• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Eight celebs you didn't know spoke German

The Local · 30 Dec 2014, 08:45

Published: 30 Dec 2014 08:45 GMT+01:00

American writer Mark Twain famously called it "the awful German language", and wrote that the dictionary definition of "eternity" was "the amount of time needed to learn German."

If you'd like to learn - or just improve - your German, look to these stars (and villains) for some inspiration.

Photo: DPA

Leonardo DiCaprio

Maybe he's trying to remember how to say "I'm the king of the world?". The Titanic and Inception star may not have much call for German in Hollywood, but his grandparents on his mother side were German, he spent some of his childhood there, his middle name is Wilhelm and he wowed German TV interviewers during the publicity tour for Gangs of New York by reminiscing about his grandmother, and favourite foods (wiener schnitzel and spätzl) in fluent German. DiCaprio is also currently romantically linked to German model Toni Garrn. Emphasis on the currently. 

Photo: DPA

Natalie Portman

How do you say "I was perfect" in German, Natalie? No surprise that the Harvard-graduate is a brain-box - the Oscar-nominated star of The Black Swan speaks not only Hebrew, English, Spanish, Japanese and French, but also German. Being that bright in Hollywood must get lonely.

Photo: DPA

Sandra Bullock

Popquiz, hotshot! If the question was based on the German language, the star of Gravity would ace it. Bullock has a German mother and spent 12 years growing up  near Nuremburg where her father was in the US military. Her German is apparently fluent, though she'll tell you it's a little rusty.

Photo: DPA

Vladimir Putin

Okay, not really a celebrity, just one of the most powerful men on earth, and, as one of the top KGB men in Dresden during the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a fluent German speaker. Maybe his time here introduced him to the Freikörperkultur or naturism, which would account for the number of times he's photographed shirtless. Although, interestingly, in recent TV interviews with German stations over the Ukraine crisis, has chosen to use an in-ear translator. Perhaps to give himself more thinking time?

Photo: DPA

Bruce Willis

Hey Bruce, how do you say "Yippee-kay-yay" in German? He might actually know. Although he was born in Germany, again to a US military dad and a Kassel-born mother, the Willis family left when he was just two years old, and evidence that the action-man star can still speak any German is thin on the ground.

Photo: DPA

Michael Fassbender

How many beers was that again, Herr Fassbender? Anyone who has seen his career-making turn in Inglourious Basterds knows Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender can speak German (although not well enough not to blow his cover as a Brit). The man who garnered further attention for showing his Wurst in Shame has good enough German to ponder roles in German-language films and productions.

Story continues below…

Photo: DPA

Kim Cattrall

How do you say "Oh yes!?" in German? The British-Canadian star of Sex In The City was actually born in Liverpool (not Germany), but spent much of the 1980s with her second husband in Frankfurt where she learnt to speak the tongue fluently - although now says she has forgotten much.

Photo: DPA

Gene Simmons 

But can he sing about rock and rolling every night and partying all day in German? The KISS frontman is also Israeli-born, like Portmann. His mother was from Hungary and, along with her brother, survived a concentration camp during the Second World War. Simmons also speaks Hungarian and Hebrew. That's rock and roll. 

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Gallery
Germans race bulls too, but with a difference
Photo: DPA

The most important sporting events only happen every four years: the World Cup, the Olympics, and of course the Münsing ox race.

Attempted murder charge for Isis teen who stabbed cop
A police officer stands on a train platform at Hannover main station. Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Monday they had brought charges against a 16-year-old girl who allegedly stabbed a policeman in February in an operation for Isis.

Nearly 9,000 refugee children reported missing: report
Refugee children in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

German media reported on Monday that the number of refugee children reported as missing has doubled to reach nearly 9,000.

Vice-Chancellor: TTIP trade deal is dead
Photo: DPA

Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Sunday that negotiations on a massive trade deal between the European Union and the United States were effectively dead in the water.

EU nations must not refuse Muslim migrants: Merkel
Photo: DPA

The refusal of some EU countries to accept Muslim refugees is "unacceptable", Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday as Germany called for quotas to divide the influx throughout the bloc.

Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
File photo: DPA

When a man swimming naked in a Bavarian lake felt a strange pain in his nether regions, he looked up to see a fisherman on the shore. "Don’t pull!" he shouted.

Study finds rival Rhineland beers 'actually taste the same'
Left: Altbier. Right: Kölsch. Or can you even tell? Photos: DPA.

Cologne and Düsseldorf have a long established rivalry, not least over who has the better home brew. So the results of a new study might be more than they can swallow.

Eastern Europe pushes Germany for joint EU army
Angela Merkel (l), Beata Szydlo and Victor Orban. Photo: DPA

Eastern EU countries on Friday pushed for the bloc to create a joint army as they met with Germany for talks on sketching Europe's post-Brexit future.

Merkel’s party mate wants to get rid of all Karl Marx streets
Karl Marx and one of the roadways in Berlin named for him. Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Nicor

Hundreds of streets are named after the founder of communism, but this conservative politician wants to give Marx the boot.

State elections
6 reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Photo: DPA

With state elections around the corner, The Local looks at the poor side of Germany's "poor but sexy" capital city.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
8,441
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd