Celebrities make a living off their skills to perform, act, sing, dance and master stage presence, but they also have to master their speaking and communication skills, especially when pursuing international careers. Though you’ve probably only ever heard most of the celebrities on this list speak English, as their success is primarily in USA entertainment industry, they all have at least one, if not more, foreign languages in their back pocket. Do you want to meet some of these multilingual celebrities? Keep reading!
Penélope Cruz: Spanish/English/Italian
The Spanish actress speaks Italian and English on top of her native Spanish. While Jodie Foster learned French at a very young age, Cruz learned Italian and English later in life in order to play certain roles and further her acting career, even winning awards for films in which she played an Italian-speaking character (‘Non ti muovere’). Her Italian is so good that she even assumed the role of Mario in the Nintendo ad for the game New Super Mario Bros 2 in 2012.
Natalie isn’t only an Oscar-winning actress, she’s also academically very gifted. The Israeli actress has turned down roles and missed premiers in order to focus on and further her studies. She holds a Psychology degree from Harvard University where she contributed to a paper entitled ‘Frontal Lobe Activation During Object Permanence: Data From Near-Infrared Spectroscopy’. She speaks English and Hebrew as native languages, and can also speak German and Spanish. “Spanish is one of the languages most useful in the world. I went to shoot a Milos Forman movie in Spain (‘Los fantasmas de Goya’) in Madrid and I fell in love with the culture, the language and the lifestyle”.
Bradley Cooper: English/French
In 2011, Bradley Cooper surprised everyone with his fluent French speaking skills when he gave an interview in French to promote ‘The Hangover 2’. Cooper picked up the language while he was in College, choosing to study French alongside his English degree, and he cemented his expertise by going on an exchange program to Aix-en-Provence where he spent six months. Cooper decided to learn French when he was kid, he got intrigued when watching “Chariots of Fire”; he thought French sounded very cool.
Colin Firth: English/Italian
Colin Firth learned Italian when he started dating his wife, the film producer and director Livia Giuggioli. He’s now fluent, and says with some confidence that he would be able to act in an Italian film. Apparently, Firth is particularly fond of insults in Italian, as they’re used more sparingly than in English but to greater effect.
Kristin Scott Thomas dubs her own movies into French. She’s lived in France since the age of nineteen and speaks the language perfectly, even attesting to sometimes feeling more French than British. She’s won many accolades and a fair few BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for her roles in French language films.
Gwyneth Paltrow: English/Spanish
She spent the summer of Sophomore year (15 years old) in high school as a foreign exchange student in Talavera de la Reina (Toledo, Spain). She continues to regularly visit the town and her host family and after learning Spanish to a high level, the actress has spent years teaching her children, Apple and Moses, to speak the language too. “Spain is my second home”.
Jodie Foster: English/French/Spanish/German/Italian
Owing to the fact that she attended a French-speaking prep school, the Lycée Français de Los Angeles, Jodie Foster can speak French fluently. In fact, she can speak it so well that she’s acted in French films and has dubbed many of her own films into French. Her interest in foreign languages doesn’t stop there, however. Foster can also get by in Italian, Spanish and German.
Matt Damon: English/Spanish
He is married to Luciana Barroso, who was born in Argentina, so it’s easy to know why the American actor can speak Spanish. “When I was 15, 16, 17 we used to go backpacking across Mexico and Guatemala. We would begin by doing a language school course. They work by immersion therapy – you go to school for six hours a day and then you go home with a Mexican family. Spanish is the only language spoken”.
Viggo Mortensen’s command of the Danish language comes from her father, who was of Danish descent. In fact, growing up, Mortensen was completely bilingual, speaking English with his mother and Danish with his father. He later picked up fluency in Spanish, French, and Italian. He’s worked in Spanish in the movies ‘Jauja’ (Argentinan film) and ‘Alatriste’ (Spanish film).
Arnold Schwarzenegger: English/German
He moved to the United States from Austria at the age of twenty-one hardly able to speak English. He then went on to graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Superior with an International Marketing degree, obtain American citizenship and, of course, become The Governator of California. His proposal to dub himself in German was rejected due to his rural Austrian accent being too thick.