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Celebrity linguists

Want to find out which celebrities speak another language? Follow this link for a listing of people who are well known in their field and the languages in which they have some proficiency:

Celebrity linguists (xls)

Featured below are some quotes about the importance of learning languages.

Read more about footballers 'learning the lingo'.

'A different language is a different vision of life' Federico Fellini, film director

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David Beckham: I haven't conquered Spanish yet. I'm learning and understand what's said during training. I'm progressing little by little. Spanish is very difficult for me, although I am getting used to it. I am making an effort. It's complicated. But if I can conquer Spanish, it will have been a great achievement.

Find out more about his first press conference in Spanish.

Ian Brown: I know all the love words and the cussing, but my little boy is still taking the p*** out of me! It’s still an ambition, I’m hoping to enrol again and when I get home tell my girl not to talk English to me. Then I’d like to do a record in Spanish.

Craig Brown: I am happy to confirm that international players such as Paul Lambert and John Collins...All learned the required German and French languages very quickly...As a consequence, their children are bilingual and the players settled easily into their environments.

Eric Black: [on playing for FC Metz in France] It was a good time to play in France. They were producing good young players and it was prosperous there. I got a tutor, learned the language, and that helped me settle there into a really enjoyable life. I already spoke fluent German because my wife's mother is German. The fact I can speak two foreign languages has helped me greatly in the transfer market down the years.

Daniel Brühl (Daniel César Martín Brühl González Domingo): [on his multi-lingual upbringing] Thanks to my family I have been able to work in many different places and in different languages. I am proud to work in European Cinema.

Daniel was born in Barcelona to a German father and a Catalan mother, but grew up in Cologne. As a result, he is not only fluent in German and Spanish but has also mastered Catalan, French and English.

Sol Campbell: I'm 30 now and in five years' time I won't be in this country – that's definite. Italy looks good to me because it would suit my kind of football. Spain is an option but the idea of tasting a new culture and learning another language excites me the most. I'm starting a little with French, of course.

John Cleese: Learning a language makes our minds stronger and more flexible. Actually using it gives us an entirely new experience of the world.


Huw Edwards: During my career I have interviewed people of many nationalities and know that being able to address them in their own language is a great help. It puts the interviewee at ease and makes the conversation that follows (even if that is conducted in English) much more relaxed. We all need to develop extra language skills because they are essential in our multicultural society. As a Welshman I also feel strongly that we should celebrate and respect the world’s minority languages.

Sven- Göran Eriksson: In my experience, if you go to a foreign country, the people there will always appreciate it if you have taken the trouble to learn their language...Good luck with "Languages Work". It should be a lot of fun.


Sir Alex Ferguson CBE: All I can advise, is that you keep working at your languages. Foreign languages are exciting and interesting - keep up the hard work, it will be worth it in the end.

Colin Firth: Well, 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.

Jodie Foster: I wish that I spoke more languages. I speak a couple of languages, but not well enough to really dub myself. French is really the only one and it's a difficult thing.


Felicity Gain: I think Hebrew is a beautiful language. I’ve always been fascinated by its complexity and see it as a real challenge.

Ioan Gruffydd: The fact that I am bilingual is something I am extremely proud of. I’m one of a majority of young Europeans who can speak a second language. I speak two languages and this has given me access to two different cultures. It has also given me a wider perspective on the world.


Sir John Harvey-Jones: Dealing with other nationals through a translator or an interpreter is no substitute for direct discussion.


Eddie Izzard: There are so many languages I'd like to learn to perform in – Russian, Italian. And I'd love to be able to perform in the country where I was born – Yemen.


David James: We are in the 21st century and if you can't learn another language by now then something must be seriously wrong. I improved [my Spanish] on the recent England trip because I managed to have a lot of "half" conversations with McManaman.

Digby Jones, Director General of the CBI published an article in the RSA Journal in April 2001 warning that 'we must be careful that the predominance of English does not undermine our capacity to learn foreign languages'.


Kevin Keegan: I think the least you can do when you live in their country is learn the language.


Gary Lineker: My wife and I learnt Spanish and Japanese when I played at Barcelona and Nagoya. We spent hours and hours in tuition – yet we could have learnt either language at school. Modern languages prepare you for modern life.

As the world gets smaller, there’s never been a better opportunity to get into languages.

I've really enjoyed learning Spanish and Japanese. Getting to grips with a new language can be great fun, and you learn so much about other people and what makes them tick.

Immersing yourself in the culture is critical to making it work abroad.

Lucy Liu: [on acting in a foreign language] I would love to do a French movie or a Spanish movie, in the language. When you speak a different language, whether or not you're fluent in it, you immerse yourself into a completely different person.


Ellen MacArthur: It’s always fantastic to be able to communicate with people, whether it’s when you are signing an autograph or when you are doing a full on interview, or during a tough moment at sea with a crew.

Gwyneth Paltrow says about her daughter, Apple Martin: 'Agua' was her first word. She says a lot of words in Spanish, I speak to her in Spanish sometimes because I want her to learn.

Paul McCartney: I like languages. In school I learnt Latin, Spanish and German. On tour I have good translators that I work with. They translate what I want to say to the audience, I write it down and learn it. In 2003, Putin invited me and Heather to the Kremlin. I was telling him how I like to speak to the crowd, and I said I was going to say 'Privyet Maskvichi'. He said 'Don't say that, say "Priv-ee-et ribiata". It means "Hi guys".' He said it's much cooler. Talk about how things have changed. For years the Kremlin wouldn't let you sing in Russia, and now they're coming to your gig and they're giving you language lessons on the side. I love it.

Sir Trevor McDonald: Language learning at its best can be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences that life can offer.

Diane Modahl: I know lots of people speak English, but being prepared to say something in someone else's language is a way of showing them that you care, that you're prepared to make the effort and you don't just expect them to speak your language. That's quite arrogant actually, isn't it?

Viggo Mortensen: It helps if you know more than one language. You have a little head start on adapting, you can get your mouth around certain words and vowel sounds a little easier than if you only come at it from an English-speaking background.

Alison Moyet: I love singing in French. I don't think in French. Sometimes when you sing in another language you can think about the sound you make.


Jay Jay Okocha: The fact that I speak several languages [gives] me an advantage in talking to all the players at the club.


Mexican author and cultural attaché to London, Ignacio Padilla, says of his parents: They taught me that every language you speak is an open door to an entire world.

Jon Petrie: We regularly play teams from France and have French referees, and it makes an enormous difference being able to speak in their native tongue.

I always enjoyed learning languages at school, but never thought that I would get that much use out of the skill in later life. Now I have discovered, whether in sport, or holiday, at work, or in everyday life, it is something that I couldn't do without. Learning a foreign language can open the door to a whole host of opportunities.

Alain Prost: It's always better to speak the language of the team. Not only for direct contact with everyone – sometimes it also helps you to understand the mentality of the people in the team a bit better.


Paula Radcliffe: Although I'm known first and foremost as an athlete, my foreign language skills have given another dimension to my career. I regularly use French and German when I travel to compete in Europe.


Hugo Speer learnt French for his role in Barnie et ses petites contrariétés: I'd forgotten most of the French that I had learnt at school, I knew how to ask a girl out and how to order a beer, which are obviously the essentials! I was the only Englishman on the set, so I learnt quickly!


Oscar-winning Hollywood star Charlize Theron learned many of the 28 languages she speaks from the staff on her parents' farm.


Arsène Wenger: 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.

Jonny Wilkinson: I spent some time brushing up on my French. I am reading the French version of Running man by Stephen King. It is one of my favourite films. I can get the gist of it, which makes it more enjoyable rather than having to have a dictionary by my side all the time. I need to speak the language a fair bit more. I would like to get it nailed down. The only way really to do that is to spend some time in France.

Prince William has said he will learn Welsh and taught himself Swahili because of his love of Africa: I've got a book and a book-tape... I have them in my room and they're collecting dust quite rapidly but I am trying to make progress

Phil Willis MP: The lack of linguists in our society severely disadvantages us as a nation.


Yungun aka Essa: UK rapper Yungun performs in English and Spanish.

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