He Moved To THREE Countries To Learn Three Languages

Beginning this month, we will celebrate the accomplishments of bilingual & multilingual black men every 2nd Monday of the month (a Man Crush Monday of sorts). While our focus is giving visibility to black bilingual and multilingual women (who usually don’t get any visibility), let’s just take a moment to admire what they’ve set out to accomplish as well.

With that said, I’d like to introduce you to Blair, a CEO of a supplement company and a VP of a real estate company who speaks French, Spanish and Mandarin in addition to his native English. He also is a member of Mensa International! Read on to find out about the opportunities he created for himself to learn those three languages.

BGLL: Tell us about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?

Blair: My name is Blair Lee. I’m originally from Pennsylvania (born and raised), currently live in Miami, I am African American, and my native language is English. I am CEO of a supplement company and VP of a Real Estate company. I am a member of Mensa International, meaning my IQ is on top 1% of the world.

In my spare time, I love running. I have run over 100 races and I try to do a half marathon or Marathon every month. I like to fly and have studied for a private pilot license. I love computers and do graphic design, computer programming and website design as a hobby. I work out and lift constantly. I try to go to the gym every day. I also have a black belt in Taekwondo. I was a state champion in Karate and Taekwondo.

BGLL: Which other languages do you know?

Blair: I speak 4 languages fluently English, French, Spanish and Mandarin. Living in Miami, I speak both English and Spanish a lot. Before moving here, I was a VP of a company doing export from South China, so I spoke Chinese Mandarin to the over 300 Chinese employees under me.

For French I studied 2 years in Paris and this helped me learn a great deal about not only the language but the culture.

BGLL: How did you learn French, Spanish and Mandarin?

Blair: I took a French class in high school and I hated languages. I am a mathematical, logical individual that likes to do things that I view are practical and logical. So, sitting in a room learning a language to speak to "French People" that I have never once in my life crossed paths with in my small town, was totally illogical to me. I fought against learning any language. Years later, after I had built a successful marketing company, I wanted a vacation and didn’t know where to go. My travel agent at the time suggested that since I have never traveled outside the USA before, that I try somewhere in Europe. I found myself in Paris the following week and, yes, now that there were 40 million people around me that spoke this impractical language, I fell in love with it. I continued to frequently fly back over the next year until finally moving there. I achieved the DELF I and DELF II and DALF language certification of fluency from the French Ministry.

I knew that French was the most beautiful language to me, but my logical and practical mind reminded that if I was to have success in international business I needed to speak the 2nd most widely spoken language in the Americas. So, a few years after rebuilding my companies, I made sure I could move and study in Barcelona for some time until I mastered the language. I took and passed the DELE certification at the University of Barcelona. 

I found Mandarin by far the hardest. I moved to China in 2008 thinking that I will quickly learn this language. I became very good at learning languages and I knew all the secrets to learning. I arrogantly told myself that I would master Mandarin in 6 months. Well I wasn't aware beforehand that in the Roman languages we have about 26 letters in the alphabet but in Chinese language there are 3000 letters. OMG. On top of that, the words are differentiated by the tone you use. This was totally new to me. I had to learn to recognize tone in conversation. In my first 6 months, I received my HSK language certification from the Chinese government. But I was far from being fluent. It took me a few more years to master reading, writing, hand calligraphy, and even more difficult - the conversational idioms. These are 4-word expressions that many use in conversation to get a wise point across.

BGLL: Which language is your favorite and why?

Blair: As far as language - I love French. It is by far the most beautiful language that the ears can ever hear. The rules of the language are even set similar to rules of music. I could listen to French all day, every day.

Culturally, I must say that I am the biggest fan in the world of the Chinese culture. Modesty and respect are very important to them. It is so impressive and a great feeling to interact with Chinese people.

BGLL: What tips you can offer those who are trying to learn the languages you know?

Blair: Learn by listening. I used Pimsleur always as a base to learn a language. Why? because it is common that we will pronounce words using our native accent and this will hurt us in the long run. Learn as a 2-year-old child and listen to the words then repeat. This will ensure later that you don’t have an accent and sound more native. A 2-year-old doesn’t grab a journal to rewrite words: he learns them by listening and repeating. Immersion - this is so important. If you want to learn a language make a friend or get a tutor that is native. it will make it fun. We are social creatures and we need social interactions to learn properly, a book just isn’t enough.

BGLL: How can we keep up with you on social media?

Blair: You can follow me on Instagram.

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