Sunday, February 04, 2007

Charlie Rose - An hour with Nicolas Sarkozy

Last week, Charlie Rose (PBS) interviewed Nicolas Sarkozy, Interior Minister of France and the UMP candidate for the French presidency. If you want to have an idea of who are the two main contenders for this year's presidential elections in France, the beginning is a good introduction. The interview itself is also pretty good. Charlie Rose does not spare his interviewee the tough questions.
As a teacher of English, I may be a bit too sensitive to this issue but I find it appalling that Sarkozy does not speak English and actually needs a translator... He was after addressing an American audience. What kind of world leader is this? Today, it is clear that English is needed for diplomacy and for interacting with other leaders at a more personal level.
Recently, when Sarkozy met with Tony Blair, and well... they spoke French. Good for Tony but it's not exactly like everybody in the world speaks French fluently. Recently, some people in France took offense at the fact that the UN Secretary does not speak French fluently and prefers spaking English. Well, maybe the French leaders should begin to acknowledge reality and adapt to today's world! This is worrisome for the so-called new generation of French politicians. (Chirac, Jospin, or de Villepin all speak English reasonably well..)
It seems that the other main contender for the presidential race (French socialist candidate Ségolène Royal) does not speak much English either (watch a video here). Sad!
The irony is that Sarkozy often shows himself quite an Anglophile, and even an Americanophile in some instances... so you'd expect him to speak English well enough! But no, he doesn't! The latter may explain the former, cynics might say!

It is also worth noting that at some point Sarkozy presents himself as a self-made man who had to fight to make it to the top. This is not entirely true and as you can read in his biography, he came from a fairly wealthy family and spent most of his life in the wealthiest exclusive Parisan suburb of Neuilly of which he eventually became the mayor. This of course does not mean he's not a skillful politician who has worked hard to make it to the top... but let's not buy into the entire myth of the man who's made it from the bottom to the top! Sarko's life is no Horatio Alger story!

Enjoy the video...


At 10:07, Anonymous Abie said...

"Je ne peux pas me satisfaire d'un pays où un Français sur deux ne vote pas"
Pardon? Il a confondu avec les États Unis, on dirait...
Tous les taux d'abstention pour les élections, à part pour les européennes de 2004, sont en dessous de 38 pourcents

At 02:32, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it appalling? I don't find it so, he is the President of France, not of an English-speaking country. French is a major world language in its own right. It's only in relatively recent times that English has become more dominant in the field of international diplomacy.
Perhaps Americans are not as accustomed to hearing people speak through interpreters, so you somehow find it more shocking?

At 03:55, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: “…it's not exactly like everybody in the world speaks French fluently.”

My early schooling was in Europe; English and French were taught; viz. they were both considered important international languages. That, no doubt due to these nations’ historically recent imperialisms.

It seems that Blair speaks French, so this helps to validate that point. On the other hand Bush speaks neither of these two international languages, and I suppose – I’m guessing here – his command of Mexican is even less that that of the English language.

(BTW, English is my second language – I took it in school as well as French. Most of my French has been lost due to disuse, as may be the case with president Sarkozy – it happens)

--Harald Illig

Charlie Rose - An hour with Nicolas Sarkozy: A French-American perspective on politics, culture, current events, religion, languages, and education nowscape


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