Professional athletes: they’re cooler than cool. Revered by amateurs around the world and hailed as celebrities by sports super fans, America can’t get enough of professional athletes. And why not? These are individuals who have spent their entire lives training to become the very best at the sport they love.
But what you might not know is that many of your favorite athletes are pros at more than just their sport of choice — many are also bilingual. In our eyes, that makes these ultra-cool athletes even more admirable. The athletes we’ve rounded up below use their range of language skills to reach more fans, give back to communities in need, and show respect for their fellow competitors. Sigh. Some people really can do it all.
1. Tennis superstar Serena Williams is multilingual
Quick question: what can’t Serena Williams do? First of all, she’s one of the best tennis players in the world, and now we come to find out that along with English, she speaks Spanish, French, and even some Italian. In fact, she’s known to give her tournament addresses in the native language of the country where she is competing. In Rome, she gave her final speech at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Italian, and at the Roland-Garros match in France, she answered interviewers in French. Across the board, Serena is a triple threat, and we love her for it.
2. Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow speaks Tagalog
Despite having been one of the most popular NFL players of the decade, fans were surprised to learn that the former NFL quarterback turned minor league baseball player speaks Tagalog. The world discovered this fun fact when Tim Tebow responded to a Filipino-American fan in Tagalog. It turns out that Tebow was actually born in the Philippines to American parents living in the country for missionary work. Tebow lived in Makati until he was three years old and often spends his summers in the Philippines doing charity work.
3. Professional baseball player Caleb Joseph speaks Spanish
High school students are not exactly known for having much foresight, but Caleb Joseph is the rare exception. The Baltimore Orioles catcher knew early on that he wanted to become a professional baseball player. He also knew that many MLB players are native Spanish speakers — so Caleb signed up for Spanish classes his freshman year. He wanted to be able to communicate with ease with his future teammates, and he didn’t settle for just Spanish 101. Caleb completed four years of high school Spanish, two years of Spanish in college, and even traveled to Honduras to do missionary work. Now that’s dedication.
4. American football player Pierre Garçon speaks Haitian Creole
Born in New York and raised in Florida, Pierre Garçon is currently a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers — and he’s also fluent in Haitian Creole. When people first meet Pierre, they often assume he’s French, but in fact he’s of Haitian descent. Pierre’s parents and his three sisters were born in Haiti, and he was born just two years after his parents moved to the United States. Pierre grew up speaking Haitian Creole and English, and because Haitian Creole is French-derived, he also communicates well in French!
5. Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas speaks Hebrew
Everyone’s favorite gold medalist Gabby Douglas shared in her memoir "In Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith" that she grew up practicing many Jewish traditions. Gabby won America’s heart in 2012 when she accomplished record-breaking wins as a gold medalist gymnast at the London Summer Olympics. Gabby even competed wearing a leotard with Hebrew lettering stitched into the sleeve as a symbol of her deep faith. While Gabby admits she can only speak and read some Hebrew, Judaism holds a special place in her heart and she points to her faith as a key factor in her success.
6. Professional basketball player Mike Muscala speaks Spanish
Born in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Philadelphia 76ers power forward Mike Muscala studied Spanish in college and even spent part of his rookie season playing professional basketball in Spain. He credits this language immersion opportunity for his Spanish skills, and his multilingual abilities allow him to communicate with his international teammates back in the States.
Inspired by this roster of multilingual athletes? If you want to walk the walk, start by talking the talk. Get your head in the game and begin your language learning now by signing up for a free profile below.
Know of any other multilingual athletes? Let us know in the comments below!