13 celebrities you won’t believe are famous polyglots

November 10, 2023

What do Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper and Mila Kunis all have in common? 

They’re famous polyglots!

A bilingual person can speak two languages, whereas polyglots can speak several languages. Which means these big names aren’t just pretty faces, folks! 

The experts at Busuu, the award-winning language-learning app, have put together a list of the most unexpected famous polyglots. Some of the celebrities on the list speak as many as – wait for it – 11 different languages!

Here are 13 of the most unexpected famous polyglots, past and present

1. Leonardo Dicaprio

Which languages does Leonardo Dicaprio speak? English, Italian and German– that’s three languages!

Global star Leonardo DiCaprio is well-known for his acting abilities, good looks and charm, but many are unaware of his linguistic abilities. 

DiCaprio actively chose to learn Italian as his father is German-Italian and he wished to engage with his heritage. Having a German mother also meant that DiCaprio picked up fluent German as he spent a lot of time visiting his grandmother in Germany. 

2. Sandra Oh

Which languages does Sandra Oh speak? English, Korean, Spanish and French – that’s four languages!

Television superstar Sandra Oh speaks a total of four languages, which include English, Korean, Spanish and French. Oh is thought to have picked up French while studying at theatre school in Quebec, Canada. 

3. Shakira

Which languages does Shakira speak? English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Italian – that’s an impressive five languages!

The Colombian singer has songs in both Spanish and English and learned Portuguese while touring years ago. Shakira’s mother and father are of Lebanese and Spanish-Italian descent respectively, meaning she is also fluent in Arabic and Italian.

4. Jackie Chan

Which languages does Jackie Chan speak? English, German, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Thai, Mandarin, Cantonese and ASL – that’s a whopping nine languages!

The karate master can speak and understand a daunting total of nine languages, including American Sign Language. English was the official language in Hong Kong throughout Chan’s childhood, hence his fluency. As well as English, he speaks German, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai. Chan is quite the linguist!

5. Natalie Portman

Which languages does Natalie Portman speak? English, Japanese, Hebrew, French, Spanish and German – that’s an impressive six languages! 

Born in Jerusalem and educated mostly in New York, Natalie Portman can speak Hebrew and English fluently. As well as this, Portman is fluent in French and Spanish. Whilst filming the critically acclaimed, V for Vendetta, Portman was highly praised by staff and crew for speaking exceptional conversational German on set. 

6. Bradley Cooper

Which languages does Bradley Cooper speak? English, French and Italian – that’s three languages!

The Hangover star has been praised for having brilliant French after studying in France for six months. He also speaks Italian, which he learned from his mother. 

7. Roger Federer

Which languages does Roger Federer speak? English, German, French, Swedish and Italian – that’s an impressive five languages!  

Swiss tennis ace Roger Federer is renowned for doing interviews in the various languages that he speaks. Being Swiss, he also speaks German and French as these are the neighbouring countries. He has also been known to speak to journalists in fluent Swedish, English and Italian!  

8. Alicia Vikander

Which languages does Alicia Vikander speak? English, French, Swedish and Danish – that’s four languages! 

Ex-Machina star and former Lara Croft, Alicia Vikander was born in Sweden, but also speaks English and French. The actress also learned Danish for her role in A Royal Affair.

9. Tom Hiddlestone

Which languages does Tom Hiddlestone speak? English, French, Spanish, Italian and Greek – that’s an impressive five languages!

Hiddlestone starred most notably as Loki in the Marvel collection, but not many are aware of just how many languages he has mastered. Along with French, Spanish and Italian, Tom Hiddlestone can also speak Greek, which is arguably one one of the hardest languages to learn. 

10. Fernando Alonso

Which languages does Fernando Alonso speak? English, Italian, French and Spanish – that’s four languages!

Spanish racing legend Fernando Alonso is also a polyglot, speaking Italian and French as well as his Spanish mother tongue. He also managed to become fluent in English whilst living in the UK.

11. Penélope Cruz

Which many languages does Penélope Cruz speak? Spanish, French, Italian and English – that’s four languages!

Born in Madrid, Cruz learned French at school and studied English and Italian in order to play certain roles and advance her acting career. This famous female polyglot even won a David di Donatello Award for her role in the Italian film Non Ti Muovere (Don’t Move).

12. Cleopatra 

Which languages did Cleopatra speak? Greek, Ethiopian, Latin, and the languages of the Hebraioi, Arabes, Syrians, Medes and Parthians, to name a few. That’s around nine – yes, nine – languages!

Cleopatra’s native language was Greek, as she came from the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin who ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great’s death.

Knowing so many languages helped Cleopatra in diplomatic and financial negotiations.

13. Queen Elizabeth I

Which languages did Queen Elizabeth I speak? English, French, Flemish, Latin, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish and Irish. That’s an unbelievable 11 languages in total!

Knowing so many languages came in handy when speaking to visitors and ambassadors from the courts of Europe.

In 1603, the Venetian ambassador Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli even wrote that Queen Elizabeth “possessed [these] languages so thoroughly that each appeared to be her native tongue.”

Want to join the ranks of these famous polyglots?

We’re Busuu, the award-winning language-learning app. We can help you reach polyglot status 4x faster than traditional methods.

Become a famous polyglot – learn languages with Busuu

The famous part? You may have to figure that out on your own…

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