3 Celebrities who succeeded with English as a second language

When we want to learn a new language, we often have to find that initial incentive or boost to give us the kick that we have been needing to start studying. In today’s post, we are going to look at different celebrities who conquered the English language to put themselves in the position that they are in today.

Penélope Cruz (Spanish)

High flying Hollywood actress Penélope Cruz has had a lot of success in recent years thanks to English-speaking roles, but it wasn’t always that way. Coming from a small town near Madrid, Spain, Hollywood wasn’t always a realistic career, especially without knowing English. Penélope has admitted in several interviews that due to learning French in high school, English came later and that she struggled a lot to master it.

How did Penélope succeed?

After landing her first English speaking movie role in 1998’s Hi-Lo Country, Penélope still couldn’t really speak a great deal of the British mother-tongue and just memorised her lines even when she didn’t know what they meant word for word. Naturally, as her career progressed, she got more help with her English to perfect it as much as she could. In turn, she became the first Spanish actress to win an Oscar for 2004’s Vicky Christina Barcelona and became the first Spanish actress to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

When asked the secret to her success in learning, she replied that learning phonetics, in order to read scripts phonetically, was key.

Mila Kunis (Ukrainian)

Ukrainian born actress Mila Kunis has such flawless English nowadays that you wouldn’t even know that she was born in Ukraine from her accent. Mila’s parents decided to take her and her brother Michael to the United States in 1991 when Mila was 7 years old to escape what they say was antisemitism within Ukraine, and due to her parents seeing a bleak future there for their kids. Mila forever recalls that the first day of second grade in a foreign country was like being blind and deaf as she didn’t understand the language or the culture.

So, how did Mila overcome the uphill challenges?

After around two years living in the United States, Mila’s father enrolled her in after school acting classes at the Beverly Hills studio. Not long after enrolling, Mila landed small roles in a few commercials which started the ball rolling in the world of acting.

Mila had to work tirelessly on her English despite speaking Russian at home with her parents and brother.

Nowadays she is a very successful actress who has starred in television shows such as That 70s Show to films like The Black Swan. In the tough world of Hollywood, improving her English was necessary for Mila, but it has certainly paid off.

Much like the Black Swan star did, find an exciting reason to learn English, one that truly motivates you. It will help you keep focused as you become proficient.

Jackie Chan (Chinese)

Unlike Mila and Penélope, things were different for Jackie Chan as he really didn’t start learning English until he was well into his thirties. This is significant because scientific studies indicate that the later someone waits to learn a language, the more challenging it seems to be. That, however, didn’t stop Jackie Chan. Nothing did.

An actor in China in his own right before moving to the United States, his management saw a gap in the market there for him, but there was only one problem: he didn’t speak a word of English. In the 1980s, they sent him there to immerse himself in the culture and language so that his English would improve dramatically.

What was the key to Jackie Chan breaking America?

In several interviews Jackie Chan has admitted that he spent a lot of time listening to US folk songs as well as watching many television programmes and movies. In order to improve his pronunciation, he watched them over and over again and imitated the pronunciation until his sounded similar to theirs. Obviously, this was the start of an uphill struggle and it took a long time before Jackie Chan was taken seriously in America. He obtained several roles throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, but it wasn’t until he starred alongside Chris Tucker in 1998’s Rush Hour that he finally became a star in America. And, as they say, the rest is history.

Jackie Chan has certainly shown us that nothing can stop you from learning a language and succeeding if you are willing to put in the effort.

Persevere with your English…

These celebrities are great examples of how you can overcome a barrier that is preventing you from achieving your dream. From native Spanish to Russian and Chinese speakers, there really is nothing stopping you from learning English if you really want to. Remember that ABA English is here to help you improve your level if you want English to help you succeed. ABA English has a complete online course with 144 units from beginner to business level. What are you waiting for? Sign up for free today and get access to 144 free video classes.


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