It was widely reported and tweeted yesterday that Guido Westerwelle, the FDP (Liberal) party leader who will be Germany’s next foreign minister, refused to speak English when requested to do so (28th September).
Es ist Deutschland hier
The BBC correspondent asks Westerwelle to speak English, and Westerwelle says that as this is a German press conference in Germany, he can take questions in English but he will answer them in German.
This seems perfectly OK to me, but a lot of other Germans have been making fun of him for this. I admit he gets tactless after answering, when he says in German ‘We can meet outside the conference for tea and speak English, but it’s Germany here’. I hope his manners improve as foreign nminister.
Now Cem Özdemir of the Green Party has made a video Cem Özdemir asks BBC to stay with us promising German speakers of English will be back after the next elections in four years’ time.
I really can’t see that this video does the Greens any good either.
LATER NOTE: The Independent has an article by Philip Hensher, Flummoxed by foreign tongues, supporting Westerwelle too, and mentioning the decline of foreign language teaching and university courses in the UK:
Some people, even in Germany, have criticised Westerwelle for his insistence, and suggested that in fact he couldn’t answer in English. Actually, though his English is certainly not as horribly wonderful as many German politicians’, and he does seem to make some trivial mistakes, it is perfectly serviceable. More curiously, what did the BBC think it was doing, sending a reporter to a press conference in Germany on the German elections, knowing that he couldn’t or wouldn’t speak any German?
See also blog entry by Gabi (in German)