Jackie Kennedy, later known as Jackie Onassis or Jackie O, was the first lady of the United States from 1961 to 1963.
You may be wondering how many languages did Jackie Kennedy speak?
She is one of the most famous first ladies to have ever lived so it’s natural to wonder if she also spoke multiple languages.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This post will go into detail on what languages Jackie Kennedy spoke, how fluent she was in them and how she learned them.
Table of Contents
What Languages Did Jackie Kennedy Speak?
Jackie Kennedy spoke 4 languages fluently. Jackie Kennedy spoke English, French, Spanish and Italian.
English was her first language as she was born as ‘Jacqueline Lee Bouvier’ in Southampton, New York in 1929 to an American family.
She was mostly raised in New York and Virginia so naturally, her first language was English.
Did Jackie Kennedy Speak French?
Yes, Jackie Kennedy spoke French fluently.
Although she had a French surname ‘Bouvier’, Jackie Kennedy was only one-eighth French (on her father’s side). Her ancestry was mostly Irish, English and Scottish.
Jackie showed off her impressive French skills several times over the years.
In 1961, just after her husband had been elected as President, the Kennedys made their first official visit to France.
A TV program was filmed in French with Jackie who impressed the public with her ability to speak French and her extensive knowledge of French history.
This even led to her husband, President John F Kennedy, introducing himself as ‘the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris’.
She also addressed crowds in Louisiana in French during her husband’s presidential campaign.
Jackie’s French skills came in very handy and not just for her own speeches. She translated research books from French to English for her husband when he was a congressman.
Jackie Kennedy’s French was very fluent and she spoke with proper grammar. Native French speakers have noted that she did retain a slight American accent.
You can see Jackie Kennedy speaking French in the video below:
How Did Jackie Kennedy Learn French?
She first began learning French as a child. Jackie came from a very wealthy family who could afford to give her the best education that money could buy.
She was a very intelligent child who excelled at reading, ballet, horse riding and languages.
French was particularly emphasized in her upbringing so this was easily her best language aside from English.
She then spent her junior year in 1949 in France at the University of Grenoble and at the Sorbonne in Paris.
This was part of a study-abroad program where she lived with a French-speaking host family.
As part of the program, students had to pledge to only speak French at all times. After living in France for a year and only speaking French, she came back to the US fully fluent.
She then graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in French literature from George Washington University in 1951.
Did you know? Jackie Kennedy isn’t the only polyglot first lady. Melania Trump can also speak 5 languages (although this is disputed).
Did Jackie Kennedy Speak Spanish?
Yes, Jackie Kennedy could speak Spanish fluently.
Alongside French, Jackie Kennedy also learned to speak Spanish as a child growing up.
During her 3 years as the first lady of the United States, Jackie traveled to several Spanish-speaking countries including Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela.
The crowds were always super impressed as she was able to address the audience in Spanish, unlike her husband who only spoke English.
During her husband’s presidential campaign, Jackie was seen speaking Spanish frequently and even recorded an address to the Spanish-speaking community in the US.
Check it out in the video below:
There is a very large Spanish-speaking community in the US and as part of the campaign, Jackie wanted to really connect with them which is why she always spoke to them in their own language.
From public speeches to radio and TV ads, Jackie was recorded speaking Spanish numerous times over the years.
When discussing why she decided to speak in Spanish, she said ‘all these people have contributed so much to our country’s culture, it seems a proper courtesy to address them in their own tongue’.
President Lyndon Johnson even considered making her the US ambassador to Mexico when he became President in 1963 after the assassination of John F Kennedy.
You can see Jackie Kennedy speaking Spanish in the video below when she addressed a Cuban crowd in Florida:
Jackie Kennedy clearly speaks Spanish very well however she does have a noticeable accent.
Some native Spanish-speakers have noted that her pronunciation of certain words sounds more Italian than Spanish. This is likely because she speaks both Spanish and Italian.
Did Jackie Kennedy Speak Italian?
Yes, Jackie Kennedy could speak Italian fluently.
Jackie received the best education that money could buy so she had the best teachers.
Alongside her other languages, Jackie was also taught Italian which she excelled at.
During her husband’s presidential campaign, Jackie recorded radio ads in Italian to help get the message out to Italian-speaking Americans.
Jackie also visited Italy in August 1962 with her daughter for a vacation.
What Were Jackie Kennedy’s Views On Learning Languages?
Jackie Kennedy loved learning languages and thought they were hugely important.
In fact, part of her popularity can be attributed to her impressive linguistic skills.
Being able to address a crowd, whether it be in Paris, Mexico or the US, in their own language is a way to show respect.
The crowds famously loved to hear Jackie speaking their language and it made her hugely popular and one of the most famous first ladies to have ever existed.
Interestingly Jackie’s husband, President John F. Kennedy didn’t speak any other languages.
He’s not the only US president who only spoke English though. George Washington only spoke English as does Joe Biden.
Jackie also wanted her own children to grow up speaking several languages just like she had.
Initially, she wanted to teach them French due to her own passion for French literature and culture however upon consideration she decided that Spanish would be more appropriate.
This is due to the fact that there are so many Spanish speakers in the US and she felt it would be more respectful to learn Spanish over French.
It may surprise you that Jackie Kennedy spoke 4 languages. It surprised us too!
We think it’s great that Jackie put so much time and effort into learning languages and used them frequently in her public addresses and speeches.
Thanks for reading this post which answers the question ‘how many languages did Jackie Kennedy speak?’.