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Speaking German - 8 celebs you didn't know were fluent

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Speaking German - 8 celebs you didn't know were fluent
Sprechen Sie Deutsch, Frau Cattrall? Photo: DPA/EPA
08:45 CET+01:00
German is a tricky language, but keep trying and you could be making small talk with these Hollywood stars and world leaders who also secretly speak a bit (or a lot) of German.

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.

1. Leonardo DiCaprio

DiCaprio at the premiere of the documentary film "Before the Flood"  in Paris, France in 2016. Photo: DPA/EPA

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. 

2. Natalie Portman

Portman at a screening of the film "Sicario" in Cannes, France in 2015. Photo: DPA /EPA

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.

3. Sandra Bullock

Bullock at a press conference for the film "Our Brand is Crisis" in 2015. Photo: DPA/EPA 

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.

4. Vladimir PutinPutin speaking at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia in 2017. Photo: DPA/ Planet Pix via ZUMA Wire

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 TV interviews with German stations over the Ukraine crisis, has chosen to use an in-ear translator. Perhaps to give himself more thinking time?

5. Bruce Willis

Willis introducing his film "A Good Day to Die Hard" in Berlin in 2013. Photo: DPA

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.

6. Michael Fassbender

Fassbender at the premiers of the film "Alien: Covenant" in London, Great Britain in 2017. Photo: DPA/ PA Wire

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.

7. Kim Cattrall

Cattrall at the Olivier awards in Covent Garden, London, Great Britain in 2013. Photo; DPA/EPA

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.

8. Gene Simmons 

Simmons in Berlin in 2015. Photo: DPA

But can he sing about rock and rolling every night and partying all day in German? The KISS frontman is also Israeli-born, like Portman. 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. 

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