We’ve heard Idris Elba speak with many different accents thanks to the variety of roles that he has played. Some of those roles include former South African President Nelson Mandela, a war soldier in Ghana, a British detective, and an American second in command to a drug kingpin. What languages does Idris Elba speak?
While he has played many characters from different parts of the world, but it’s thought that the only language Elba speaks is English. He does speak Krio, which is an offshoot of English, spoken in his father’s native Sierra Leone.
The actor himself was born and raised in the inner part of London, mainly speaking English, but learning Krio from his Dad. Elba has also admitted to knowing a bit of French and Spanish as well, but just enough to get by, and not enough to be considered fluent.
There are many studies showing a range of how many people are monolingual, those who can only speak one language, in the world. Some have the number as low as 25%, though many agree that it is somewhere around 40%.
Several countries around the world have more than one official language, which is why the number of polyglots, or people who speak more than one language, is so high. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the United States and Mexico, neither of whom have an official language, though they each have their own popular language.
Compared to the global average, American’s have a higher rate of monolingualism, with 75% of Americans only speaking one language. That language is not necessarily English, as some come to America and retain their mother tongue as the only language they know.
Many Americans, in addition to other prominent English countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, feel there’s no need to learn another language, as most of the various aspects of the business world all speak English.
The English Language
English has been around since the 5th century, originating in the British Isles. It is seven layers deep in the Indo-European family of languages. If it was in a folder, the order would look like this:
- West Germanic
Latin and French were widely influential on the English language as well. Just like many things, the English language has changed over the years. We speak very differently then they did in the 15th century, nevermind the 5th century.
English is the most widely spoken language, but it ranks number 3 in the world for the number of native speakers. Chinese and Spanish are numbers one and two, respectively.
English is thought of as the global language. Even in countries where English isn’t normally spoken, some industries, such as pilots, speak English so that everyone is able to communicate.
Some describe English as the hardest language to learn for non-native speakers. There are more synonyms in the English language than any other language and many English words are derived from other languages.
There are several different dialects and accents in the English language, even amongst countrymen or those who live in the same state or province. People in different parts of London will also sometimes have different accents as well.
Though Idris Elba has always acted in English, his shows and films have been picked up in numerous other countries. For the countries that do not speak English, the shows and movies have been dubbed with speakers of the native audience.
The actor seems to be able to nail down accents pretty well from the many that he’s had to showcase, so it’s not necessarily out of the realm of possibility that we hear him speaking another language on the big or small screen.
He already knows a little bit of French and English, so the best bet would be if he was to work in another language, one of those could be the front runners.