When junior Dejour Banks was in middle school, he took Spanish as one of his required classes, and found that he had a gift.
“I kind of noticed I was head and shoulders above my peers — not in an arrogant way — but just as far as how passionate I was about the language,” Banks said. “So I kept learning and learning.”
Banks grew up in Raleigh, which he said only contains pockets of Spanish speakers, so it wasn’t until years of practicing grammar and concepts when he had his first conversation with a fluent speaker. Banks said he couldn’t understand the speaker, but the experience is what pushed him to learn everything he could about the language.
“I got to master this language,” Banks said. “I can’t just let this failure keep me down.”
It’s been five years since the incident that drove Banks to near-fluency, and now he has his own YouTube channel teaching viewers Spanish. The channel is called “Tú Lo Tienes,” which translates to “You’ve got this.”
Banks’ friend and fellow YouTuber, sophomore Grayson Thompson, encouraged him to make the channel after seeing Banks’s passion for Spanish.
“When it comes to social media and putting stuff out there, not a lot of people can do it,” Thompson said. “But I think social media and YouTube is a great way to find people.”
Banks’ most recent YouTube video is titled, “BARBERSHOP Terms in Spanish! (Términos de LA BARBERÍA EN ESPAÑOL!).” In this 3 minute, 55 second video, Banks teaches viewers terms commonly used in a barbershop or in reference to hair care, such as cabello, or hair on top of the head, and la barba, or beard.
The video uses humorous barbershop experiences and slight self-deprecation to teach the terms in the context of a sentence. Banks said this strategy of teaching is one of the “creative ways for people to learn and get the terms stuck in their head.”
In Banks’ videos, he speaks at a normal-to-fast pace in Spanish, unless he is teaching specific words. He said speeding up his speaking is more realistic to what Spanish speakers actually sound like in real life and in other media.
“It’s important to be able to comprehend quickly because when you get to the real world, people aren’t gonna slow down for you all the time,” Banks said.
Banks sometimes uses English subtitles in his Spanish videos so that viewers can make connections between English and Spanish words, but Banks doesn’t think people should be depending on them.
The videos on his channel with the most views — from 43 to 81 — consist of “storytimes” from his own life in Spanish and engaging with Spanish speakers in public, with one video even being shot in Miami, Florida, a city where 70% of its residents speak Spanish, according to Lingua Language Center.
While in Miami, Banks said there was a Spanish speaker every 10 seconds of the video, rather than in Raleigh where he would have to seek out Spanish-speaking stores and neighborhoods to grab content. He said being able to speak Spanish has provided him with connections, and he loves seeing native speakers’ faces light up when they hear him speak their language.
For example, Banks met a Cuban man in Miami when they were riding all-terrain vehicles, and decided to say something in Spanish to him. He got excited and the two spoke in Spanish with each other for a while, forming a connection.
Banks, an entrepreneurship major, said he aims to move to Miami in the future for his career. Eventually though, he wants to move to Costa Rica and learn more languages, to become a polyglot. Banks said Mandarin is one language he is interested in learning.
Here at Elon, Banks has also established connections with people who work at the university, but not with professors of the Spanish department — with custodians and those who work behind the scenes at Elon who speak Spanish. Banks said he’s “been able to bond with them.”
At the moment, Banks is not looking for income, but rather, he wants to “create value for people” and serve as a resource for those learning the Spanish language, not the “end all be all.” Monetization is not at all why he started the YouTube channel, he said.
“I was feeling a lot of cognitive dissonance because I know all this Spanish and I'm not really using it on a big scale,” Banks said.
With YouTube’s 868.4 million users worldwide in 2023, according to Statista, Banks hopes to reach people beyond Raleigh, beyond Elon, beyond North Carolina.
Banks’ plans for the channel are to collaborate with other YouTubers, make videos in different countries and find ways for his videos to be more creative, like keeping the camera rolling as he walks up to potential on-camera guests.
The ultimate goal for him though is to “break the language barrier” with monetization as a byproduct of his efforts. He urges people who want to learn Spanish to “make it a lifestyle.”
“My phone is in Spanish, my TV is in Spanish, when I play video games, those are Spanish, my laptop is in Spanish and the people I've talked to are Spanish speakers,” Banks said. “There are no excuses as to why we can't learn. Bring the language and the culture to you.”