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May 09, 2004

French Obnoxiousness

Telegraph again


When Chris Patten, the EU's external relations commissioner, goes shopping for breakfast from his holiday home in France, he can say much more than "Je voudrais une baguette". Nevertheless, it is reported that President Chirac may block the possible appointment of Mr Patten to the post of president of the European Commission on the grounds that his French is not sufficiently polished. "He is not able to have a professional conversation on the phone with President Chirac, or take part in a French political radio or TV programme," an official complained to the Financial Times.
If Mr Patten's aim were to communicate with the greatest number of Europeans and world leaders, his time would be better spent learning other languages. French is only the third most commonly-used language in the EU, behind English and German.
The French have long been preoccupied with the promotion of their language, even passing laws forbidding the use of English expressions. But when it comes to communicating with foreigners their leaders have hardly set a good example. When was the last time Mr Chirac gave an interview on Newsnight? Perhaps it is he who should be signing up for evening classes - in English.

The amusing thing is that Jaques Chirac does speak English well. With a very strong American accent.

May 9, 2004 in European Union | Permalink

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