One of the challenges for multilingualism and languages education in the Anglobubble is motivating student interest outside of schools. One powerful solution is to connect languages with star power – in order to create global language champions that people feel connected to and can look up to.
Star power works: advertisers don’t pay big sums to big names in Hollywood and showbusiness for nothing. George Clooney’s leading the global Nespresso campaign has been hugely successful in increasing sales for his sponsor (too successful for some, but that’s another story….). Miranda Kerr gets paid big bucks to promote fabric softener in Japan. The list goes on….
Well, there was great news for languages today involving star power, although most Anglobubblers will be blissfully unaware of the link: Lupita Nyong’o, glamourous Oscar-winning Hollywood star of “12 Years a Slave” (2013, 3 Oscars), was selected as People magazine’s Most Beautiful Person of 2014.
Amongst her many talents (and there really are many) Lupita Nyong’o speaks four languages: English, Luo, Spanish and Swahili. Her parents are Kenyan but she was born and partly raised in Mexico. Indeed she considers herself to be Mexican-Kenyan – seen most clearly in her name (Lupita: Mexican/Spanish, Nyong’o Kenyan/Luo). She’s also on record as calling herself Chilanga (the term used for people from Mexico City).
Here’s Lupita being interviewed in Spanish about her experience of Mexico:
Lupita’s story is an amazing one of success (inc TV, film, documentary making….). Having four languages is no burden, it’s a blessing. Lupita is a marketer’s dream: English, Luo, Spanish and Swahili give incredible reach. Lupita taps into the Anglobubble, Latin America and Spain, Kenya and East Africa with ease. People in all of these areas connect with her.
It’s just a pity newsreaders in the Anglobubble struggle with pronouncing her name, as seen in this clip put together by Jimmy Kimmel Live:
Really? After all the film and media exposure, Oscar speeches? That’s life in the Anglobubble 😉 ….
All in all, despite this hiccup, a great day for Lupita Nyong’o and for languages. Get the message out. Discuss it with your friends and students. There’s a lot to say, and we can change attitudes and get people learning and appreciating languages. It’s hard to resist star power.
To keep up with the Anglobubble, follow on twitter: JohnHajek_lang