Why Aren’t Black People Learning Foreign Languages?

When it comes to Americans who can speak a foreign language, black representation in that category is slim. We are less likely to learn a new language or even study abroad. There is a lack of bilingual ability within the black community.

We’re at a disadvantage!

Here are 3 reasons why black people should learn a foreign language; Spanish in particular:

Communication – Strengthen Your Skills

Too many people have the mindset that individuals who do not speak English and live in the United States shouldn’t speak in their native tongue and should learn to speak English. That’s where they have the game all the way messed up. Get cultured!

I have friends from across the globe who speak at least three different languages and have struggled with learning English, but never gave up and are now fluent speakers. Their determination is contagious. It’s amazing! That served as motivation for me to become bilingual. I can’t begin to put into words the feeling I get when I am able to communicate with a Spanish speaker who doesn’t speak English or speaks broken English, but I’ll try. It’s just a powerful connection. My Spanish may not be perfect and their English may not be perfect, but in the moment we’re connected. We’re communicating!

If you don’t know where to begin, start by learning to say greetings like “Hello” in various languages. Once you pick up on a new language you’ll feel more connected to society. Also, think about attending cultural events or festivals in your area or on your university’s campus. It’s good for us to step outside of our “English speaking” mindsets and try to see things from other people’s points of view.

Check out this video titled, “What It’s Like When Your Parents Speak Broken English”:


Defying Odds – Beat The Stereotypes

Studies show that black students are less likely to take a foreign language class. The majority of black people I know have a negative attitude towards learning a new language. If they’re taking a class they’re only doing the least that’s required of them to pass. They don’t see the point.

Being someone who is interested in learning new things, specifically new languages and about various cultures, I never understood why my peers didn’t have the same outlook and enthusiasm that I had and still have about learning Spanish or a new language in general. As stated before, we’re less likely to study abroad, let alone own a passport. I had the opportunity to travel and study abroad for the first time in 2015 and it was a life changing experience, for the best.

I took to my personal Twitter account to conduct a poll and here are the results (shoutout to the 19 people who participated):

I was surprised to see the 57% who said they’d try. That’s a start! I challenge you to take the first step to learning a new language, but for the right reasons.


Utilize The Resources Available

There are so many resources available for those wanting to learn a new language. Why aren’t we taking advantage of them? If you’re really interested in learning a new language but don’t necessarily have the funds, there’s still no excuse! Have you considered searching for FREE resources like mobile apps or YouTube videos?

Below are resources that I use daily:

Duolingo

I recommend Duolingo for those who know at least the basics of the language they’re interested in learning. This app  is a great way to stay on track. It’s interactive and requires you to read, listen and speak in the language you’re learning.

iTalki

I recently downloaded iTalki because I was looking to form genuine connections with native Spanish speakers. It helps when you’re able to practice your speaking and writing with someone who can correct you. With this app, you can connect with people from across the globe who are looking to tutor individuals learning their native language as well as those looking to learn your native language. The people I’ve met so far have been very willing to help me learn Spanish!

Google Translate

I use Google Translate when I want to check my grammar, spelling, or to make sure I’m understanding a conversation. Plus, it’s always fun to translate things from English to any of the available languages listed on Google Translate.

YouTube

There are so many videos out there to help you learn a new language at your speed. One of my favorite YouTubers who helps viewers learn Spanish is Señor Jordan. No matter what language you’re interested in, there are videos that can help you. I also like to watch videos with others sharing their experiences with learning Spanish!

Outside of free apps, I watch tv shows and movies in Spanish, listen to music in Spanish and have even changed the language setting on my phone to Spanish. When I visited Costa Rica I was surrounded by the language and was forced to communicate in Spanish, which was a good thing. Now that I’m in the states, doing these things have helped me to stay connected with the language as if I were back in Costa Rica.

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1 Comment

  1. I would have to view more studies than the dissertation offered before I would state that what you asserted is the case. However, I do not doubt that her claim that language devoid of culture (that you could relate to) would not attract you. However, that could be the case for many people looking to learn a new language.

    Shows such as “Esclava Blanca” and “Celia” has helped me to get my family to watch Spanish television, thus exposing them to the language. However, in my experience, when I go to meet-ups, look up videos, etc., Black people are abundant. When looking up categories such as “I learned Spanish,”etc., Blacks pop up in high numbers. That is anecdotal, but it is also telling.

    Without going into the issue of disenfranchisement too deeply, I would guess that serves a role in lack of interest among many young blacks. At the same time, I would venture that once you subtract inequality you would find similar numbers of interest among people in general. It is the same with Black students who live in households where parents make over $75,ooo. Their math scores and connection to technology are on par with Whites and in many cases surpass their counterparts.

    People like Laoshuu 505000, David Mansaray and others who are polyglots are great examples on the Internet of Blacks learning and inspiring others to learn Spanish.

    Continued success in your journey.

    Like

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