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Our language role model of the week: Penélope Cruz

This week I am going to introduce, or better underline, a character that I regard as a possible role model for current and future generations.

Why Penélope Cruz?

Well in this blog I am not going to talk about her beauty, her screen talent or her personal life. Penélope is also admirable, I think, for her language abilities.

Don’t get me wrong, it is indeed important to mention that she is remarkable for being a wonderful mother, a passionate, fantastic actress and it is worth remembering her charity and volunteering – for example she once worked with Mother Theresa for a week.

As we deal with languages though, let’s focus on that.

The Almodóvar muse started her career at a young age and has performed in various movies of different genres, speaking different languages. Woody Allen claims that he has no clue what the actress was on about in either ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ or ‘To Rome with Love,’ in which Penélope performed in Spanish and Italian. Being a proud Madrid Spaniard, speaking Spanish certainly didn’t present a challenge (she has also performed in Spanish in many other movies), and as for her Italian in the other Allen movie, I can say it was astonishing.

Regarding ‘To Rome With Love’ and Woody Allen, Penélope said “He doesn’t speak Italian. I translated my lines. So he still doesn’t know what I am saying.”

I remember how surprised I was the first time I saw Penélope in an interview for the launch of one of her movies. Despite the fact that the movie was American, because the interviewer was Italian she gave the whole interview in Italian with a remarkable range of vocabulary. Granted, Spanish and Italian are Romance languages and as they are both derived from Latin perhaps the gap between them is not a major obstacle. Indeed many Italian and Spanish people can understand each other if they want to, but I was really touched by the fact that she was caring enough to speak Italian to the Italians! I don’t recall many other Hollywood stars doing so with such class and nonchalance, as if that’s the way it should be done.

The ultimate star confessed that she studied Italian to get roles in movies she wanted to be cast for, and she wanted to know the language to give the performance impact and transmit emotions without just learning words without meaning. Penélope also studied French at school, but didn’t learn English until later. So when she was introduced to the Hollywood scene she made many mistakes, some embarrassing and had to learn, as she says, ‘the hard way’.

In total Cruz can speak four languages fluently: Spanish, Italian, French and English. She also was the first Spanish actress in history to win an Academy Award and receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Impressive, no? I think we could all take some inspiration from Penélope’s determination to learn different languages. For more information regarding languages please visit our website and blogs.

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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