American rocker of the acclaimed 70s rock band Kiss, bassist Gene Simmons is of Hungarian descent. He was born as Chaim Weitz in Haifa, Israel in 1949. The musician emmigrated to the US at age eight with his family, changing his birth name to Gene Klein. In the late 1960s, while playing in various bands, he changed his name to Gene Simmons, after legendary rockabilly performer Jumpin’ Gene Simmons.
According to the GeneSimmons.com website, he speaks a few languages: English, Hungarian, Hebrew, German and is getting better at Japanese. At present, he is becoming fascinated by Mandarin Chinese and has every intention of becoming fluent in it.
In this video, Gene visits a fan club in Hungary and spends time with fans.
I know this isn’t actually another language, but I thought some people might like to hear John Barrowman showing off his native Scottish accent (there are a few examples of his “normal” American accent throughout this video too): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtDg23G1uc8
American musician/actor Darren Criss was accepted into the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theater & Dance and its College of Literature, Science, and the Arts in 2005. He initially pursued degrees in Musicology, Italian, and Theater Performance.
Here, he reveals that he learned to speak Italian while living in Arezzo, Italy.
It has been known that Shakira is interested in world history and frequently studies the history and languages of the countries she visits.
In the summer of 2007 after her Oral Fixation tour, she attended a class in Los Angeles at UCLA, on the History of Western Civilization. She used her middle and last names, Isabel Mebarak, and told the professor she was visiting from Colombia so as to avoid being recognized as a celebrity.
Takeshi Kaneshiro is an actor and musician of mixed Asian heritage. Taiwanese, on his mother’s side and Japanese, on his father’s side, he was raised in Taipei and made his entertainment debut singing Mandarin songs. He received his first EMI recording contract in the early 90s and his popularity soared. He later transitioned in to an acting career in films like Executioners, Chungking Express, and a string of other Hong Kong films like House of Flying Daggers, Red Cliff, and The Warlords.
He was touted as the Asian film industry’s Johnny Depp in Time Magazine in 2003 and became a spokesperson for Emporio Armani, Prada, VAIO, Honda, among others in Asia.
He is a polyglot, speaking fluent Mandarin, Taiwanese Hokkien language, Japanese, and to lesser degrees of English and Cantonese.
‘Singer-songwriter John Mayer met his first real girlfriend in high school. Shortly thereafter, he began to study Japanese.
"Her mother said she should learn Japanese because it would look good on her college applications," he later recalled. "There was a magnet program in another town, and we’d get bused together. I was like, ‘I love Japanese! Mom, I wanna study Japanese.’ When really it’s just so you can finger your girlfriend on the bus every morning!”’
American-Danish actor Viggo Mortensen is supremely multilingual.
Mortensen was born in New York City. His American mother and Danish father met in Norway.Mortensen’s family moved around- from Venezuela toDenmark, then back to South America to the Argentine provinces of Córdoba, Chaco, and Buenos Aires, where he learned Spanish. His father managed chicken farms and ranches in Argentina.
They remained there until Mortensen was eleven, when his parents divorced and the boys and their mother returned to New York, where Mortensen spent the rest of his childhood. He graduated from Watertown High School in Watertown, New York.After high school he went to St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, earning a bachelor’s degree in Government and Spanish.
Driven by the need for a defining purpose in life, he went to Europe and lived in Spain, England, and Denmark, where he took various jobs like a truck driver in Esbjerg, Denmark and a flower seller in Copenhagen, Denmark, before again returning to the United States two years later to pursue an acting career.
The Renaissance man is fluent in Spanish and Danish, is conversational in Italian and French, and understands Norwegian and Swedish. He has said in interviews, he feels the most comfortable expressing himself in Spanish and additionally, he learned Russian for David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises as well as learning Sindarin Elvish for Lord Of The Rings (in fact, it was Mortensen’s idea for Aragorn to speak more Elvish than director Peter Jackson had initially planned).
American queen of Disco, Donna Summers is a fluent German speaker after living in Germany for many years.
After losing the role of Sheila in the Broadway musical, Hair in New York, Summers was offered the role again when the musical toured through Europe. While settling in Germany, she participated in the musicals Godspell and Show Boat, and in Munich, she performed in the Viennese Folk Opera and for pop group, FamilyTree created by German music producer Guenter “Yogi” Lauke & the Music Machine.
In 1975, she met producers Moroder and Bellotte and they produced her international hit, “Love to Love You Baby,” which rose to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and triggered Summer’s triumphant return to the United States as a key figure of the then-emerging disco genre.
Not sure if Coldplay frontman Chris Martin studied French while at University College London, but at the NRJ Awards in Cannes, he decided to take a stab at the language when accepting the “d’honneur” award.
According to the BBC, he said:
"Ma Francais est comme voiture cassee." Which could mean: "My French is like a broken car."
"Je voudrais dire a vous un grand merci." Which means: "I want to say to you a big thanks."
And: “Desole je suis seul - mes amis sont sur la plage et mange la glace” Meaning: "Sorry I’m on my own - my friends are at the beach and eat ice cream."