• 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
VW to pay US suppliers $1.2 bln over Dieselgate
Volkswagen model vehicles on a dealer lot in Bedford, Massachusetts, USA. Photo: Cj Gunther/Picture Alliance/DPA

German auto giant Volkswagen has agreed to pay US suppliers $1.2 billion to settle claims emanating from the "Dieselgate" pollution scandal, the firm and suppliers said late Friday.

This Week in History
75 years since one of Holocaust's worst massacres
Photo: DPA

On Thursday, German president Joachim Gauck spoke in Kiev 75 years after the Nazis slaughtered 33,771 Jews during one of the worst single massacres of the Holocaust.

Six things you need to know about troubled Deutsche Bank

Shares in Deutsche bank plunged on Friday morning, dragging down other European banks and markets worldwide. Here are six things to know about Germany's biggest lender.

Deutsche Bahn jacks up prices for first time in 3 years
Photo: DPA

Germany's main rail provider, the state-owned Deutsche Bahn (DB), announced on Friday that it will raise prices on long-distance train travel.

Baby found alive in suitcase with skeleton in Hanover
File photo: DPA.

A baby has been found alive, along with the skeleton of another infant inside of a suitcase in Hanover, police reported on Friday.

Morocco to speed up repatriation of illegal migrants
Photo: DPA

Morocco has agreed to streamline the procedures for the repatriation of citizens living illegally in Germany, the royal court said late on Thursday.

890,000 refugees arrived in Germany last year - not 1.1m
Photo: DPA

Previous reports had suggested that around 1.1 million people entered Germany to seek asylum last year. But now the German government has confirmed the number was actually lower.

Racist attacks cast cloud over Dresden Unity Day planning
A police vehicle in Dresden. Photo: DPA.

As Dresden prepares to host Germany’s national Unity Day celebrations on Monday, the capital of the eastern state of Saxony is upping security after a mosque was targeted by a homemade bomb.

Sinking Deutsche Bank stock sends shock across Europe
Photo: DPA

Shares in Germany's biggest lender Deutsche Bank plummeted on the Frankfurt stock market on Friday, dragging other European banks and global markets down with it, after reports some customers were pulling money out.

The Local List
10 things you never knew about German reunification
Reunification celebrations in Hanover in 2014. Photo: DPA

With German Unity Day (October 3rd) happening on Monday, Germans are looking forward to a three-day weekend. But did you know these facts about reunification and German Unity Day?

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
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
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
6,718
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd