SHARE
COPY LINK

LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Six celebrities you didn’t know spoke German

No, it's not just Arnold Schwarzenegger. There are some pretty surprising German-speaking celebrities. Here are six of the most fluent with video evidence.

Six celebrities you didn't know spoke German
Gene Simmons is equally amazed he can speak German. Photo: DPA

1. Sandra Bullock

Photo: DPA

Sandra Bullock survived a crash from space in Gravity, but she’s also got another pretty impressive line on her CV: she speaks German. Bullock has a German mother and spent 12 years growing up near Nuremberg where her father was in the US military. Her German is apparently fluent, though she'll tell you it's a little rusty.

2. Vladimir Putin

Photo: DPA

Okay, he's maybe not the kind of celebrity you were thinking of, just one of the most powerful people on earth. As one of the top KGB men in Dresden during the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, he is 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 been photographed shirtless.

3. Michael Fassbender

Photo: DPA

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.

4. Kim Cattrall

Kim Cattrall promoting her book in Cologne in 2005. Photo: DPA

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 claims she has forgotten most of it.

5. Mark Strong

Mark Strong at the Sherlock Holmes premiere in Berlin. Photo: SpreePiX Berlin / Wikimedia Commons

This very British actor is best known for his serious roles in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Imitation Game. But he’s not limited to that – he also collaborated with Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G, Borat and Bruno) in his film Grimsby. His mother is Austrian, so he is fluent in German, and studied German law at Munich University for a year.

 
6. Gene Simmons

Gene Simmons performing at the “Rock im Revier” festival in Germany. Photo: DPA

KISS frontman Gene Simmons was born in Israel as Chaim Witz, and moved to the US when he was eight, where he later changed his name to Gene. His mother was from Hungary and, along with her brother, survived a concentration camp during the Second World War. Simmons not only speaks German but also Hungarian and Hebrew. That's rock and roll. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

LEARNING GERMAN

Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust

The German word 'Wanderlust' means "the desire to travel" and is used even in other languages. Here are some of the other words commonly used in Germany to describe the nation's love affair with travelling.

Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust

Germans are very connected to nature and a lot of the activities they routinely do, even in winter, involve staying outdoors. So it’s no wonder the language also reflects that passion for walking, travelling, and spending time in nature.

Some of the German words that are most famous to speakers of other languages reference this passion. Perhaps most notably, the term “Wanderlust” which has made its way to other dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, with the definition “a strong longing for or impulse toward wandering”.

The word is composed of “wandern“, which means to hike or roam about and “lust“, meaning “pleasure or delight”.

READ ALSO: Holiday like a local: Five of the best camping regions in Germany

This is not the only unique expression the German language has related to travelling. Another of the hard to translate ones is “Fernweh“. It comes from “fern“, meaning “far”, and “Weh“, meaning “pain”. It is used to describe the longing for far-off places – in contrast to “Heimweh”, a feeling many immigrants might be very attuned to and could be translated to homesickness.

The German language also has several interesting and even funny expressions for walkers and travellers alike. The Local talked with German teacher and travel enthusiast Lutz Michaelis to collect a few of the best expressions.

“So weit dich deine/mich meine Füße tragen”

It literally means “as far as my feet will take me” (or alternatively, “as far as your feet will take you”). It is often said as an answer to the question, “where are you going?”.

READ ALSO: Waldeinsamkeit: Five of the best forest walks around Berlin

“Die Sieben-Meilen-Stiefel anhaben”

“To wear the seven-league boots”. This means being able to walk long distances fast. Lutz explains that it was actually based on a trope in French mythology, in which magical boots could help the wearer cover long distances in a short amount of time. Having been used in The Little Thumb by Charles Perrault, the term was brought into the German language by writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

“Wer rastet, der rostet”

The translation would be “he who rests, rusts”. It is used in the German language to say that being in motion is a good thing, not only with travelling but also to incentivise people to keep learning new things.

“Das Reisen kost’t Geld, Doch sieht man die Welt.”

It’s a very common rhyme used to show the downsides and benefits of travelling: “travelling costs money, but one sees the world”.

“Reisende soll man nicht aufhalten.”

It literally means that “travellers shouldn’t be stopped”. However, Lutz explains that the expression is not only used to refer to travellers but also to anyone that might be going through a transitional situation – such as someone wanting to change their jobs, for example.

Rhododendren park Bremen

Rhododendrons bloom in the Rhododendron Park in Bremen. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

“der Weg ist das Ziel.”

One of the most beautiful ones, and many languages have their own version of it. It translates to “the road is the destination”.

Of course, coming back home, especially for those suffering from Heimweh, can also be something beautiful. One common saying is “Wiedersehen macht Freude“, which means that to meet again brings happiness, used among those looking forward to seeing someone again after a long trip.

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

And one more…

In Germany, there is a common joke about finding German people abroad. The rhyme goes “Hüte dich vor Sturm und Wind, und Deutschen, die im Ausland sind“, which could be translated as “Be on your guard for storm and wind, and Germans in a foreign land”.

“It refers both to the bad behaviour of Germans on holidays or travels and a dark joke and a funny nod to the fact that German troops have invaded other countries”, Lutz, who is a German himself, explains.

SHOW COMMENTS