21 October 2009

Es ist Deutschland hier

This German politician refused to answer a question in English and is getting a lot of criticism for it. I don't think it's so much that he didn't answer in English as the way he reacted--he turns exasperatedly to the side when the man asking the question didn't understand and even answers the question rudely. If you're a politician, don't you want to win over the public instead of driving them away? Interestingly enough, we criticize politicians for just being crowd-pleasers, but when they don't please, they get criticized as well. Poor guys. But anyway, he is the foreign minister, and seeing as how English is now the international language and has been for quite a while now, he needs to jump on the bandwagon . . . or does he? Is English an expectation of America or of the world?

Here's the English translation for those who don't speak German (I don't think it's the best translation, and you miss out on his rude exasperated sigh, but oh well). And here's proof that he speaks and understands English okay.


  1. "Is English an expectation of America or of the world?" That's a tough question. I have a little thought and that's that the public school system in America doesn't push foriegn languages like it should, and it doesn't teach them like it should (I took French for 4 years and I really didn't feel like I learned much). I don't know much about the subject but what I've heard is that most other countries are bilingual and american doesn't seem to be. So in my opinion it's great that english is the world language because I don't know how to speak anything else! :) but I really do wish I could.

  2. Very interesting. I think the guy was kind of a dickhead about it, but I sort of agree with his point too. Although it's different in reverse since English is kind of the international language now, I still think if someone came to one of our press conferences and started expecting the politician to answer in another language (even if he spoke it) you'd kind of feel like that was out of line and would want him to ask it in the language of the press conference or at least have a translator with him.

    That being said, Guido (funny name!) could have handled it more gracefully.

  3. It's not an American expectation, there are other anglophone countries that suck at languages! Like the British Isles . . . But it's more to do with the adaptability of English and relative ease of the grammar compared to others that makes it such an ideal global language.

    I still have to work on my German though! English+French just won't cut it anymore, sigh.

  4. Hey Michelle!
    I consider it a shame how Westerwelle behaved himself - after all, he aims at the leadership of our State Department (and is most likely to get it) and as such, he should have shown much more tact in handling the situation. That being said, the BBC could have afforded to send one of their German correspondents to one of the year's most important press conferences in the capital..
    But Guido's English DEFINITELY needs to improve (quickly!) if he wants to feel at ease on the diplomatic floors of this world and not ashame us further! After all, the guy has got a Law-PhD and earned a substantial amount as a member of parliament over the past 13 years! Couldn't he have afforded some private English lessons with that?