of famous celebrities, and as I read through this list on Black Girls Learn Languages, I was surprised. Montel Williams speaks four languages!? I had no idea! So, that’s why this month, I want to take special notice of those who are role model polyglots!
Montel Williams- Like I said, the man speaks four languages. English, Russian, Mandarin and Latin!
Tina Turner- The woman has an amazing voice and she can sing in English, French & German
Gabrielle Union- Not only can she create amazing workout videos on FitOn that kill me, but she’s bilingual English & Spanish
Zoe Saldana- Gorgeous, amazing actress, of Puerto Rican and Haitian descent, and she speaks English and Spanish.
Wyclef Jean- Born in Haiti and immigrated to the USA at nine, Wyclef speaks English, French, and Haitian Creole
There’s a list that goes on much longer, but I wanted to shine the spotlight on just a few of the examples of Black celebrity polyglots that we have in the USA. Multilingualism is such a gift, and it’s so important for everyone to see representation about who can be bilingual.