How did Bradley Cooper learn French?

Following on from the popularity of our blog post on how Bald and Bankrupt so successfully learned Russian, we are going to do a series of post on other (famous or otherwise) people have learned to speak a second language as adults. We kick off the series with the American actor and filmmaker Bradley Cooper.

Bradley Cooper is an excellent example of an adult who decided to learn a language and by investing the time and effort became pretty close to fluent according to reports.

Apparently he was motivated to learn French after watching the movie Chariots Of Fire. He said, “There’s a scene where a guy was speaking French and I thought, ‘Man, that sounds so cool.’”

While doing a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Georgetown University, Bradley took extra courses in French language. He also spent six months as an exchange student in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, living with a host family.

Here is video of him speaking French in an interview on French TV, answering fans’ questions:

It is clear that he isn’t exactly fluent – he does make lots of little mistakes and his accent, while very good, isn’t perfect – you can tell it’s an American speaking French. Indeed he once admitted that his grammar is débile (‘feeble’ or ‘weak’). But he is very good, especially his confidence, relaxed demeanour and his use of colloquial phrases. He doesn’t take it too seriously and you can see he is having a great time being able to engage his audience in their native language.

The key to his success seems to be that while he does make mistakes, it doesn’t phase him – he just ploughs ahead. This is a key strategy to language learning – not being afraid of making mistakes in front of other people – especially native speakers. Speaking to native speaker should be seen as an opportunity to learn. Native speakers don’t think you are stupid or that you are making a fool of yourself if you don’t quite get things perfect. And if you don’t understand something they ask, it is natural that they rephrase the question until you do understand.

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