Tag Archives: language champion

Great news story: Lupita Nyong’o: People magazine’s Most Beautiful Person of 2014 and language champion

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



Roger Federer – a real (language) champion in every sense of the word – unless you’re in Australia….

Roger Federer really does have it all – amazing sporting skill and success, loads of prize winnings and sponsorships, good looks, great personality and at least 4 languages. How lucky is he! He’s a great role model – someone we’d like our teenagers to emulate. No? You’d think having 4 languages (more on that later) would be something everyone would appreciate as an incredible advantage and achievement – but sadly that’s not the case for many residents of the Anglobubble. If you don’t believe me, have a little look and listen at this clip of Roger being interviewed post-match at the Australian Tennis Open in 2011. Try and identify what languages he is speaking – and notice how effortlessly he moves from one to the other. But pay particular attention to the Antipodean accent of an unidentified journalist if you can…. (from 47 sec in)


The clip I am showing was put together in China – because they were amazed and admiring of how easily he returned and lobbed linguistically when dealing with the media.  That seems a normal reaction… But not in the Anglobubble. Here’s what the journalist has to ask: “Roger, just a question about all your languages. Do you ever wish or regret you speak so many languages?” It makes Roger sound like he must be suffering from some kind of chronic medical condition…. We can be pretty certain the Anglobubbler asking the question is monolingual. One of the secrets of Roger’s success has been his language skills – he does interviews in English, French, German and Swiss German – with aplomb. People in English-, French- and German-speaking countries love him because he can communicate directly with them and they can communicate directly with him – without translation. That’s what we call cornering your market! It’s good human relations and excellent business. Well done Roger! We need to tell our little Aussie tennis stars to do the same. Now how come Roger speaks 4 languages? Well, he was raised in German-speaking Switzerland – his father’s homeland – where he was raised speaking Swiss German and English at home (yes, his mother is an English-speaking South African!) and standard German at school. He learnt French as a teenager when he went to tennis academy in French-speaking Switzerland. It all seems perfectly natural when you know the back story. Because Roger has an unusual accent when speaking English (he sounds slightly foreign) we assume he learnt it as a second language. This is Anglobubble bias – we make assumptions about who’s really English-speaking or not…. We really need to be more aware. Here is Roger again having fun with languages at the French Open in 2010 – with the ease of a real (language) champion.


Follow on twitter: JohnHajek_lang