Usain Bolt won Olympic medals on three different continents, but did he manage to learn any new languages along the way – including Spanish?
Usain Bolt studied Spanish in school, but there’s no evidence that he still speaks this language. In addition to speaking English, the eight-time Olympic gold medalist is also fluent in Jamaican Patois, which contains some words of Spanish origin.
Usain Bolt proved his fluency in English during numerous interviews and press conferences, but this isn’t the only language he speaks. Jamaican English is the official language in his home country, but the majority of the population uses Jamaican Patois in everyday conversations.
Jamaican Patois is an English-based creole language that most Jamaicans use at home and in informal situations. It’s been around since the 17th century when slaves from West and Central Africa developed it after being exposed to the language of their English-speaking slave owners.
Patois borrows a lot of words from the English language, and there are similarities in their writing system, but pronunciation is significantly different. The spelling of many standard English words is simplified, making them almost unrecognizable to someone who doesn’t speak both languages.
Jamaican Patois contains many loanwords, but not only from English. This language has strong West African influences, and numerous words can be traced back to the Akan language since many Africans who survived slavery in Jamaica happen to be of Akan descent.
In addition to borrowing from English and African languages, Jamaican Patois also has words of Spanish, Portuguese, and Hindi origin. It’s possible that Usain Bolt knows some Spanish words due to this connection, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he speaks Spanish fluently.
Spanish words were probably integrated into Jamaican Patois because this country was under the Spanish rule between 1509 and 1655. Many of the indigenous people died during this time and African slaves were transferred to the island as laborers.
Despite the widespread usage of Patois, especially in spoken conversations and reggae and dancehall music, Jamaican English remains the official language in this country and it’s used in public domains, such as education, government, and the media.
Any Other Languages?
Usain Bolt can speak Jamaican Patois and English, but is that all? According to his high school principal Lorna Jackson, Bolt studied Spanish but didn’t pay attention in class and wasn’t able to hold a conversation in Spanish while visiting South America.
Shortly before the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Bolt starred in Puma’s promotional video that shows him trying to learn some Russian. The short clip sees the Olympic champion listening to Russian lessons on the stereo and trying to memorize some phrases in this language.
Bolt made a hilarious mistake at the very beginning when he tried to repeat the words “Ya iz Yamajki” (“I am from Jamaica”), but ended up saying “Ya miss Yamajki” (“I am Miss Jamaica”) instead. Luckily, the rest of the lesson went smoothly, and he was ready for his trip to Moscow.
The 2013 World Championships was another success story for Bolt. He walked away with gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4×100 meters relay, and later repeated the same success the 2015 World Championships in Beijing.
The Spanish Vacation
Usain Bolt doesn’t speak Spanish fluently, but that hasn’t stopped him from enjoying everything this beautiful country has to offer. Back in 2019, he was spotted sailing the Mediterranean waters with his girlfriend Kasi Bennet.
The Jamaican sprinter enjoyed the sun-soaked beaches of Formentera, before hopping to Ibiza on a private yacht. This was only one in a long series of Bolt’s lavish vacations, as he often shares photos that show him traveling on private jets on his Instagram page.
Bolt and Bennet have been going steady for years, and they became parents to a baby girl in May 2020. The couple had been thinking about having children for some time, and Bolt said he’s excited about the challenge of being a dad.