On 6 October 2020, many people mourned the passing of rock icon and guitarist Eddie Van Halen, from the popular 80s band Van Halen, whose albums include Van Halen, Diver Down, and 1984. Here’s a little known fact about Eddie Van Halen: he was born in Amsterdam to Dutch parents and moved to the US when he was 8.
Here’s a video interview of Eddie Van Halen with his brother and fellow band member, Alex Van Halen, speaking Dutch:
We’ve compiled a small list of other bilingual celebrities and looked at how they came to be bilingual.
Actress and multiple Academy, Golden Globe and BAFTA award winner Jodie Foster has an impressive film repertoire that includes Taxi Driver, The Silence of the Lambs, and Nell. Foster, who is American, attended a lycée français, a French high school, resulting in her becoming fluent in French. She has acted in French films and often dubs herself in French-language versions of her English-language films.
Check out Jodie Foster speaking French in an interview:
Actress, producer and director Natalie Portman, who starred in Léon, V for Vendetta and Black Swan, grew up in the US to Jewish parents and learned Hebrew in school. She has dual US-Israeli citizenship and in addition to speaking fluent English and Hebrew, speaks conversational French, Japanese, German and Arabic.
Watch Natalie Portman speak Hebrew during an interview:
Actress Sandra Bullock, who starred in many notable films including Speed, The Blind Side, and Gravity, spent 12 years living in Germany and Austria, where she became fluent in German. Her mother, Helga Meyer, was a German opera singer.
Listen to Sandra Bullock accepting an award in German:
Isn’t she incredible?
German actress Diane Kruger, who starred in Inglorious Basterds, Fringe and Sky, speaks fluent English and French in addition to her native German. She lived and modelled in France during her teenage years.
Watch Diane Kruger speaking 3 languages here:
Actor Viggo Mortensen, who starred in numerous notable films including 28 Days, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Green Book, grew up in Denmark, Argentina and the US. Not only is he fluent in Danish, Spanish and English, he also speaks conversational French, Italian, Catalan and Arabic.
Watch Viggo Mortensen speaking 7 languages:
Seven languages, folks! We are officially impressed!
Learning languages from parents and family or from living in a foreign country whilst growing up seems to be the best way to achieve fluency in a foreign language. Study and schooling are also great ways to learn foreign languages, especially at a young age. Many polyglots speak other languages conversationally in addition to multiple native languages.
Coming soon: an article on tips and tricks to learning foreign languages. Stay tuned!