When Gorgui Dieng arrived in the United States in high school, he knew practically zero English. Two months later, he could easily hold conversations in the language.
Picking up new tongues is nothing new to the Timberwolves’ big man.
He’s fluent in three languages — French, English and Wolof, the native tongue of Senegal.
He used to be better in Spanish, but still easily knows enough to get around Spain with no problem and can read Arabic, which he had to learn to memorize the Quran to fully understand his Muslim faith before he went to Catholic school in Senegal.
Like Wolof, Dieng learned French — another official language of Senegal, which was spoken at Dieng’s school and at government buildings in his home country — at an early age. That was the hardest language to learn, according to Dieng.
“The vocabulary is difficult. The grammar is crazy. French is hard,” Dieng said. “It’s not one of my favorites. If you don’t know French, there ain’t nothing you can do there. That’s the same thing here, you can’t do nothing without English.”
Still, he speaks French regularly. At home on any given night, Dieng might mix English and Wolof or English and French nearly 50-50. He’s comfortable speaking any of those three.
Dieng thinks it’s important people learn multiple languages, noting there are many situations in which it’s beneficial.
One language he has yet to pick up — German. Dieng often makes trips to the European country, but he knows little to none of the language. He said Holger Geschwindner, Dirk Nowitzki’s personal coach, taught him some awhile back.
“But I forgot it,” he said. “German, I think, is hard. I quit on it.”