Although Jack Black’s first language is obviously English, given that he was born in America and the bulk of his work in music and movies are in English, you might have seen him in Nacho Libre and noticed him rhyming off lines in Spanish. Was that only for the movie, or does he actually speak Spanish?
Jack Black is somewhere between very proficient and fluent in Spanish, having taught himself the language. He learned the language partially due to being born in Southern California, and partially because of personal interest.
Black might be the last person you’d expect to be bilingual since he’s a career funny-man with a personality revolving around having the persona of the perpetual joker. If that was the image you had of him, you might be even more surprised to find out that he actually may know three languages, not two.
A Californian Influence
One reason Black has been cited for having such a natural predisposition for learning Spanish is the fact that he was raised in Southern California. In the interview where he discusses this, he references this with regards to the fact that there were so many Spanish speakers in that area.
Taking a quick look at census data in the area, we can see how this would hold true. In comparison to the 20 million English speakers, there are over 10 million Spanish speakers, meaning that for every three people you met on the street, one may speak Spanish!
Spanish is most heavily spoken in the more metropolitan areas of California, so it makes sense that Black who grew up in Hermosa Beach and Culver City could be exposed to so much of the language.
In the interview where he divulged the information about needing to learn at least a little Spanish, he details a situation with a childhood friend where he had to learn the phrase “tortilla con frijoles por favor.”
Of course, much of the interview is Black injecting his signature humor into the equation, but even listening to him speak Spanish jokingly it’s fairly easy to tell that he’s poured quite a lot of effort into learning the language.
The wrestling comedy movie Nacho Libre starring Black sounds like it should have been prime ground for seeing Black’s Spanish speaking skills. If you were looking to hear Black fluently holding some conversation in Spanish, then you’ll be disappointed.
Most of the Nacho Libre movie is spent with Black speaking in a highly accented version of English, representing his character’s heritage. That accent is partially related to his interest in the language, however.
Black has said before that much of the reason he enjoys Spanish, and enjoys practicing it in front of the mirror, is the way that it sounds and the involvement of different mouth shapes in order to fully bring the language to life.
Nacho Libre was produced in the late 2000s, maybe a potential sequel in the future will see fit to harness Black’s Spanish in a more substantial fashion.
As we alluded to earlier, Spanish isn’t the only weapon in Black’s linguistic arsenal. Alongside English and Spanish, Black also seems to know at least a little bit of French.
He doesn’t speak it very often, but during an interview with fnac, we can see Black listening along to the questions posed by the French media. Even though he doesn’t reply in French, he seems to have a complete understanding of what was said, able to answer the questions perfectly.
Although it may not be as consummate as his Spanish or his French, Black is also very familiar with Hebrew. This one is the most expected of all, given the Jewish heritage that he has on his mother’s side and attending a Hebrew school throughout his childhood.
He isn’t as into the Jewish traditions as may have been when he was a child, but there are still some aspects of it that he adores, such as the music. It’s a natural fit for someone like Black, whose great passion in life other than comedy is without a doubt his music.
One Jewish song in Hebrew that he can fully recite is Chad Gadya. He probably won’t be having full conversations, but his ability to remember the song perfectly is at least indicative of his skill with learning new languages.