Condoleezza Rice is an American politician who served as Secretary of State to President George W. Bush from 2005-2009. She earned her degree in International Relations, but what languages does she speak?
Condoleezza is a native English speaker with knowledge of Russian, French, German, and Spanish. However, her degree of proficiency in these languages varies and has been the subject of some debate.
Read on to learn more about Rice’s education, language skills, and her career.
Education and Languages
Condoleezza Rice was born in Birmingham, Alabama to parents who were both educators.
Her extensive talents and intellectual ability were obvious from a young age and she had begun lessons in classical piano, figure skating, ballet and French by the age of three. She also studied Spanish in elementary school.
She confirmed her knowledge of the French language in an interview with Oprah, although she reportedly said in 2006 that while she can understand French, she has a harder time speaking it: “I can’t speak it, because I was never very good at French”.
As for Spanish, there’s even less evidence of her speaking ability, although she was tutored in the language as a child.
Initially, Rice’s aspirations centred around her love of music and she hoped to be a concert pianist. She went to college to major in music but soon realised that she wasn’t as talented as some of her peers, and began to consider other options.
Her interest in international relations was piqued by an International Politics course, and her attendance would determine the course of life.
She told CBS, “I went back home and I said to my parents, ‘I found, I want to be a Soviet specialist.’ They said, ‘You go for it.'”
Rice switched her major and graduated cum laude. She would go on to study for a masters in Political Science and finally graduated with a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Denver in 1981, at the age of 26.
Is She Fluent in Russian?
Rice began studying Russian whilst a university student and according to Babbel Magazine, she was so interested in Russian culture that she named her car after her favorite Russan opera, ‘Boris Godunov’.
She briefly studied in Russia at Moscow State University, in the summer of 1979 and she sustained an interest in Soviet affairs throughout her studies, taking additional Russian-language and history courses.
She eventually became a specialist on the Soviet Union and lectured on the subject whilst a professor at Stanford University, before becoming the Soviet and East European Affairs advisor to George H. W. Bush in 1989.
Whilst we know she has a clear interest in Russia, can she speak the language?
According to Russia Beyond, the answer is yes, although Rice has said she lacks practise and rarely speaks Russian in public.
You can watch Rice speak Russian for an interview on a Russian radio station in the YouTube video below.
Academic and Political Career
Rice took a brief absence from her position as a tenured professor at Stanford University when she was hired as a member of The National Security Council to advise on Soviet and East European Affairs from 1991-1993.
However she returned to Stanford after two years and was promoted to Provost in 1993. A former student of hers told Stanford News, “she challenges students to strive for precision in their thinking and writing and inspires them to pursue careers in policy and public service.”
She would continue to balance her political and academic careers and served as America’s National Security Advisor from 2001 – 2005, before taking on the role of Secretary of State, from 2005-2009.
Following the end of her tenure, she returned to Stanford University and was named Director of the Hoover Institution in 2020.