Kamala Harris is an American politician who has served as the Vice President of the United States since 2021.
You may be wondering how many languages does Kamala Harris speak?
She has a multicultural heritage so it’s natural to wonder if she also speaks multiple languages.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This post will go into detail on what languages Kamala Harris speaks, how fluent she is in them and how she learned them.
What Languages Does Kamala Harris Speak?
Kamala Harris only speaks 1 language fluently. Kamala Harris speaks English but she does also know a little bit of Tamil and French.
English is her first language as she was born and raised in the United States.
Kamala was actually born in Oakland, California in 1964 where she lived for the first 2 years of her life.
Throughout her childhood, Kamala’s family continuously moved around the US due to her parents’ work, living in Illinois and the Midwest.
At age 12, she relocated to Canada with her mother for a few years.
With an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, the main language of communication at home growing up was English.
Does Kamala Harris Speak Tamil?
No, Kamala Harris doesn’t speak Tamil fluently but she does know some words and phrases due to being half Tamil Indian.
Kamala Harris has a Tamil Indian mother named Shyamala Gopalan.
Shyamala was born in Chennai, which is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, in 1938 to a Tamil Indian family so naturally her native language was Tamil.
She then moved to the US at age 19 to attend UC Berkeley to study nutrition and endocrinology.
After finishing this course, she then stayed in the US to study for her PhD at UC Berkeley.
Eventually she settled down, got married and had a family whilst still working as a biomedical scientist.
Her following work in biomedical science led to huge advances in breast cancer and oncology research.
As Kamala’s father was Jamaican, he didn’t speak Tamil so he and Shyamala spoke to each other in English.
They had two daughters together, Kamala and Maya, who also grew up speaking English at home.
Tamil was rarely spoken at home, which makes sense as nobody but Kamala’s mother could speak it, so naturally Kamala and her sister never learned it fluently.
Kamala did note in her autobiography that her mother would often use Tamil around the house to express either affection or frustration.
Throughout her childhood, Kamala’s mother did take Kamala and her sister to India several times to visit their grandparents who still remained in India.
Although Kamala has admitted herself that she can’t speak Tamil, it was reported by the LA Times that she spoke a few Tamil phrases with her relatives when visiting them.
Kamala has said herself that she was strongly influenced by her maternal grandfather who was a retired civil servant who had very progressive views on democracy and women’s rights.
Kamala also said that she has continued to remain in touch with her Indian family throughout her adult life.
Based on the fact that Kamala Harris said she doesn’t speak Tamil, they likely conversed with each other in English as it’s pretty common for people in India to speak English.
After her mother’s death in 2009, Kamala Harris visited Chennai, India once again to scatter her mother’s ashes into the ocean.
We did see Kamala using a Tamil word in her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Kamala was discussing her family and used the word ‘chittis’ which means aunts in Tamil.
You can see Kamala Harris speaking Tamil during this speech in the video below:
Does Kamala Harris Speak Hindi?
No, Kamala Harris doesn’t speak Hindi.
Kamala’s mother was Indian however her native language was Tamil and not Hindi.
It’s possible that her mother also knew how to speak Hindi (although this isn’t confirmed) but as Kamala didn’t pick up her mother’s native language, Tamil, it’s hardly a surprise she never learned Hindi either.
Kamala didn’t really grow up around anyone speaking Hindi and was never immersed in the language at all.
Does Kamala Harris Speak French?
Yes, Kamala Harris can speak a little bit of French but she isn’t fluent.
She moved to Montreal, Quebec when she was 12 years old and attended a French-speaking school for a short period of time.
After her parents got divorced, Kamala’s mother accepted a research and teaching position at the McGill University’s Jewish General Hospital located in Montreal, Quebec.
Shortly after arriving, Kamala Harris was enrolled into a French-speaking primary school called Notre-Dame-des-Neiges.
Kamala admitted herself that she struggled to understand French at this school so her mother later sent her to an English-speaking school instead.
Kamala’s struggles with French are likely due to her age at the time. Young children can often pick up languages very easily through immersion however Kamala was already 12 years old by the time she arrived in Quebec.
As she was slightly older, it was harder for her to learn French through immersion.
Despite her struggles, Kamala said that she did manage to learn ‘some French’ during her time in Canada.
Kamala did come under fire in 2021 when some people claimed that she appeared to be mimicking a French accent during a trip to Paris.
During the clip, Kamala was speaking English and referred to ‘the plan’. Some people claimed she changed her accent to mimic French which was disrespectful.
There was a huge amount of controversy at the time over whether or not she was trying to mimic a French accent.
You can see Kamala Harris speaking with a potentially French accent in the video below and decide for yourself:
Does Kamala Harris Speak Spanish?
No, Kamala Harris cannot speak Spanish.
It’s likely that Kamala Harris knows a few basic words and phrases in Spanish as she did spend a large part of her childhood in California which has a large Spanish-speaking population.
It’s possible she also learned some Spanish in school but it’s unlikely she speaks Spanish any better than the average American person.
We’ve never seen Kamala speaking Spanish and whenever she interacts with Spanish speakers, she always uses an interpreter so it’s pretty clear she doesn’t speak it.
In 2019, the Spanish-speaking news channel, Telemundo, did an interview with Kamala but it was in English rather than Spanish. This proves that Kamala doesn’t speak Spanish.
When asked by the interviewer how good her Spanish was, she replied ‘it could be much better but I’m working on it’.
This indicates that Kamala is potentially taking lessons and actively trying to improve her Spanish but up until now we’ve never seen her speaking it properly.
In another interview with Telemundo, Kamala did drop in a few Spanish words saying that her favorite Spanish dish is ‘arroz con pollo’ and she used the word ‘bueno’ to describe the news channel.
Take a look at Kamala Harris speaking Spanish during this interview in the video below:
It may come as a surprise to you that Kamala Harris is a mostly monolingual speaker. It surprised us too!
With such a multicultural background we were sure that Kamala must speak several languages but it turns out she’s been too busy becoming the first ever female Vice President of the United States instead.
Interestingly, Joe Biden can only speak English as well!
Thanks for reading this post which answers the question ‘how many languages does Kamala Harris speak?’.