In August of 2004, Tamari Jenkins and Krishauna Hines-Gaither met in Cuernavaca, Mexico.  Both women were there as directors of their respective Spanish immersion programs and they immediately recognized their mutual passion for promoting languages in the African American community. They began brainstorming about a networking organization in which African American educators and students in the field of world languages could find support.  From these initial conversations, African American Linguist (AAL) was born.

IMG: The conception of AAL! Tamari and Krishauna in the summer of 2004 in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

From 2004 to today, AAL  has grown significantly. They have become a premier organization uniting African-Americans who share an affinity for world languages and offering support to upcoming linguists.  In light of this, AAL now provides scholarship and classroom resources, offers presentations and training courses, and attends conferences and regional meetings. They also have meetups.

According to founder, Dr. Krishauna Hines-Gaither:

“The Organization of African American Linguists is almost 15 years old. We have network members and affiliates in most states and around the world. African American Linguists continues to offer support and resources to our members in order to promote linguistic competence. To date, we have granted over a dozen scholarships to students who are studying world languages. The African American Linguists scholarship has assisted students to travel to Spain, Uruguay, Beijing and more.  We are excited about the roots that our organization has laid, and we look forward to what the future holds.”

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But what does the future hold for African American linguists and those wanting to become bilingual? Quick answer: More access to one another due to changing technology.

As a result of increased DNA testing, the explosion of African American Heritage Tourism amongst travelers of color is one example of how technology is creating more access to Afro-Latinx and Afro-francophone cultures, but there are more. “Given modern-day technology and greater access to goods and services, there are many mechanisms available that serve to bridge historical divides. They include, although not limited to, DNA testing, higher education, the internet, immigration, and world travel,” states Dr. Hines-Gaither.  ” These mechanisms have opened the doors for African descendants to learn about their shared history and heritage.”

AAL believes that language acts as another medium for creating bonds across the Diaspora. “Given that language and culture are inextricably linked, the more that African-Americans master world languages, the more freedom there is to connect to our brothers and sisters of the African diaspora.”

Aside from the benefit of bridging the divide amongst people across the diaspora, there are quite a few other benefits to bilingualism. On their site, the organization breaks down all of the business and social benefits of bilingualism. These include:

  1. A positive effect on intellectual growth.
  2. Enriches and enhances mental development.
  3. Leaves students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and a better ear for listening.
  4. Improves one’s understanding of his/her native language.
  5. Gives a person the ability to communicate with people s/he would otherwise not have the chance to know.
  6. Opens the door to other cultures and helps one to understand and appreciate people from other countries.
  7. Gives a student a head start in language requirements for college.
  8. Increase job opportunity in many careers where knowing another language is a real asset.
Thankfully, changing technology also offers people a plethora of ways to learn a new language. With apps like Duolingo, Memrise, Quizlet, and Beelinguapp, which for the most part are free, the ability to download and practice any language is at your fingertips. In terms of mastering that language, Hines-Gaither offers two pieces of advice:
“The most powerful recipe is to mix language study with practical use. Language study can constitute a formal class, a major or self-guided tutorials online. Practical use entails the ability to practice what one is learning with fluent speakers of the language. I also recommend maximizing input by adding music, movies, and texts that are in the target language. A combination of these strategies is sure to produce laudable results for both college-aged travelers and boomers alike.”

For more information about African American Linguists,
visit them at


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