10 Surprising Anglophones Who Speak French

10 Surprising Anglophones Who Speak French

Parlez-vous français? (“do you speak French?”) For most of us the answer is non, but there are more people who have mastered the language than you might expect. Let’s look at a few.

Queen Elizabeth II

The Queen was taught French by several native-speaking governesses. Her mother and her sister also spoke the language and it is said that the three of them would use French around certain non-speakers when they didn’t want them to know what they were talking about!

Bradley Cooper

This Hollywood star, known for movies like Silver Linings Playbook and A Star is Born, speaks French confidently. He first learned the basics as a high school student in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, improved as a college student in Aix-en-Provence, and today spends part of the year in Paris. Here he is a video illustrating his French skills.

Jodie Foster

Another Hollywood star, Jodie Foster, went to a French-language high school and speaks the language so well that she dubs her own films into French. In 2011 she was given the rare honour of hosting the César Awards, the French equivalent of the Oscars.

Mick Jagger

The lead singer of the Rolling Stones spent many holidays in France as a child and even owns a château in the Loire Valley. Here’s a young Jagger being interviewed in French, while drinking wine and chewing gum (not recommended.)

Jane Fonda

An award-winning actress and fitness fanatic, Fonda learned French when married to the French director Roger Vadim for seven years.

Hugh Grant

This popular actor is the son of a French teacher, so when other kids were outside playing, poor young Hugh was conjugating French verbs. But it paid off, as we can see in this interview…which is then graded by a group of French teachers!

Johnny Depp

The star of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies learned French when he was with his longtime partner, the French singer and actress Vanessa Paradis. And he loves France so much that he once bought an entire French village!

Johnny Depp as “Jack Sparrow”. Photo © Pirates of the Caribbean, Facebook

Anthony Blinken

Blinken, expected to be the next U.S. Secretary of State, speaks excellent French after having spent much of his childhood in Paris. He will follow in the footsteps of former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, who mastered the language during his time as Minister to France. Might this lead to a new period of collaboration between these two longtime allies?

Serena Williams

One of the greatest tennis players ever, Williams lives part of the year in Paris and is often interviewed in French. Here she addresses the crowd after winning the French Open.

Tony Blair / Boris Johnson

A panel of 100 experts rated recent British prime ministers on their foreign language skills, with Blair and Johnson both scoring highly for their command of French. Johnson got the nod as the better of the two, due to his superior accent, but he might want to work on his vocabulary (hint: peigne means “comb”.)

Boris Johnson – Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2019. Photo © Wikipedia (OGL v.3).

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Keith Van Sickle is a lifelong traveler who splits his time between California and Provence. He is the author of the best-sellers "One Sip at a Time" and "An Insider’s Guide to Provence.” Keith’s observations on life in France can be found on his website keithvansickle.com.

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  • Jean-Jacques Lasne
    2021-01-21 00:59:50
    Jean-Jacques Lasne
    The motto of the house of Windsor - formerly Saxe-Coburg - is "Mon Dieu et Mon Droit" so yes, the queen should speak French although the current line is more German than French. One person you forgot is Emma Watson. She is British, born in Paris and she speaks fluent French.