VIDEO: The French accent and vocab of these 11 celebs rated

VIDEO: The French accent and vocab of these 11 celebs rated
Actors Bradley Cooper, Emma Watson and Thimotée Chalamet have all spent a lot of time in France. Photo: Sarah MORRIS / Angela WEISS / AFP / GETTY IMAGES
From Hollywood stars to world leaders, the list of famous people who speak le français is long (and their accents are sometimes to die for) - let's take a look at their overall competence.

1. Bradley Cooper

Before he played rugged hotties in Hollywood blockbusters, Bradley Cooper studied in Aix-en-Provence, south of France. Even if that was quite a while back – “oh là là, such long time ago,” the 46-year-old told TF1 back in 2019 (see clip below) – Cooper has maintained a pretty impressive French level.

Not only did Cooper accept an interview in French, he even cracked successful jokes – a feat any foreigner in France will know is to be admired.

The Local’s score – 8/10.

2. Emma Watson 

The British star is known worldwide for her role as the brilliant witch Hermione in the Harry Potter movies, but not everyone knows that she was born in Paris and spent her fist five years in the French capital.

She still speaks basic French, although her level remains a bit limited compared to Cooper’s, but she has said her New Year’s resolution is to master the language perfectly. (Although apparently it’s her resolution “every year,” so it may take a while before she becomes bilingue.) Hear her speak at the end of the clip below.

The Local’s score – 4/10.

3. Timothée Chalamet

Timothée Chalamet – whose breakthrough came as Elio in Call Me By Your Name, an exhilarating tale of two men who fall in love in picturesque Italian landscapes – is fluent in French.

The 25-year-old is French-American with a French dad and growing up often spent his summers in a small village close to Lyon. His French is presque parfait (near-perfect) and definitely worth a listen. He loses a point for saying “like” (in English) a few too many times.

The Local’s score – 9/10.

4. Serena Williams

Not just a kick-ass tennis player, Serena Williams also speaks an impressive amount of French. She even participated in the prestigious nighttime TV debate, C dans l’air, back in 2015 (see clip below). 

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Williams fell in love with Alexis Ohanian, now her husband, in Paris. As they watched a leopard get fed a (dead) rabbit in the Jardin des Plantes, Ohanian put his arms around Williams to console her. And voilà. The couple has a daughter, Olympia, and a few years ago French media went nuts over this video where Williams teaches her French.

The Local’s score – 5/10.

5. Boris Johnson

Back in 2013, Boris Johnson said live on French television that he had “more chance to get beheaded by a frisbee or reincarnate as an olive, than to become prime minister.”

While that turned out not to be true, the PM’s linguistic skills were impressive, which has to do with his grandmother’s side of the family being French and Johnson spending his childhood in Brussels where his father, Stanley Johnson, worked at the European Commission. (Stanley later applied for French citizenship to maintain his ties with the European Union following Brexit.)

He gave several interviews in French while mayor of London but seems to be more reticent at speaking it now – even at a joint press conference in Paris with Emmanuel Macron and a load of French journalists in 2019 he resolutely stuck to English.

The Local’s score (for his language skills only, we’re saying nothing about his Brexit) – 7/10

6. Gwyneth Paltrow

Not only does she speak fluent Spanish, it turns out Gwyneth Paltrow speaks solid French, too. The American actress says she believes in hard work and allegedly only lets her kids watch French and Spanish telly. Impressive, but she needs to practice differences between masculine and feminine words.

The Local’s score – 5/10.

7. Johnny Depp 

Johnny Depp obviously had to pick up a bit of French when he dated French singer and actress Vanessa Paradis.

His accent is really good, although his vocabulary seems limited and he tends to refrain from saying more than two or three words at the time. Still, thumbs up for the excellent Rs.

The Local’s score – 6/10.

8. Helena Bonham Carter

Extraordinary Helena Bonham Carter speaks French like a boss and she even starred in a French film back in 1996.

There is French blood on her mother’s side of the family, and Bonham Carter told French press that she spent several holidays in Paris and in Rayaumont, in the Oise département north of Paris. Her French, like the actress, is magnificent.

The Local’s score – 9/10.

9. Mitt Romney

Years ago, the US ex presidential hopeful was lambasted for a campaign ad in which he spoke French. The video, shot during the organising of the 2002 Olympics, opened with the Republican Party’s frontrunner saying “Bonjour, je m’appelle Mitt Romney” (Hello, my name is Mitt Romney) while the French national anthem, la Marseillaise, played in the back.

Sadly, the video has since been removed, but you can hear Romney speak with a French-Canadian in the clip below. As Romney stresses, their accents differ, “because I lived in Paris” back in the 1960s, when he came to the capital as a Mormon missionary. Strong accent, though.

The Local’s score – 5/10.

10. Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster is so fluent that she has starred in a number of French films and also dubs her own films for French audiences. She went to a French-language prep school in Los Angeles and worked in France as a teenager, which has left her with an impeccable French. (She also speaks good Italian, German and Spanish.) Definitely the winner on the list.

The Local’s score – 10/10.

11. Hugh Grant

Hugh Grant’s mother was a French teacher who taught her son to speak basic French. While his accent is very British and his vocab limited, Grant’s boyish charm as usual turns an average performance into something quite enjoyable.

The Local’s score – 5/10.


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