Finding multilingual role models is a great way to help motivate yourself on your language-learning journey. We’ve written about dozens of real people you can look up to, from movie stars to athletes to Fortune 500 CEOs, but sometimes real people just don’t cut it. Fictional characters are often more fun (and less likely to disappoint), so we’ve compiled a list of 11 movie, TV and literary characters who speak another language. Pick your favorite and draw some inspiration from their linguistic prowess!
1. Harry Potter — Parseltongue
Let’s start this list with everyone’s favorite boy wizard. A fan favorite in both the literary world and on the silver screen, Harry Potter can add bilingual to his long list of achievements. He speaks (or technically spoke — more on that later) parseltongue, the language of serpents, which makes him a “Parselmouth.”
This skill is particularly relevant in the second book and movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in which Harry accidentally discovers he can speak parseltongue and (spoiler) later uses it to open the eponymous chamber and kill the basilisk. Harry didn’t have to actually learn the language, though, as it came from the piece of Voldemort that attached to him after the killing curse backfired. When that horcrux within him is destroyed in the final book/film, he loses his ability to speak parseltongue. So maybe Hermione is actually the better role model when it comes to learning.
2. Jason Bourne — German, French, Russian, Dutch, Spanish, Swedish
International superspy Jason Bourne has captivated readers and moviegoers for decades. Famously portrayed by Matt Damon and Jeremy Renner, Bourne is highly skilled in all things espionage, including speaking multiple languages.
His penchant for languages is mentioned in the novels, but it really comes to life in the film adaptations, in which Bourne travels the globe and has conversations in German, French, Russian, Dutch, Spanish and Swedish. Quite the polyglot!
3. Daenerys Targaryen — Dothraki
In addition to being the one true queen of Westeros (in my humble opinion), Daenerys Targaryen makes bilingualism an important part of HBO’s hit fantasy-drama Game of Thrones. In addition to speaking the Common Tongue (which sounds suspiciously like English) Daenerys speaks Dothraki, a constructed language (or conlang) developed for the show by David J. Peterson.
As the unofficial leader of the Dothraki people, a group of nomadic warriors on horseback, Daenerys is fluent in the Dothraki language and switches between it and English frequently throughout the show and the books.
4. Legolas — Elvish
One of the members of the Fellowship of the Ring in the Lord of the Rings book and film series, Legolas is a Sindarin elf of the Woodland Realm. He speaks one of the Elvish languages (probably Sindarin, considering he’s a Sindarin elf), which the series author J.R.R. Tolkien invented, along with other conlangs for his various novels.
Legolas brandishes his archery skills when he’s on the road, but he shows off his language skills when he’s at home with his fellow elves. Both skills are equally cool.
5. Dora the Explorer — Spanish
This rambunctious little adventurer was on the air for eight seasons, spreading bilingualism to children and their parents. Dora the Explorer was a 7-year-old Mexican girl who went on adventures with her talking backpack and monkey companion.
She was bilingual in Spanish and English, and taught kids basic Spanish (and English) phrases in every episode. Sometimes she would even sing in Spanish — ¡Que bueno!
6. Spock — Vulcan
The beloved second-in-command of the U.S.S. Enterprise in the Star Trek franchise, Spock was a half-Vulcan, half-human played by Leonard Nimoy in the original movies (and by Zachary Quinto in the new ones). Spock speaks the Vulcan language, which was created, along with Klingon, by linguist Marc Okrand.
Okrand says his fondest memory of working on Star Trek was when he got to teach Leonard Nimoy Vulcan for the role of Spock. And Star Trek in general is a linguistic goldmine, with its most famous constructed language being Klingon.
7. Galina “Red” Reznikov — Russian
Galina Reznikov, or “Red” as everyone calls her, is one of the fiercest characters in the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black. Played by Kate Mulgrew, Red is shown in flashbacks to have grown up in Soviet Russia and later moving to the United States before ending up in prison.
Red has a thick Russian accent and sprinkles Russian words into her conversations from time to time. She also occasionally launches into full Russian, like when she’s telling off Counselor Healy’s Russian wife, Katya.
8. Hercule Poirot — French and German
Here’s one for the mystery lovers out there. Hercule Poirot, the detective at the center of Agatha Christie’s renown novels, doesn’t just solve crimes; he also has a knack for languages.
The mustachioed detective is Belgian and speaks both French and German fluently, which comes in handy when he has to interview suspects and witnesses from other countries. There’s at least one scene in the novels that suggests Poirot can speak Italian, as well.
9. Jabba the Hut — Huttese
This evil alien gangster from the Star Wars franchise may not be your favorite character, but he speaks another language and that’s all that really matters. Jabba the Hutt is a member of the Hutt species, and thus, speaks Huttese.
He does not speak English, so any scene involving Jabba the Hutt features him speaking Huttese with English subtitles. Huttese was created by sound designer Ben Burtt, who based it on Quechuan languages from the ancient Incan Empire.
10. Jane Villanueva — Spanish
Jane the Virgin is the CW’s modern remake of a classic Venezuelan telenovela, Juana la Virgen. The CW version, which has become very popular in the United States, stars Gina Rodriguez as the titular character, Jane Villanueva.
Jane is fully bilingual in Spanish and English, and she switches between the languages seamlessly. She often uses Spanish with her grandmother and sometimes other members of her family, and sticks to English at work and in her love life. This also happens to be a great example of code-switching that bilingual people use in real life.
11. Captain America — French
This is a relatively new development. While Steve Rogers (AKA Captain America) didn’t seem to speak any other languages in the past, he apparently learned French after the events of the first Avengers movie.
In the film Captain America: Winter Soldier, Rogers speaks French during a fight with French pirate Georges Batroc. It’s been theorized that Iron Man taught Captain America French, but regardless of how he learned, one thing is clear: languages save lives.
Header image: JoJo Whilden/Netflix