Some celebrity inspiration to encourage your students to learn a language…
Audrey Hepburn: Besides being naturally bilingual in English and Dutch, Audrey Hepburn was also fluent in French, Italian, Spanish, and German. You can hear her speaking all of these languages here.
Eddie Izzard: This stand-up comedian and actor has toured his stand up show ‘Force Majeure’ in a multiplicity of languages across the globe. “There’s a political basis for me to learning other languages, because if we don’t come together in the world then the world’s not going to make it.” Hear him talk about his life and languages.
Will Ferrell: Will Ferrell has a passion for learning languages – the Anchorman star married the Swedish actress, Viveca Paulin, in 1995, and now visits Sweden every summer to polish up his language skills. You can hear Will speak Swedish here.
Bradley Cooper: Bradley Cooper took part in a French exchange programme in Aix en Provence during high school, and has practised the language ever since. To see an interview he gave in French, click here.
Colin Firth: Colin Firth is married to Livia Giuggioli, the Italian film producer and director. He says: “It’s wonderful to have an excuse to learn a language. [My wife’s] English is better than my Italian will ever be. But, if you’re going to live your life with someone, you should, as a mark of respect, try to learn their way of conceptualising things.” Find out more here.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The actor, most famous for his roles in Ten Things I Hate About You and Inception, is fluent in French. Watch this video of the actor being interviewed in French.
Daniel Brühl: Daniel was born in Barcelona in June 1978, son of a German father and a Catalan mother. The actor was raised bilingually in Cologne and visited Spain regularly when he was young. He has often spoken of his love for languages: “I love doing it because you can express certain things – better or worse – in one or the other language… Each language has its strengths and qualities, and that is what I love about Europe – you have so many different languages and cultures right next to each other.” He admits that unconsciously he changes his tone and the way he acts when speaking different languages. “My friends say when I speak Spanish, first my voice is lower and then I make many more gestures… I move my hands all the time, which I don’t do when I am speaking German.” Watch an interview with him (in Spanish) here.
Mila Kunis: Mila Kunis, also famously known as the voice of Meg from the TV show Family Guy, moved to Los Angeles from the Ukraine when she was only seven years old. Kunis still practices the Russian she learnt as a child, as shown in this interview filmed in Mexico.
Natalie Portman: Natalie Portman can already speak five languages; Hebrew, German, Japanese, Spanish and French, two of which she can speak fluently. Portman spent her early years living in Jerusalem and has mastered the language, as shown in this YouTube clip.
Brad Pitt: Brad is of German ancestry, speaks the language and is a regular to the country. “I like the language – I even find it beautiful and melodic,” he told the “Cologne Express” newspaper. Find out more here.
One Direction: One Direction vowed to learn at least 20 of the most common words in the languages of the countries they’re visiting before they land. They realised that learning a language would help them to communicate to fans and the press after feeling a culture shock when visiting Japan recently. Find out more here.
Celine Dion: Celine Dion sang in Mandarin at a Chinese new year gala in Beijing to welcome in the year of the snake (2013). Watch the video here.
Ellen MacArthur: “I absolutely could not have competed at the level I did in sailing if I hadn’t spoken French fluently. I wouldn’t have integrated with the other sailors in the same way, and nor would I have been as successful in gaining sponsorship, because speaking French opened up a whole new world of interviews and avenues for funding. The French people really did take me under their wing.” Speaking French has been central to the success of former round-the-world sailor Ellen MacArthur.
Tom Daley: Olympic medal winner, Tom Daley, achieved an A in his A-level Spanish exams. He is now able to participate in Spanish interviews. Great inspiration for budding Olympians! You can hear him talk here about why languages are important to him.
Novak Djokovic: “We have a saying in our country: the more languages you know, more is your worth as a person.” Top ranking tennis player Novak Djokovic reveals his love for language learning.
Petr Čech: Arsenal Double Club presents footballer Petr Čech – talking about how he uses his languages and how important it is to learn them.
Arsène Wenger: Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal football team manager, can speak French, German, English, Spanish, Italian and a little Japanese. Wenger promotes language learning and the benefits it can bring to your career – “I would like to take this opportunity to say how advantageous it can be… To have knowledge of foreign languages… I would have no hesitation in advising people of any age to learn another language”. In this video clip, Wenger talks about learning languages and his motivation for doing so.
Paula Radcliffe: Paula Radclffe gained a first-class honours degree in French, German & Economics from Loughborough University. Radcliffe’s language skills have come in very useful for when she has participated in international events.
Stephen Fry: Stephen Fry is currently learning to speak German, and is enjoying the learning process every step of the way. Read what he has to say about his love for “one of the most euphonious and beautiful languages”.
JK Rowling: JK Rowling has a French and Classics degree; and studied for a year in Paris. Her knowledge of the language is actually evident in many of the fabricated words and names that she included in the stories, which have French as their basis. Examples are Beauxbatons, which means beautiful wands, Fleur Delacour from ‘fleur’ meaning flower and ‘delacour’ meaning ‘of the court’ and Malfoy, from the French phrase ‘mal foi’ (meaning bad faith). Find out more here.
Caroline Wyatt: Caroline is a BBC defence correspondent, and speaks French, German and some Russian. “Speaking the language makes a huge difference to how people relate to you, and the experience that you have of that country. It enables you to relate to people in a different way, and understand vital nuances that are otherwise lost. And knowing something of the language generally means you have at least tried to gain some understanding of the culture and history of a place, which is invaluable whether reporting or going somewhere on holiday.” Caroline says: “Languages are a huge gift to give any child, as they open a whole different window on the world.” Click here to find out why languages matter to Caroline.
Bridget Kendall: “Speaking Russian meant that when, after six years at the BBC, I was sent to Moscow as a correspondent, I was able to get beneath the skin of the place and find stories which were not immediately obvious. I had more fun, because my experience was not filtered through translators and I could talk to people in their own language. Sometimes speaking the local language kept me safer because I was able to talk my way through a roadblock or persuade a hostile crowd at a protest rally that I was simply someone who wanted to hear their side of the story.” Languages Today magazine interviewed BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall in 2011.
Rosie Goldsmith: “As a BBC foreign affairs journalist, I owe my professional life to my languages. If I didn’t speak German, for example, I wouldn’t have reported for the BBC on the fall of the Berlin Wall, or met my husband, or be able to really understand Wagner.” Languages Today magazine interviewed BBC journalist Rosie Goldsmith in 2011.
If you know any more celebrities hiding their language skills under a bushel, please email us your additions to this page.