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Political Leaders and Languages

 Language Learning Forum : Polyglots Post Reply
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M-Squared
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5407 days ago

117 posts - 118 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: German, Spanish

 
 Message 1 of 142
18 January 2006 at 11:47am | IP Logged 
There was an article in the US Washington Post today on the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the US that had some notes of interest on language. When Chancellor Merkel met one-on-one with President Bush they used interpreters, as they did in press conferences. However, in Chancellor Merkel's other meetings, including with groups at the White House, she spoke English on her own. The article said this was a departure from prior arrangement. The article also noted that at their first meeting last year Merkel and US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice spoke with each other in Russian.

So I am wondering, how many world heads of state typically conduct their diplomacy in a foreign language without an interpreter? Is this common or very unusual? Do they all use interpreters in very important meetings (one-on-one's) and complex situations (like press conferences)? Or, was Chancellor Merkel just using an interpreter because President Bush would have in Germany?
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Skandinav
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Denmark
Joined 5155 days ago

139 posts - 145 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, English, German, Russian, Swedish, Norwegian

 
 Message 2 of 142
18 January 2006 at 12:32pm | IP Logged 
I think that most head of states from bigger countries (US, China, Russia, India, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Turkey, Mexico etc.) and those leaders that are relatively linguistic uneducated use interpreter. Condoleeza Rice are by no way so proficient in Russian that she'd be able to converse with Merkel. This is a mere myth. When she was interviewed by Ekho Moskvy, the interviewer asked her a pretty simple question in Russian, and she didn't get it. I didn't here it myself, but newspapers such as Zavtra and Pravda really made a big fuzz about Rice' inability to speak Russian.
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Bart
Triglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 5428 days ago

155 posts - 159 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, French, English
Studies: German, Spanish, Japanese, Swedish

 
 Message 3 of 142
18 January 2006 at 1:32pm | IP Logged 
The Belgian prime minister was with president Bush just a few days ago and he spoke English.
According to Belgian newspapers the American press was very impressed by our prime minister's language skills, as they wrote "He speaks English, French and another language."
pretty funny as that "other language" is Dutch, his mother tongue ;)
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Skandinav
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Denmark
Joined 5155 days ago

139 posts - 145 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, English, German, Russian, Swedish, Norwegian

 
 Message 4 of 142
18 January 2006 at 1:51pm | IP Logged 
Haha, "other language."
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Steve
Diglot
Groupie
South Africa
Joined 5162 days ago

56 posts - 58 votes 
Speaks: English*, Afrikaans
Studies: Norwegian

 
 Message 5 of 142
18 January 2006 at 1:54pm | IP Logged 
I think Condoleezza Rice speaks broken Russian...
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Skandinav
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Denmark
Joined 5155 days ago

139 posts - 145 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, English, German, Russian, Swedish, Norwegian

 
 Message 6 of 142
18 January 2006 at 2:53pm | IP Logged 
Steve, I don't know it for sure; I just put my faith in the Russian newspapers and this (Russian) transcription of the interview on Ekho http://www.echo.msk.ru/guests/3459/

EDIT: I learned that even Ekho Moskvy has integrity problems; they edited Rice' last comment from "yes! no, no, no, no!" to just "no!" Here's the article (in english) from Pravda: http://english.pravda.ru/mailbox/22/101/399/15326_condy.html

Edited by Skandinav on 18 January 2006 at 2:57pm

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Steve
Diglot
Groupie
South Africa
Joined 5162 days ago

56 posts - 58 votes 
Speaks: English*, Afrikaans
Studies: Norwegian

 
 Message 7 of 142
18 January 2006 at 3:51pm | IP Logged 
yeah, i read that. But she said that because the interview was being conducted in Russian. She apologised in Russian, saying something like "Russian is very difficult and it's easy to make mistakes". She shouldn't really be doing interviews in the language if she isn't comfortable in it...
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Skandinav
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Denmark
Joined 5155 days ago

139 posts - 145 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, English, German, Russian, Swedish, Norwegian

 
 Message 8 of 142
18 January 2006 at 4:05pm | IP Logged 
Well, in my opinion the question - "Will you run for presidency in 2008 - was pretty straightforward. For a diplomat there are three options: "yes", "no" or "no comment." From what I've heard she was made a laughing stock in Russian nationalist circles. But then again, who's Rodina, the Communists or LDPR to make fun of anyone?


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