Vanderbilt University’s star basketball player Djery Baptiste learned the English language through one very unexpected teacher – George Strait.
According to the Tennessean, Baptiste left Haiti at the age of 15 to attend a boarding school in Massachusetts. Without any knowledge of the native language, he used music to help him develop his own understanding of the English dictionary.
“I was in America and didn’t know how to say anything in the language, but I thought I could learn it through music,” Baptiste said. “Country music was the best for me, and George Strait is my favorite. So I learned how to speak English by listening to him tell stories in his songs.”
“It’s just his voice and his tone that I love,” the star player explained of his musical idol. “I love everything about George Strait. But sometimes my friends are amazed that I love country music. It’s not what most people expect.”
Baptiste spent hours listening to country in his headphones, connecting closely with Strait, Alan Jackson, Eric Church and Zac Brown Band. “Rap and hip-hop and stuff like that didn’t tell stories, and they had a lot of bad language, and I didn’t want to learn many of those words,” Baptiste explained. “I also had books to learn English, but none of them could teach me like country music did.”
When Baptiste eventually chose to sign with Vanderbilt, he had no idea that meant he would be moving to the Music City. “I did not know it was the country music city until I was walking around the [Country Music Hall of Fame] and recognized all those old songs,” Baptiste said. “I heard them playing and I knew all the words. I would start singing them, and my teammates would be like, ‘How do you know all these songs?’”
Thanks to Strait’s teachings, the 20-year-old can add English to his list of five spoken languages. Outside of basketball, Baptiste is busy studying public policy and linguistics with the hopes of someday becoming a diplomat for the republic of Haiti.