Natalie Portman is very passionate about learning new languages, and she’s fluent in both English and Hebrew. Can she also hold a conversation in French?
Stick around to learn more about Portman’s love for French and several other languages she studied over the years.
Passion for Languages
Natalie Portman hails from a Jewish family and is fluent in both English and Hebrew, but these aren’t the only languages she speaks. She became passionate about foreign languages at an early age and became conversational in French, Japanese, German, and Arabic.
Portman continued to grow her multilingual talents as an adult and decided to learn Spanish while starring in Goya’s Ghosts. The Black Swan star told America Reads Spanish that she considers Spanish as “one of the languages most useful in the world”.
The Oscar-winning actress also discussed her love for languages during this interview and said that she studied so many because the process of learning new things brings her joy.
“I didn’t do it for my career as is not required of an actress at all… Learning gives you an open mind. Knowing languages is a tool that helps in some situations where all you do is just, you don’t even think about it, you just keep moving forward,” explained Portman.
Making Movies in France
Portman’s debut film Léon: The Professional was directed by the French filmmaker Luc Besson and mostly shot in France, but she was only required to speak English. That changed as the years went by, and her filmography now includes several French-language movies.
Portman’s most notable French-speaking project is the 2016 fantasy drama Planetarium, also starring Lily-Rose Depp. They played spiritualist sisters, who claim to possess the supernatural ability to connect with ghosts.
Unlike Depp, who grew up in Paris and speaks fluent French, Portman had to work on her accent. She hired a voice coach, but her bilingual co-star was there to help her every step of the way.
“It was learning how to say my lines with the best possible accent, knowing which word to emphasize. Because French is a lot flatter than the way I speak English. I tend to be more sing-songy in my English than you would be in French,” Portman told InStyle.
The Oscar-winning star appeared in a few more French-language films, including Paris, je t’aime, and Hotel Chevalier, but wasn’t asked to significantly improve her speaking skills like in Planetarium.
Adjusting to Life in France
Most people agree that the best way to learn a language is to live in a country where it’s spoken so you could fully immerse yourself in it. Natalie Portman had a chance to do this with French since she spent several years living in Paris.
Portman met the French dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied on the set of Black Swan and they got married in 2012. A few months after the couple tied the knot, Millepied was appointed as the director of dance with the Paris Opera Ballet.
They moved to France in 2014, and Portman even toyed with the idea of becoming a French citizen like her husband. According to The Sun, the actress said that she “grew up in a very Francophile atmosphere” and was named after Gilbert Bécaud’s song “Nathalie”.
Her plans to get a French passport never came to fruition – Millepied resigned from the Paris Opera Ballet in 2016, and they moved back to Los Angeles. Portman still misses Paris but admits that she wasn’t a huge fan of the French etiquette rules.
“I feel there’s a lot of rules of politeness and codes of behavior there you have to follow. It’s a lot looser here,” she told Kimmel. “[In the US] you care about making the person next to you comfortable because you want them to feel good,” she told Jimmy Kimmel.