From South African to British and beyond - 10 actors who can pull off foreign accents

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  • When Idris Elba took on the role of Nelson Mandela, he admitted that learning to speak with a South African accent was difficult.
  • Scottish actor David Tennant has also previously commented on having difficulty speaking with a local accent. 
  • In the video above, Mojo looks at stars of the big and small screen, who convincingly kept up an accent. 


When Idris Elba took on the role of Nelson Mandela, he admitted that learning to speak with a South African accent was difficult. 

The British actor starred as the former South African president in the 2013 historical drama Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Speaking to The Guardian at the film's red-carpet premiere, Elba said: "South Africans love their Madiba, and it's a massive responsibility to bring him alive in the best possible way."

He added that he "wanted people to recognise him when they heard the sound and say, 'That's Madiba'," when asked about learning to speak like Mandela.

Elba isn't the first to admit that learning a South African accent has its challenges. 

During a 2016 appearance on the BBC comedy series Room 101, in which celebrities are invited to discuss their pet hates, Scottish actor David Tennant chose his South African accent.

"As part of my day job, which is pretending to be other people, I do occasionally have to assume another accent," he told host Frank Skinner. "Usually, with a bit of practise and a bit of time, I can make a decent fist of most of them, but my Becher's Brook, my Waterloo, is the South African accent."

"I don't know what it is about it that is elusive to my ear, but I've tried, and I've struggled and ... I don't know what it is. It defeats me every single time!"

The former Doctor Who star addressed it again in 2019 during an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, during which even Elizabeth Banks tried to speak with a local accent. 

WATCH THE CLIP HERE:

On the other hand, South African Charlize has commented that it was fairly easy for her to 'unlearn' her South African accent. 

In an episode of the SmartLess podcast with hosts Sean Hayes, Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, Theron revealed that she only learned to speak English fluently when she moved to the US.

When Hayes asked if she had a South African accent as a kid and "got rid of it", Theron said she "didn't speak English until I was like 19".

The actor went on to explain that because no one in her neighbourhood spoke English and she took it as a second language at school, it wasn't until she moved that she focused on learning the language.

"That's why it was easy for me to drop the [SA] accent because I was really learning English from scratch," she added.

In the same podcast, Theron called Afrikaans "a dying language" and added that "there's about 44 people still speaking it … it's not a very helpful language."

Her comments sparked backlash among South Africans, who called Theron out for her "disturbing" and "inaccurate" statement. 

READ MORE |  'Disturbing': Language Board hits back at Charlize Theron's comments about Afrikaans 'dying'

In the video above, Mojo looks at stars of the big and small screen, who convincingly kept up an accent. 


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