Wednesday, March 11, 2020

How celebrities learn English

Antonio Banderas: 

“I knew… yes, no, woman, man.” The famous Spanish actor Antonio Banderas, currently nominated for an Oscar for his role as Salvador Mallo in Pain and Glory, is a clear example showing that to learn English, you need a lot of determination. But above all, you have simply got to believe in yourself. When Banderas took part in the production of The Mambo Kings (1992), he found learning English to be an uphill battle. He used to study English for eight hours a day in an academy and felt that he wasn’t progressing enough. According to Banderas himself, he had to recite his lines phonetically from memory (without understanding exactly what he was saying). To communicate with the director, he had to use a simultaneous interpreter. Banderas remembers that to participate in this film, his agent sent him to London for an interview, and, of course, it was entirely in English. Banderas learned only three sentences: Yes, of course, and I can do that. While the other person spoke fluently, Banderas only nodded and repeated the expressions. Even though it was clear that Banderas didn’t speak a word of English, nothing prevented him from travelling to New York and joining the team of this famous film, which would open the doors of Hollywood to him.

Penélope Cruz:

The Spanish star Penélope Cruz has been very successful in recent years thanks to roles in which she has had to use English, but she hasn’t always had it so easy. Originally from a small town near Madrid, Spain, the idea of success in Hollywood wasn’t a realistic goal, especially without knowing English. Penélope has admitted in several interviews that since she studied French in secondary school, English came later and she struggled to learn it. After getting her first English role in the 1998 film Hi-Lo Country, Penélope still couldn’t speak much English and memorised her scripts word for word even without knowing what they meant. Obviously, as her career progressed, she received more help to perfect her English. This is how she managed to become the first Spanish actress to win an Oscar in 2004 for the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona and to have her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When asked the secret of her success when it comes to learning English, Penelope replied that learning phonetics was fundamental for reading the scripts.

Rodrigo Santoro:

The most recognised Brazilian actor in Hollywood has participated in films such as 300, Ben Hur, and Pelé: Birth of a Legend. He didn’t learn to speak English until he was 27 years old. Santoro admits that in the beginning, he barely knew how to say basic expressions like “The book is on the table” or “Where is the restroom?” That’s clearly insufficient for the film industry. Faced with the challenge of participating in different productions in the United States, Santoro decided to live in North America for some time to study and really improve his English. Santoro said, “I didn’t grow up speaking in English or Spanish… Working in another language makes me think and does exactly what you don’t want when you are acting.” Although his native language is Portuguese, English has been the key that opened the door to Hollywood; an experience that has transformed his life forever.

Mila Kunis:

Actress Mila Kunis has such perfect English that few know that she was actually born in Ukraine. In 1991, when she was just seven years old, her parents decided to move to the United States with her and her brother Michael. They wanted to escape what they thought was anti-Semitism in Ukraine and seek a better future for their children. Kunis will always remember that her first day of school in a foreign country, saying it was like being blind and deaf at the same time since she didn’t understand either the language or the culture. After two years in the United States, Kunis’s father enrolled her in acting classes at the Beverly Hills Studio. Soon after, she got small roles in some ads that led to her adventures in the world of acting. Mila had to work tirelessly on her English even though she spoke Russian at home with her family. Today, she’s a very successful actress and has appeared in television series such as That ‘70s Show and films like Black Swan. In the difficult world of Hollywood, speaking English was necessary for Mila, and it was certainly worth it.



Welcome to English at LERNFORUM Chur.  Lernforum is engaged in teaching English, training in small, personal groups for every English language need. We are mostly native speakers of English and have a passion for what we do.

Word of the Month


(adj): Sacred, divine, blessed.

Holiday: a holy or festive day; a day off, vacation (also sacred)

Expressions: Holy Cow! Literally true in India.

Ex: Holly Mackerel! Delicious, healthy and full of mercury.

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