There was much more to the star of Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s than her movie career. Audrey Hepburn was well known for her charity work with UNICEF, and after spending her childhood in Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands, she was also fluent in English, Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish and German.
Rita Ora was born in Kosovo (then called Yugoslavia) to Kosovar-Albanian parents, moving to London when she was a year old. The pop star, model and X Factor judge speaks Albanian fluently and is proud of her heritage; last year she was named an honorary ambassador for the Republic of Kosovo.
Former yachtswoman Dame Ellen Macarthur learnt to speak French when she was 21 and living in a French boatyard while she prepared for a solo transatlantic race. She’s now fluent and says she would never have been so successful in her career without knowing the language, which helped her build relationships with other sailors and gain sponsorship.
Comedian (and record-breaking marathon runner) Eddie Izzard is currently touring with his stand-up show Force Majeure, which he performs three times a night, in three languages: French, German and English. In 2014, he was named the Guardian’s public language champion, and told the newspaper: “There’s a political basis for me to learning other languages, because if we don’t come together in the world then the world’s not going to make it.”
JK Rowling studied French and Classics at university, and when she came up with the idea for the Harry Potter series in 1990, she was working as a bilingual secretary for Amnesty International. She later moved to Portugal and split her time between teaching English as a foreign language and writing the best-selling books.
The Facebook founder surprised everyone in 2014 when, during a visit to Tsinghua University in Beijing, he started speaking Mandarin – and continued for half an hour. Though his efforts got a mixed reception from the press, the audience seemed delighted – and we were pretty impressed, too.
The star of Napoleon Dynamite is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and served a two-year religious mission to Japan after high school, where he became fluent in the language. And though he now describes himself as “a little rusty”, he still sounds pretty good to us.
Tim Peake is the first British astronaut to go to the International Space Station – but before leaving Earth he had to learn Russian (the language of the controls in the Soyuz capsule used to get to the ISS), and has described this as the hardest part of his 14 months’ training.
Okay so we already mentioned Tom Hiddleston in our last post, but frankly, we never get bored of listening to him speaking loads of languages – among them French, Spanish, Greek and Italian, plus some Mandarin, Russian and Korean. And he studied Latin at university…
The Lord of the Rings star was born in New York, but spent his childhood in Venezuela, Denmark and Argentina, leaving him fluent in English, Spanish and Danish. He also speaks some French and Italian, and understands Norwegian and Swedish.
Does your favourite celebrity make the list?
Shane came in 3rd in The Junior Language Challenge in 2014 and is now in year 7 studying German and Latin. Below he talks about the wonderful JLC experience and why any teacher/parent should register their kids.
If you’re a parent or teacher of children aged 10 and under in the UK, visit juniorlanguagechallenge.com to find out more about our annual competition, which is now open! Entry costs just £5, which is all donated to our fantastic charity, onebillion.
In 2014 I entered the JLC for the second time, having got to the final the previous year. This time I knew what to expect and was really keen to get going. The first language was Italian, which was probably the language I found the easiest (of the 6 over 2 years). Two pupils from my school, Denmead, got through to the semi-final and we were told that we would be learning Japanese. I knew one word of Japanese already, but this wasn’t going to give me any advantage! It proved to be a very interesting language to learn, but when it came to the quick fire round this was the most challenging.
At the semi-final it all seemed much quicker than the previous year. During the final round, I managed to resist the temptation to look up at the leaderboard before I had finished. My dad compared the leaderboard to the football league tables when a goal is scored, a couple of wrong answers can move you up or down several places very quickly. I think it is much more nerve racking for the teachers and parents than the children as they watch this. I was lucky and saw my name stay in the top three so knew I had qualified for the final.
The language for the final was Somali and although it was completely new to me I knew that the app and website were the only tools I needed to get me through. The combination of games, the increasing level of difficulty and the chance to hear the words pronounced correctly meant it worked for me. I actually enjoyed practising, learning and the idea of preparing for a competition.
When it came to the final, I probably had my best round to date and as I was answering the last couple of questions my eyes were drawn towards the big screen displaying the leaderboard. I saw I was in third place with a few points to spare so knew I had done it. I felt speechless for a few minutes after we stopped, I had hoped to improve on the year before but didn’t think I would manage to get the bronze medal! My top tip for anyone getting through to the final is to stay calm and distract yourself with some great music and a good book. Calm parents and teachers (like mine) help you relax, just enjoy the experience and do the best you can.
To be part of a national competition is great and to gain third place is something I will always be very proud of. During the competition Franco (part of the JLC team) was always really kind and understanding with the children who needed help with their equipment and his good humour made sure everyone attending felt relaxed. We were always made to feel proud of what we’d achieved.
If your school isn’t yet involved in the JLC then I suggest you ask your headteacher to sign you up. It raises money for a great cause, introduces a fun and easy way to start learning different languages (some you might never have heard of before) and gives you a chance to compete against school mates and then possibly children from other schools if you are lucky enough to get through to the next round.
Today is the day we celebrate ‘Mother’s day’ or ‘Mothering Sunday’ here in the UK.
Mum is one of those words we start to use from a young age; perhaps you used ‘mumma’, ‘mother’, ‘mam’ or ‘mummy’ instead; there are many ways to say it! Some languages offer a similar word to English, like ‘la madre’ in Spanish and in Italian. Typically the word for mother does start with an ‘m’ or a ‘b’ as these are soft and easy sounds when you’re a child, creating the ‘m’ noise is one of the easiest ones to make. In Afrikaans the word for mother is just ‘ma’ and in Swahili it’s ‘mama’.
However, that’s not always the case: in Fijian the word for mother is ‘tina’, in Kurdish (Sorani) it is ‘daik’ and in Swiss it is ‘d’Mueter’. In other languages the m or b is replaced with a ‘h’ sound – in Japanese mother is ‘haha’ and in Somalia it is ‘hooyo’. Would you expect ‘Whaea’ to translate into the English word ‘Mother’? This is perhaps one of the more unusual ways of saying mother in another language (Maori). Interestingly in Georgian, it is completely different to English, with ‘mama’ meaning father and ‘deda’ for mother.
When it comes to the Romance and Germanic languages, there are a lot of similarities between both ‘mother’ and ‘father’ translations. Father tends to start with a ‘p’ or a ‘b’ sound, which are also easy noises for children to make.
Here are some other words for ‘mother’ in different languages:
Slovak – matka
Scots Gaelic – a’ mhàthair
Hungarian – anya
Albanian – nënë
Tagalog – nanay
How do you say ‘mother’ in the language you’re learning?
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums, tinas, madres and nanays – we hope you have a lovely day!
Today’s guest post is by Ed, who’s taking part in our uTalk Challenge. After successfully completing uTalk Japanese in January, Ed’s turned his attention to Welsh for February. Here he explains why learning a language is important for everyone, regardless of age.
I am a retired IT Manager aged 66 years. I am married with two grown up sons, one married with two children. My wife still works so I am one of these modern ‘house husbands’, which is fine with me. Other than gardening, ironing, shopping, cooking and cleaning (I don’t do much of the latter), I play golf, help with a local amateur dramatic society (treasurer and occasional performer), sing in our church choir, and keep fit.
Since grammar school I have always been interested in languages and linguistics. I put this down to having had a very good French teacher and an inclination towards role play, hence the amateur dramatics. I also did German at Grammar School, and did Latin ‘O’ level in one year, which I really enjoyed.
In 1970 I travelled overland to India and learn some Turkish and Farsi to help me along the way. Many years later I worked in Dubai for a while and learnt some Arabic. Over the years I have picked up some Italian and Spanish in relation to holidays.
When the opportunity to join the uTalk Challenge came along it seemed the perfect way to indulge my linguistic interests and to “stimulate the little grey cells” and slow down the aging process.
Four years ago my wife and I visited Japan for the Cherry Blossom Festival and I learnt some Japanese. That came in very handy as English wasn’t as widely spoken as I had thought it would be. We loved the country and the people and I found the language interesting, hence my choice of Japanese for my first month.
I think the uTalk Challenge offers a unique opportunity to try out a number of languages that are completely different from English and Indo-European languages in general. It’s a great mental exercise for any one, not just for someone my age. It also means that you can learn something of the language of a country when going on holiday, something I believe shows respect for the people and their culture, and enhances your experience. Better than just buying a phrase book, it allows you to hear the pronunciation by native speakers. You can, as I have done, download the extra topics and choose which one you want to study. You have nothing to lose and a great deal to gain.
Valentine’s Day is a moment we should all pause our busy lives to celebrate love and the important people in our lives with whom we share special moments – not only lovers but also friends or family.
Obviously a popular holiday on the American continent, followed by Western Europe and in the last years Eastern Europe, the world’s interest towards the popular celebration of love has been rising.
Although Valentine’s Day is internationally celebrated on 14th February, some cultures have their own version of it around the year.
1. Dragobete – Romania
Romanians celebrate Dragobete on the 24th of February, a day that not only celebrates love but also the fact that spring is getting close. In old times it was an occasion for the young girls and boys to get together and play different games, dance and confess their love for each other.
2. Dia dos Namorados – Brazil
Brazilians celebrate Dia dos Namorados on 12th June, which is the day before Saint Anthony’s day (the marriage saint). One of the reasons Brazilians choose to celebrate love on this day is that traditional Valentine’s Day on February 14th would coincide with the Carnival celebration, which takes place in February and some of March. Dia dos Namorados is a day when people exchange little gifts, like sweets and flowers and lovers enjoy a romantic dinner or night out.
3. Qi xi – China
The Chinese version of Valentine’s Day is celebrated on the seventh night of the seventh month (also called Double Seven festival) of the Chinese lunar calendar – that is sometime in August. Qi xi (pronounced chee – she) is nowadays celebrated similarly to other cultures by offering flowers and chocolates to the loved ones as well as couples spending a romantic day together.
4. Valentine’s Day and White Day – Japan
Japanese culture celebrates love on the same day as Valentine’s Day but instead of men offering gifts to women, it’s the other way around. Then one month later, on 14th March on White Day, it’s the men’s turn to reciprocate the gifts. The difference is that Valentine’s Day chocolates are a symbol of a man’s popularity, but the ones on White Day are only for couples or romantically involved people. Black Day (on April 14th) however is a day when the singles, or the people that haven’t received any gifts on any of the holidays, gather to “commiserate”, often wearing black, eating black coloured food and complaining about their love life.
No matter how you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day – or maybe you don’t celebrate at all – we believe love is a great feeling that we should hold onto every day and show our loved ones how much they mean to us.
Download our app uTalk – Learn a Language to find out how to say “I love you” in 130 languages.