Robert De Niro can trace his ancestry across Europe and has spoken multiple languages in his films. Does the legendary actor also speak French?
Despite rumors online that Robert De Niro speaks French, there is no clear evidence that he knows the language. A possible cause of this rumor is that the actor’s mother, Virginia Admiral, had English, Dutch and French ancestry, however, she was born and raised in the US. Footage of De Niro being interviewed for French TV shows him speaking in English, so we have little reason to believe that he speaks French.
For more about De Niro’s ancestry and examples of him speaking foreign languages, read on.
Robert De Niro was born in New York City on August 17, 1943. His father, Robert De Niro Sr, was a painter of Italian and Irish descent. Rumors about De Niro’s ability to speak French are likely born from Robert Jr’s maternal grandparents.
His mother, Virginia Admiral, was also a painter, with English, Dutch, German and French ancestry. Despite Virginia’s diverse ancestry, she was born and raised in the United States, as were Robert Sr and Robert Jr.
The breakdown of Virginia’s ancestry isn’t clear, essentially how “French” she was, although her French blood came from her father’s side of the family and he was English, French and Dutch, meaning Virginia was probably at most a quarter French.
There is no obvious mention of her speaking French, though this doesn’t mean that she didn’t do it privately with her family; it seems unlikely that she inherited it as a language she spoke regularly.
Similarly, Robert Jr, who was born in New York and raised predominantly in Little Italy, would have had little reason to learn to speak French, with English and Italian being far more useful on a daily basis.
Perhaps the most conclusive evidence that De Niro speaks French is the fact that there are multiple videos of him speaking English while in France.
While promoting the 2011 film “Manuale d’am3re”, released in the US as “The Ages of Love”, De Niro and costar Monica Bellucci were interviewed for French TV, with an interpreter translating for De Niro.
While it’s entirely possible that De Niro does speak some French but not enough to be comfortable being interviewed in the language on TV, this seems close to confirmation that he does not speak French fluently, if at all.
De Niro and Languages
We have heard De Niro using a language other than English in movies but it isn’t French. In “The Godfather Part II”, for which De Niro won his first Oscar for his role as Vito Corleone, the actor speaks Sicilian extensively.
While De Niro doesn’t specifically speak Sicilian in reality, he was comfortable enough with Italian to adapt to the film’s version of the language, which he says was by no means a perfect imitation of true Sicilian but near enough to be convincing.
De Niro isn’t fluent in Italian either, although he learned enough from his time surrounded by his fellow Italian-Americans to be able to hold a conversation.
De Niro actually only learned Italian in adulthood, as a mark of respect for his father’s side of the family and his neighbors in Little Italy.
Although he downplays his ability to speak the language, De Niro’s attempts at Sicilian were strong enough to earn praise from Italian viewers. Some even compared him favorably to fellow star Al Pacino, saying that, despite having an American accent in his scenes, De Niro delivered his lines clearly and with confidence.
So, while we aren’t convinced that Robert De Niro actually speaks French, despite online rumors stating otherwise, we’re also sure that he could probably learn enough to speak in the language onscreen if he needed to.