- Speaking more than one language is impressive, but some celebrities have learned up to five.
- Jack Black and Sandra Oh are among the stars who’ve mastered multiple languages.
- Jodie Foster is a proud polyglot while Bradley Cooper is a confident French speaker.
Whether it’s Mila Kunis telling off a reporter in Russian or Ben Affleck bantering in Spanish, some celebrities are known for their linguistic talents, while others keep their knowledge of multiple languages relatively under wraps.
Some celebrities have picked up languages because of their cultural background while others have perfected them out of mere fascination.
Here are 25 stars you may not have known are fluent in multiple languages.
Portman is accomplished in many aspects — she’s a Harvard graduate who’s been published twice in scientific journals, Insider previously reported — but what many may not know is that she is also fluent in Hebrew, as well as five other languages.
With an Israeli-American background, Portman grew up speaking Hebrew and English, then picked up the additional languages of French, Japanese, German, and Spanish, America Reads Spanish reported.
In an interview with the organization — which aims to increase the use of Spanish in the US — Portman said, “Learning is beautiful. Spanish is one of the languages most useful in the world. […] I fell in love with the culture, the language, the lifestyle.”
In a 2009 Spanish-language interview with the Associated Press, which was shared on Today.com, Paltrow talks about how she fell in love with Spanish as a teenage exchange student and has since become fluent in the language, visiting the country at least once a year.
In a 2013 interview with Dulce Osuna, the Oscar-winning actress also revealed she speaks Spanish to her children and hired a nanny who would speak Spanish to them.
In addition, the Goop founder picked up French along with her family, her mother, actress Blythe Danner, told The Sun in 2012, NDTV reported.
The mom-of-two even limits her children’s television to French or Spanish instead of their native English, another NDTV article reported. While she hasn’t used it on film, Paltrow has wowed interviewers with her French.
In a 2009 interview with the Associated Press, which was shared by CBS 8, Paltrow referred to speaking more than one language as “a profound experience.”
The singer was born in Colombia and raised speaking Spanish. Her manager at the time, Emilio Estefan, and fellow artist Gloria Estefan helped her learn English, Gloria Estefan told Latin Times in 2013.
Since then, Shakira has also picked up other languages, such as Portuguese, Italian, French, Catalan, and even Arabic, Madrid-based newspaper Marca reported.
Shakira is a successful songstress with top-charting music in both English and Spanish.
Although Bullock was born in Virginia, the actress followed her late mother, German opera singer Helga Mathilde Meyer, on European concert tours, Vogue reported. Her childhood was spent between Germany and Washington, DC.
Bullock has shared her foreign-language skills publicly, having presented the best foreign language film award in German at the 2012 Oscars, E! News reported.
While at the University of Cambridge, the English actor studied classics, learning ancient Greek and Latin in the process, the Daily Mail reported.
As seen in his many interviews on YouTube, Hiddleston is a polylingual force to be reckoned with: The “Loki” star has learned Spanish, French, Italian, and Greek. He can also converse in Russian, Korean, and Mandarin.
In an interview with Sirius XM in 2020, he said, “I wasn’t particularly, in fact, at all gifted at mathematics or the sciences, but as soon as we started learning languages, I found I had an affinity for it.”
As a child, Foster attended a French-language school where she became fluent in the foreign language by the time she was 14. According to IMDb, the former child star also learned Spanish at a young age and was fluent in Italian by the time she was 18.
The actress even dubs herself in French versions of her movies, Collider reported.
The two-time Oscar winner was given the rare honor of hosting the French equivalent of the Oscars, known as the César Awards, in 2011, France Today reported.
The actress was born in what was then the Soviet Union, where she grew up speaking Russian.
In 1991, her family left their home in what was then the Soviet Union to move stateside to Los Angeles when she was 7 years old, according to Biography.
In an interview with CNN in 2022, Kunis expressed her new sense of pride for Ukraine, the country where she was born, saying, “I am Ukrainian who speaks Russian…”
Cooper first learned French in high school and was inspired to take French classes as a student at Georgetown University.
“When I was a kid, I remember watching ‘Chariots of Fire.’ And French is the official language of the Olympics. So there’s a scene where a guy was speaking French, and I thought, ‘Man, that sounds so cool. I want to learn French,'” he said in an interview with People in 2011.
After spending six months as an exchange student in Aix-en-Provence to immerse himself in French culture, his skills improved to fluency in the foreign language, France Today reported.
Born in West Germany, the actress was raised speaking German. As a teenager, her mother sent her to London, where she learned English through student exchange programs, the Telegraph reported. In a 2021 interview with The Laterals magazine, Kruger shared that at 15, her mother allowed her to pursue a modeling career in Paris, which is where she picked up French.
According to IMDb, Kruger also studied Latin in school over the course of eight years. She later learned Russian for the 2006 film “The Tiger Brigades.” The star even does her own voice dubbing in German, French, and English for the foreign releases of her films.
Kruger got to put her fluency to the test for her 2022 film, “The 355.”
“Part of what is exciting about this film is that each one of us comes from a different country and speaks different languages, and we have these different language skills that are being put to use in this movie,” she said in an interview for WION News.
During an appearance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” in March 2020, he spoke about how he and his family spent a year living in Mexico while he shot a television series when he was 13. Affleck described how he became what he now calls “passively fluent” in Spanish.
The actor also said his daughter’s Spanish-speaking skills have inspired him to brush up on the language.
“I don’t mind that I can’t do your math homework,” he joked, “but you are not gonna be better at Spanish than me.”
According to IMDb, the actress learned English later in life, then Italian for her role in the 2004 movie “Don’t Move.” She would go on to win the Italian equivalent of the Oscars for best actress.
A common misconception is that she can speak French — she speaks it in the 2003 French film “Fanfan.” However, she reportedly learned the lines phonetically.
Theron grew up in South Africa, where Afrikaans is one of the most widely spoken languages. She learned to speak English fluently when she moved to the United States at 19, she told the “Smartless” podcast in November 2022, CNN reported.
She came under fire following the interview for saying that her mother tongue is “a dying language.”
“It’s not a very helpful language,” Theron said.
The Pan South African Language Board shared that statistics actually show Afrikaans is the third most spoken language in their country.
Depp’s considerable acting experience has seen him adopt various accents, from Scottish and Australian to Irish and French.
He is also bilingual in French and English, and speaks French in the 2023 movie “Jeanne du Barry,” Deadline reported. He shares two children who are also bilingual, Lily-Rose Depp and Jack Depp, with former partner and French model Vanessa Paradis.
He even calls France his spiritual home.
In an interview with Reuters in 2010, he said, “France is everything. It’s afforded me the idea of a semi-normal life … There’s something magnetic (here), I don’t know what it is.”
The award-winning English actor even holds dual citizenship in both countries, the BBC reported, which he credits to being connected to Italy “for more than two decades now.”
“I was married there and had two children born in Rome,” he told BBC in 2017.
DiCaprio’s international background influenced his interest in languages.
The German Way & More reported that the A-lister was born to a half-Italian, half-German father and a German mother. His mother often took young Leo on trips to Germany to visit his maternal grandmother, Helene. It was during these family reunions that he built up his fluency in German and enjoyed aspects of German culture.
Later in life, his special interest in Italian led to him becoming fluent in the language, even using it to converse with the Pope.
Born to Korean parents in an Ottawa suburb of Canada, Sandra Oh grew up speaking Korean, according to IMDb. Married in Seoul, Oh’s father is a businessman and her mother is a biochemist, Marie Claire reported. She later learned French while studying acting at the National Theatre School of Canada in Quebec.
Oh was able to incorporate her Korean into her role as a single mom in “The Chair.”
“To have the richness of having to speak another language other than English to our parents and then having to bridge from our parents to our children” was a story she found “very fulfilling,” she said in an interview for The Los Angeles Times in 2021.
IMDb also noted Oh is fluent in Spanish, stemming from a love for Spain, in particular Barcelona.
Born in Mexico to Kenyan parents, Nyong’o was raised in Mexico until she was 3 before returning to Kenya. At 16, she returned to Mexico to learn Spanish at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México’s Learning Centre for Foreigners, CNN Español reported.
The actress, who plays the multilingual Wakandan spy Nakia in the “Black Panther” movies, talked about the opportunity to speak Spanish in the 2022 sequel while speaking with Entertainment Weekly’s “Around the Table” video series, saying it “represents different sides of my heritage.”
“I was so excited about it,” the Oscar winner said. “It was just a straight gift. And I was very, very happy to do it… I’ve always wanted to work in Spanish, and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that that opportunity would come in ‘Black Panther.'”
She later learned two African languages: Swahili and Luo.
Gordon-Levitt took classes, some in poetry, entirely in French while at Columbia University, The Straits Times reported. He has also spoken of his love of French movies.
“I love French culture, the French language, and especially French movies,” he said in an interview with The Toronto Sun in 2015.
In 2015, he embodied the role of Philippe Petit, the real-life Frenchman who once walked a cable between the World Trade Center towers. When cast in “The Walk,” the actor insisted on replicating Petit’s accent, The Straits Times reported.
According to IMDb, Zellweger was born to a Norwegian-born former nurse and midwife and a Swiss-born engineer. She embraced those roots and learned Norwegian, German, and English.
In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar in 2022, Zellweger said she learned Norwegian using “one of those apps for your phone.”
Entertainment Weekly reported that Malik learned Urdu from his father and can speak the national language of Pakistan fluently. The former One Directioner was born to a Pakistani father and a British mother.
He has even incorporated Urdu into his music. The song “Intermission: Flower” from his debut solo album “Mind of Mine” from 2016 is sung in Urdu. The song “Tightrope” from his third solo album, “Nobody Is Listening,” also features Urdu lyrics.
Malik is also on his way to becoming a polyglot — even tattooing his daughter’s name on his wrist in Arabic, People reported.
Céline Dion was born and brought up in French-speaking Charlemagne, Quebec, in Canada, and her first albums were all sung in her native language, CBC reported.
At the end of the 1980s, she took a break from performing and learned English. Her ninth studio album, “Unison,” was her first English-language offering.
She has since performed in nine languages, from Spanish and Japanese to German and Mandarin.
Vogue Arabia reported that Ora moved to England from Kosovo as a refugee when she was a toddler. She grew up speaking the mother tongue of Albania to her Kosovar-Albanian parents, who didn’t speak English.
Rita has spoken about her pride as one of Kosovo’s few famous faces.
“I will forever be a true Kosovan at heart. I’ll never forget my roots and I’ll be forever proud of my heritage – I wouldn’t change a thing.” Ora told Vogue Arabia in 2020.
The “School of Rock” actor picked up an interest in Spanish and French later in life.
He told Study in Spain in 2012 that he practices his pronunciation of Spanish in the mirror and watches Spanish movies.
Anya Taylor-Joy may have been born in Miami, but she was raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, until the age of 6, where she spoke Spanish. She referenced her background in her opening monologue on “Saturday Night Live” in 2021.
“Now that you’re hearing my accent, you may be surprised to know I was born in Miami, raised between Argentina and London, and my first language is Spanish, so legally my ethnicity is Fashion Week,” the “Queen’s Gambit” actress joked.
Timothée Chalamet has dual US and French citizenship.
“I grew up speaking both French and English,” he told RSNG in 2022, “since my father comes from France.”