A feeling of isolation in high school is what inspired Shahidah Foster to launch Black Girls Learn Languages.

Shahidah and her family relocated from New York City to Missouri and one of the first things she signed up for in her new school was the French Club. But after joining, she realized there was no one around that looked like her.  

“I was the only black person and it was very awkward,” she told Travel Noire in an interview. “It was just very frustrating because I felt like I didn’t really have anybody that I could relate to that was learning French at the time. ”

It was an incident that stuck with her into adulthood. That’s when she created Black Girls Learn Languages.

Travel Noire: What do you plan to accomplish with Black Girls Learn Languages?

Shahidah: It’s a digital community.  I have a Facebook group that’s private. I have a Facebook fan page that people interact on as well and I have Instagram. I have these different platforms where people follow me as you know their conversations.

On the website,  I have resources for learning certain languages. The Facebook group connects you with other women of color who are learning the language you might be studying.  So, for instance, there may be women in the group that are studying Greek. I don’t know anything about Greek, but they talk to each other, or they may be studying Japanese, and they talk to each other.

We also vent in the group. It’s not limited to just language. Sometimes, people come in the group, and they’re like, ‘oh, you know, I was at work today, and you know basically this person wanted to try to touch my hair.’

 We are a safe space for Black women because we don’t have that many.

Travel Noire: How many languages do you speak?

Shahidah: Well I speak German fluently and I’m actually living in Germany. I was living here when I was younger and that’s when I learned German. I’m lower intermediate in French and Spanish

Travel Noire: What are you hoping to do within the next five to 10 years?

Shahidah: One thing that I really hope to do is eventually give out a fellowship that I could give women who are pursuing studies and languages.

Travel Noire: And is there anything else you want to tell us that I didn’t ask you what you feel is important for this story.

Shahidah: If you’re learning a language don’t feel like you have to be talented and  I don’t think that is the case at all. That’s all relative. It just depends on what you know what you want to do and how much time you will need to dedicate to it. There’s a lot of people in the language community that Chinese speaking 20 languages. No.  They just dedicated time.