What Languages Does Maya Angelou Speak

Maya Angelou is a well-known American poet, novelist, playwright, and civil rights activist who could express herself fluently in many languages. While she seemed to mainly use English in her writing, few know that she also had a mastery of a few other languages. Maya Angelou was able to fluently speak and write in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Arabic.

While Angelou was never officially credited with speaking any other language, her experiences in her lifetime in the United States probably led her to develop an understanding of the various backgrounds of different individuals and their respective languages. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in Stamps, Arkansas, so it is likely she developed her language skills from the many dialects and conversations of the everyday people she interacted with. It is also known that she had traveled extensively to both Europe and Africa as a young adult, so she would have had ample opportunities to learn these languages and hone her skills.

Though she has never been credited for speaking any of these languages fluently, she nonetheless had a working knowledge of these languages, as evidenced by her work. Her writings both frequently referenced other languages and often employed language from other cultural backgrounds to express her emotions. In some of Angelou’s most famous works, which include her poems “Phenomenal Woman” and “Still I Rise,” as well her essay “The Black English Political and Social Identity,” she references language other than English and makes use of Italian, Spanish, French, and African phrases.

Though the exact language skills of Maya Angelou never became known because she never officially publicized them, it is clear that Angelou had knowledge of many different world languages. She was able to apply that knowledge to her work and combine multiple languages into her writings, which served to make her writing even more powerful and beautiful.

It can be said that Maya Angelou had an innate talent for languages. Her experiences in the world and her passion for culture drove her to learn different languages, and her talent for writing meant that she could effectively communicate her message with her work in many ways. Angelou showed that it is possible to learn interesting languages while making a powerful statement with them, even if they aren’t your own.

Speculations On Angelou’s Fluency

Given the lack of evidence about Maya Angelou’s language fluency, it can only be speculated on what level she could speak multiple languages. Though there has never been an official report from Angelou herself on her language skills, there has been evidence from her work that she understood the concept of multiple languages and made use of them effectively.

Because of the lack of evidence on her fluency levels, it is impossible to accurately judge how well she could speak and understand each language. However, it can be deduced from her works, which contain phrases from multiple languages, that Maya Angelou was able to understand and apply them to her writings. Though it is unknown if she could carry a full conversation with native speakers, the inclusion of various words and phrases in her writings show that she had some proficiency in the languages.

Europe And Africa Experiences

Maya Angelou traveled extensively throughout Europe and Africa during her young adult years. Both of these trips were likely to have significantly impacted her language abilities. While in Europe, she is said to have traveled to several countries, including Italy, Spain, France and Portugal. Angelou likely took the opportunity on these trips to learn more about the languages and cultures of these countries, thus increasing her knowledge of the local languages spoken.

It is also well-known that Angelou went to Ghana in Africa for the African Festival of Arts and Culture, which was held in the mid-1960s. During the festival, Angelou studied the music, language, and culture of the continent. Being immersed in the culture for a significant period of time likely contributed to her knowledge and understanding of African languages.

These two trips abroad provided Angelou with the opportunity to increase her knowledge of a variety of languages and to deepen her understanding of different cultures. While there is no evidence that she specifically traveled with the intention of learning the language, it is likely that she did pick up some words and phrases. It is also likely that Angelou was motivated to use those languages in her writing, in order to give them more weight and authenticity.

Maya Angelou’s Language Abilities

Maya Angelou had an impressive command of many languages, including English, French, Spanish, Italian and Arabic. Though she never officially credited her fluency in these languages, evidence has been found in her work that indicates her knowledge of multiple languages. Angelou likely picked up these skills while traveling extensively throughout Europe and Africa in her young adult years. Her works contain references to multiple languages, which suggests that she had some proficiency in them.

Nevertheless, the exact level of Maya Angelou’s capability in multiple languages is still unknown. Though she likely picked up many words and phrases on her travels, the only evidence of her ability comes from her writings, which indicate that she was able to effectively convey her message while still adhering to the conventions of different languages. Regardless of the level of her skill, Angelou’s knowledge of multiple languages was nothing short of astonishing.

Inspiration To The Youth

Maya Angelou’s ability to learn and understand multiple languages is a testament to her hard work and determination. Despite not having the resources that many have today, such as language lessons or classes, Angelou was still able to pick up multiple skills. She was able to single-handedly acquire the knowledge of multiple languages and apply them effectively to her writings, making them even more powerful and emotive.

Given this knowledge, Angelou serves as an inspiration to the youth of today’s society. She shows them that it is possible to learn and understand multiple languages, even if they lack the resources that are commonly available today. Furthermore, Angelou stands as an example of how an appreciation and understanding of language and culture can act as a powerful tool in any manner of public discourse.


Maya Angelou was an American poet, novelist, playwright, and civil rights activist who was able to express herself fluently in many languages, including, English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Arabic. Though the exact level of her skill has never been established, evidence in her writings suggests that she understood and could effectively convey her message using conventions from multiple languages. Additionally, Angelou’s knowledge of multiple languages stands as an inspiration to the youth of today, showing them that it is possible to learn interesting languages and make powerful statements without the support of resources.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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