She may have lived over 2,000 years ago, but Cleopatra is still one of the most famous women of all-time. While you probably know her name and her story, you may not know what she spoke at least 9 different languages!  

As well as speaking Greek, Ethiopian and Latin, Cleopatra also spoke the languages of the Hebraioi, Arabes, Syrians, Medes and Parthians.  

Her native language was Greek, but Cleopatra used her knowledge of various languages to expand her empire and become one of the most famous female rulers of all-time. 

Queen Elizabeth I

You know you are famous when an entire period is dedicated to you. For Queen Elizabeth I, her reign as the ruler of England is now referred to as the Elizabethan era. During her 44 years on the throne, she accomplished so much and one of the reasons she was able to accomplish so much was that she spoke 11 different languages. Yes, 11! 

Her languages included English, French, Flemish, Latin, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish and Irish. And according to writings from ambassadors of the time, she spoke them all fluently, with some noting that each one appeared to actually be her native tongue.  

Audrey Hepburn

As one of the greatest female actresses of all time and a fashion icon, you’re probably familiar with Audrey Hepburn, even if you haven’t seen any of her films. She enjoyed a career that spanned decades, winning various awards and starring in some iconic films, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 

She was also bilingual, speaking English, French, Italian, German, Dutch and Spanish. Growing up in Belgium and moving across Europe during WWII, she picked up numerous languages that allowed her to land many roles in foreign films, as well as many different plays. 

Martina Navratilova

The tennis great Martina Navratilova has never shied away from a challenge and that extends far beyond the court. Growing up in Czechoslovakia, she excelled in sports and by age 18, she had moved to the US to pursue a career as a tennis player. She would go on to become one of the most successful players of all-time, travelling the world to play. 

Her ability to speak Russian, English, French and German helped her to become a global ambassador for tennis and has continued to help with her humanitarian efforts once her career ended. It is still paying dividends now, as she continues to fight for a variety of different causes.

Penélope Cruz

Becoming a movie star is hard enough but doing it on two continents is even harder. For Penélope Cruz, her career started in Europe, where she made headlines at a young age in Spanish film and television. She then moved to the US and cemented her place as a movie star with films like Vanilla Sky and Blow. 

In film, Cruz has appeared in English, Spanish and Italian speaking roles. For good measure, she also speaks French, bringing her total to four different languages. Her ability to speak multiple languages has helped her captivate audiences from around the globe. 


Being a global icon can be difficult, but for Shakira, one thing that allows her to connect with people from across the world is her ability to speak 7 different languages. What is even more amazing is she learned many of those languages so she could release music in multiple countries. If you think speaking a language is difficult, just think about singing for millions of people! 

In any case, Shakira speaks Spanish, English, French, Italian, Arabic, Catalan and Portuguese. Some of these she picked up growing up in Colombia and some she started speaking after moving to Europe, but speaking multiple languages and becoming a global citizen has helped her achieve some of the most significant accomplishments as an artist, including performing at the Super Bowl Halftime show and recording the official song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  

Natalie Portman

As if being a movie star and Harvard educated wasn't enough, you can add speaking multiple languages to Natalie Portman’s resume. Born in Jerusalem and raised in New York, Portman speaks English, Hebrew, French, Spanish, German and Japanese. For those counting, that makes six different languages! 

Her supreme acting skills, ability to speak multiple languages, and humanitarian causes have made her a global celebrity. She has acted in everything from indie films to large budget sci-fi blockbusters and it doesn’t appear she will be slowing down any time soon. And who knows, maybe she’s already learning language 7! 

There you have it. Language can open the world, even for some of the most famous females in the history of the world. From world leaders to athletes to actresses, women have used the ability to speak multiple languages to change the course of history.

For Women’s History Month, we wanted to be sure to highlight some of these women. We hope their inspiration will guide you on your own language journey!