Not all movie actresses are monolingual

Amber Heard as Mera in Justice League
Amber Heard as Mera in Justice League

In the US and UK, monolingualism feels like the default. Speak more than one language? Crazy, particularly if we’re aiming for fluency rather than asking “¿Donde esta la biblioteca?’, ‘Où est la Gare Saint-Lazare, s’il vous plaît?’ or ‘Wie komme ich am besten zum Bahnhof, bitte?’ and hoping that the answer is short, slow and sweet.

Yet, more than half the world is at least bilingual and there are whole continents and sub-continents where being able to speak more than one language is the norm. And there are people who in the US and the UK who are among that number.

Even in Hollywood.

Normally, Bradley Cooper is the one everyone points to when they want to be wowed by an American actor speaking a foreign language. After all:

  1. He is sexy
  2. He speaks French, which is sexy
  3. He’s a man

Perhaps more impressive is Ed Norton, who can speak Japanese:

However, point 3 – Bradley Cooper is a man – highlights an important point. It’s usually men who get the credit for this. So today, let’s spare a thought for some actresses who get less credit for bilingualism.

Okay, Charlize Theron is from South Africa, so her ability to speak Afrikaans (or Flemish) isn’t necessarily hugely impressive:

And Sandra Bullock has German family, so her speaking German isn’t necessarily miraculous:

But let’s spare a thought for Texas-born, Spanish family-less Amber Heard, who speaks fluent Spanish and has done entire interviews in Spanish for Aquaman:

And then there’s Natalie Portman who can speak – deep breath – Hebrew, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Arabic and ASL.

It is of course worth noting that Portman has an Erdös-Bacon-Sabbath number of 11, so is clearly a smart cookie in other fields, too. However, that’s not quite as good as either The Wonder Years’ Danica McKellar and Blossom‘s Mayim Bialik, both of whom have the highest EBS number of any actor or actress: 10. Whether they speak anything other than English, though, I don’t know.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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