Jackie Chan, the kung fu master who has starred in more than 100 movies, admits the toughest step on his long journey to Hollywood fame was jumping the language barrier.
He didn’t speak a word of English when he arrived in California in the 1980s.
It would be a very long story to talk about my English-learning experience, the 62-year-old said, grinning broadly, during a recent Beijing event.
But I can say that now Hollywood needs me, while, in the past, I needed Hollywood.
Chan soared to fame as a martial-arts master in Asia in the mid-70s.
But his employer, Golden Harvest, hoped he could break into the larger US film industry.
So, the company purposely arranged for him to fly alone to the United States to immerse himself in the English-speaking world so that he could learn the language as quickly as possible.
Jackie Chan spent a great deal of effort solidifying his status in Hollywood at a time when Chinese faces weren’t as prevalent there as now. To do that, he made gaining fluency in English one of his top priorities.
To improve his English, he says, he listened and practiced as much as possible.
Jackie Chan, who’s also a singer, used US folk songs, films and TV series to study.
He listened to them repeatedly and imitated the pronunciation.
He improved his listening comprehension by covering the bottom of the television so he couldn’t read the subtitles.
At his peak, he hired four English teachers and spent nine hours a day studying.
He also practiced while appearing in such blockbusters as Rumble in the Bronx and the Rush Hour franchise. He recited the scripts before shoots and communicated with US actors on set.
Eventually, he became fluent.