Chinese Speaking Celebrities
If you’re asked to name 3 Chinese speaking celebrities, I bet I can guess who you’d go for. Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Lucy Liu, right?
One thing that can make Chinese feel so alien is how little we hear it in media. The Chinese celebrities that we know act, sing and even do interviews in English. So our view of who can actually speak Chinese isn’t very accurate.
The number of adult learners studying Chinese are rising fast though. Whether it’s for work, family reasons or just as an impressive skill many celebrities are trying out this amazing language.
Today we look at the stories of a few celebrities that learn and speak Chinese as a second language.
Wolverine (Hugh Jackman)
Way back in 2011 Wolverine, I mean Hugh Jackman, had a tiny role in a pretty unremarkable Chinese film called Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.
Jackman plays a barman in the film, and part of his role was to sing. In Chinese. He claims it took him 2 months just to learn the song, which shows why he’s an actor and not a linguist I suppose.
The film itself is basically unknown. However, in an interview with Conan O’Brian, Jackman delighted the audience by singing the song for them and Conan jumps in as well. Check out the hilarious video.
Unfortunately for Jackman, 2 months wasn’t quite enough to master the pronunciation. When he sings “kiss” wěn it sounds quite a lot like “bowl” wǎn. After the video went viral in China, lots of Chinese interviewers started presenting him with bowls as a joke. Poor old Wolverine.
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg
That’s right, rather than relying on everyone speaking English one of the wealthiest people in the world is learning to speak Chinese!
Zuckerberg revealed that he’d been learning Chinese during a Q&A session with students at Tsinghua University, Beijing in 2014. It was a little-known secret that he was learning at the time but Zuckerberg conducted the entire half hour interview in Chinese, including unprepared questions from audience members.
Ok, so his pronunciation wasn’t the best and his answers contained a few errors, but to even invite open questions as a beginner is really impressive. I certainly wouldn’t have done it when I first started!
People are divided on whether he is learning to communicate with his wife’s Chinese family or to help launch Facebook in China. Either way we think it’s great that such a busy person has the motivation and dedication to try learning Chinese.
Wrestler John Cena
Weird one, right? My students are always amazed by this. John Cena is a professional wrestler, and looks more likely to dedicate all his personal time to the gym than language textbooks.
It’s true though, John Cena speaks amazing Chinese. Not only that, but he taught himself! Truly inspirational.
Cena has spoken Chinese in film roles, during the WWE and even at a press conference in China. His speech to the media contained many grammatical errors, showing that his words weren’t just memorised from someone else’s writing but written himself.
His pronunciation is better than Zuckerberg’s too (sorry Mark)! What a great example of what adult learners can achieve with a bit of elbow grease.