Celebrities who learnt English for their careers


A photo of Jackie Chan who is stood outside with his arms out in front of a small plane
Jackie Chan trained for many hours each day to learn English in order to expand his international movie career.

It takes a lot of luck and talent to break into Hollywood, so imagine trying to do so without even knowing English!


Here are four celebrities from different countries who learnt English from scratch in order to build global careers.



Arnold Schwarzenegger


When the famous Austrian actor first moved to the United States aged 21, he spoke only a little English. Having immigrated to become a professional bodybuilder, Schwarzenegger soon picked up the language and landed major film roles.


Schwarzenegger used his English to take on a completely different role. After a successful political campaign, he was elected as the Governor of California in 2003 and held this important position for eight years.



Ana De Armas


Ana De Armas has become a huge Hollywood name in recent years, having led the all-star cast of 2019’s Knives Out and securing a role in the latest James Bond adventure, No Time to Die.


Many will be surprised to know, then, that she has only been able to speak English for a very short time. After appearing in Spanish language TV and film projects, De Armas moved from her home country of Cuba to Los Angeles in 2014. It was only at this point that she started learning English.


Despite this, she quickly got cast in movies. At first, she got around her lack of English skills by learning the phonetic sounds of her lines, meaning that when directors changed lines on set, she struggled.


In a very short time, however, she became fluent in English, motivated to learn by her determination to have a successful career in the English language movie market.



Jackie Chan


Jackie Chan was a famous martial artist in Asia long before he found fame in the English-speaking world also.


In the 1970s, Chan’s employers expressed their wish for him to break into the large American film industry. He was then flown to the United States to immerse himself among English speakers, in the hope that he would pick up the language quickly.


His drive to learn English led him to spend time consuming American TV, films and music, as well as hiring four tutors to train him in English for nine hours a day.


His talents, teamed with his new fluency in English, have since seen him star in countless Hollywood films and become a household name around the world.



Penelope Cruz


Spanish actor Penelope Cruz, who has shone in English language movies for over two decades, did not know much English when she was first cast in them.


Her first English language movie was Hi-Lo Country in 1998, and she has revealed that due to her limited ability in the language, she learnt her lines in the script by memorising the sound of each word, without fully knowing what they meant.


Cruz has expressed her belief that learning phonetics of her scripts was the secret to her successfully becoming fluent. Her new English skills combined with acting talent saw her win an Academy Award in 2004, just a few short years after first learning the language.



Learning English can help your career and can help you work all around the world. Enrol in a General English course at Think English.


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