When actor Antonio Banderas went to his first audition in London for the film The Mambo Kings, he could say only two phrases in English; “yes of course” and “I can do that”. At 30 years old, he did not speak a word of English save for those two memorized phrases, but fortunately for us, he refused to let that hold him back.
It’s hard to believe that such a prominent Hollywood actor had to struggle—as many do—to take an English course, learn English and achieve as much as he has done throughout his decades-long career.
Since that audition, Spanish-born Banderas has become an award-winning actor and much beloved international celebrity in his own right. He has, of course, learned to speak English fluently which has certainly contributed to his success.
There are many other celebrities with similar stories to Banderas, having learned English as a second language—some of whom are quite surprising.
Here are 3 celebrities you didn’t know also speak English:
Amitabh is an Indian actor, film producer and former politician who rose to fame in the 1970s after starring in films like Zanjeer, Deewaar and Sholay. He has a large international following in South Africa, the Middle East, UK and even some parts of the US. Bachchan had some success in Hollywood when he made an appearance in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby in which he played a Jewish character.
He is fluent in Hindi, English, Urdu and Punjabi, which makes him incredibly popular in markets where these languages are spoken. In 2015, Bachchan was interviewed by a British journalist for Al Jazeera where he spoke about his experiences as a Bollywood actor. Many were surprised to hear that he spoke perfect English with just the slightest whisper of an Indian accent.
Kangana is a 33-year old Indian actress and filmmaker. Unlike many other successful Bollywood stars, she did not speak English from an early age and struggled to learn the language. This was not made easier by the fact that her English was heavily mocked and criticized due to her thick Pahadi accent and pronunciation. In an interview with Indian publication mid-day.com she had this to say;
"I decided to learn English and pronounce words properly because I found it difficult expressing myself sometimes to my directors… You can say I am acting in a real-life version of My Fair Lady! Today Bollywood is big in the USA and I want to talk confidently when I am there. I want to communicate and reach out to them. Language is the only way."
Deepika is an Indian actress, model and film producer who has starred in countless Indian and Bollywood films throughout her career. She is one of the most highly paid actresses in India with a net worth estimated to be around $40 million. Her acting debut was in 2006 when she was chosen to play a lead character in the film Aishwarya. Her first Hollywood film was XXX: Return of Xander Cage in which she starred as Serena Unger alongside Hollywood heavyweights Vin Diesel and Samuel L. Jackson. In 2018, Time Magazine listed her as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world.
Padukone grew up speaking Konkani, but due to her celebrity status, she has found learning multiple languages to be especially beneficial. She can speak Hindi and English fluently and has also been exposed to Bengali.
Why do celebrities learn English?
Most celebrities learn English to break into the US market and reach new audiences. English is the primary language in over 67 countries, but it is spoken in many more as a secondary language. Learning English can open doors both career-wise and from a social perspective, as the world becomes increasingly interconnected.
Many famous Hollywood celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sofia Vergara and Mila Kunis, speak English as a second language and this helped them grow their career in the States.
The best way to learn English is to take an English course and practice what you’ve learned through having conversations. An English course can teach you how to pronounce words, form sentences, use proper spelling and grammar and write effectively.