Shakira is a multitalented musician and has the ability to speak a number of languages fluently. It’s easy to wonder whether or not she also speaks Arabic.
There’s no clear evidence of Shakira speaking Arabic extensively. Her father is fully Lebanese by parentage but he was born and raised in New York. Her mother is from Colombia, where Shakira was also born and raised, so her native language is Spanish. We can’t know whether or nor she privately speaks Arabic.
For more on Shakira’s Arabic connections and how she has embraced the culture of her father’s family, keep reading.
Although she was born and raised in Colombia, Shakira’s ancestry comes from across Europe and the Middle East.
Her mother, Nidia Ripoll Torrado, was also born in Colombia but has a mix of Italian and Spanish/Catalan ancestry. Her father, William Mebarak Chadid was born in New York City but both of his parents emigrated from Lebanon, making Shakira half Lebanese by parentage.
Shakira’s name itself is Arabic, a feminine form of the name Shakir, meaning “grateful”.
She was raised Catholic, attending a Catholic school in Colombia, but has always valued her father’s culture as well. It’s this blend of cultures that have made Shakira a unique musician and a unique person in general.
Shakira has performed in her grandparents’ country of Lebanon on world tours. In 2018, she performed a concert in the Lebanese village of Tannourine, the birthplace of her paternal grandmother.
As far as whether or not Shakira speaks Arabic extensively, it’s impossible to say. We haven’t seen any examples of it but it wouldn’t be a surprise if she did.
She does speak her mother tongue Spanish, Portugese, English and Italian with remarkable competency so there’s no reason to think that she wouldn’t know how to speak some of her paternal grandparents’ language.
This is just guesswork though, so we can’t say that Shakira does or does not speak Arabic.
We can prove that Shakira knows at least one phrase. The singer posted a video with her son, Sasha, on arrival in Lebanon in 2018, with the pair exclaiming “Marhaba Lebanon”, meaning “Hello Lebanon.”
Middle Eastern Influences
Shakira’s music has always been a fusion of different styles, mixing softer melodies with intense rock guitar. Her formative years, however, were heavily influenced by her father’s Middle Eastern heritage.
Her favorite Middle Eastern musicians were Umm Kalthum and Lebanese icon Fairuz. In fact, she was so obsessed with the latter that, as a child, she was nicknamed “little Fairuz”.
If it weren’t for Middle Eastern music, it’s possible Shakira might never have become a performer. As a four-year-old child, her father took her to a restaurant where music was being played.
When the infant Shakira heard a Doumbek (a traditional Arabic drum often played alongside belly dancing), she stood on a table and started dancing along with the music.
It was the future superstar’s first taste of dancing in public and she has pointed to it as perhaps the first time she knew she wanted to be a performer.
Shakira’s love of belly dancing, one of the defining features of her videos and concerts, was heavily influenced by her father’s heritage.
Super Bowl LIV
One of the biggest stages of her illustrious career in music, Shakira celebrated her Arabic roots at Super Bowl LIV. She performed her song “Ojos Asi”, one of her few to include Arabic lyrics, as well as performing a tongue gesture which went viral online.
The gesture is actually an Arab tradition called zaghroota and is used to express joy, a fitting gesture for her performance at the Big Game.
While the zaghroota might have confused many viewers, many Arabic posters on social media expressed their delight at seeing a cultural tradition performed on such a global stage.