Is speaking French a bad thing? Only if you want to be the president of the United States.

Can you read this plaque about the Statue of Liberty? If so, perhaps you shouldn't run for public office.

Since my daughter and I chat almost daily on Skype, I knew that she had something fairly significant to tell me when I received a rare email from her yesterday afternoon. Discovering what that was, however, turned out to be a bit of a treasure hunt because the vague subject line only said, "have you seen this...". Opening the email, I found the next clue, "Kind of ridiculous!", with a link to a BBC article. Getting closer to the meat of the matter, I clicked on the link and read the title:

"Mitt Romney lambasted in attack ad for speaking French - Quelle horreur! Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney has been skewered in a new political attack ad - for speaking French."

Oh, no - I finally understood. Sara wanted to inform me that my lofty political aspirations are dead in the dirt. With a cheesy accordion soundtrack playing in the background, an ad released by Newt Gringrich prior to the primary in South Carolina presents damning evidence against the Republican Party front-runner: a closeup of Mitt Romney smiling as he says, "Bonjour, Je m'appelle Mitt Romney." Mon Dieu! I regret the day that I set foot in a French classroom -- now I'll never be the first woman President of the United States!

Raised to believe that you don't talk about sex, politics and religion at the dinner table or on a blog called, "Out and About in Paris", this isn't about politics but rather about the perceptions by some Americans that their compatriots who speak a foreign language aren't patriotic. Is this really the message that we want to send to our children when we should be striving to maintain our global competitiveness?

According to official statistics by the Chinese government, there are approximately 300,000,000 English learners in China.

According to the US Census Bureau, the current US population is 312,849,759.

Comments

  1. Newt is so hilarious (and such an idiot, like 99% American conservatives)

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    1. It gives me hope that the ad on YouTube has 1,695 "dislikes" versus 305 "likes". At least not everyone thinks likes Newt.

      By the way, I told une femme to take a look at your Japanese blog because she's there now.

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  2. I assume there's a reason French in particular gets picked on - something to do with stereotypes of being arrogant, pretentious, "socialist" and so on.

    I've seen another ad that has the rest of that speech, created for the Salt Lake City Olympics, but with subtitles suggesting he's talking about completely different stuff. Good for him for trying, but it's actually auite hard to listen to, I think he's autocuing the heck out of it. (Which fair enough - and he does say in the speech that he has studied French, so it's not just him reading something he has no clue about I think - but he has really odd intonation.)

    PS Not to get political either, but I find it funny that being 'moderate' is a term of abuse apparently ??

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    1. That's interesting that you find Romney's intonation to be a bit strange because I thought that he almost sounds as if he has an Irish accent when he says his name in French. The BBC article said that he spent more than two years in France as a Mormon missionary, which of course makes him even more suspect! Who knows how many strange ideas he picked up when he was here in the 1960s. ;)

      I think that you're right that it probably wouldn't ruffle so many feathers if he spoke a language other than French.

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  3. OMG...he speaks French?? Forget it, Mitt...I would NEVER vote for someone who speaks a foreign language! LOL
    nancyb (who speaks a bit of 4 languages, btw)

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  4. Around a dozen years ago I had the misfortune of having to attend a convention where Newt was the keynote speaker. As a corporate wonk at that time I held my tongue. However, having planned ahead I had the booklet with cover art for the Austin Lounge Lizards' 1995 album Small Minds which features a caricature of Newt and the song "Gingrich the Newt" among other satirical delights such as "Mouring Edition" (cue NPR & Bob Edwards). By carefully timing an impromptu request (the only one) for an autograph just as he was bidding farewell to the organizers I was able to get my snark remark as such directly to my target. Yes! He autographed the cover.

    The cover of Small Minds can be seen for a few seconds in this YouTube audio of Gingrich the Newt:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j01Wkw8Lqu4

    James

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  5. And President Nancy has such a nice ring to it. Oh well, you have to give up the dream, too because you speak way too many foreign languages! It will be interesting to see what kind of commercials the candidates produce for the Florida primary.

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  6. Many in Spanish no doubt...but it won't matter as that vote will be a strong Democratic one regardless of how good or bad the candidate may be. Sad but true.
    nancyb

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  7. A sad day when knowing more that one language is not an asset.
    I have been following the circus for quite a while from the sidelines of Canada and from a French Canadian perspective. The GOP circus of the primaries is playing to the base so it if half religion and a bit of politics. Since the US courts have allowed the super PAC funding the whole thing is even more of a circus. Now Newt can back off this video by saying it was paid for by the super PAC which he has no control over.
    But really Stephen Colbert will win South Carolina 2xLOL :-)
    http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/13/colbert-to-advertise-in-south-carolina/?scp=1&sq=colbert%20south%20carolina&st=cse

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    1. Your comment about the super Pac paying for the ad prompted me to go back and watch it again. I had originally thought that it was odd that there wasn't the normal, "I'm Newt Gingrich and I approve this ad" at the end and hadn't thought about it being funded by his super PAC. There's a tiny statement at the very end that says "Paid for by Newt 2012".

      As Colbert and The Daily Show are my daily dose of humor/US news, I would love it if he won SC!

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  8. As much as I love my country that is one of the problems we have here. There are so many people who have never left their own little world. So they think no one should and if they do they do not love the US. So sad for those people, they will never understand what they are missing.
    heidi katt

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    1. You make an excellent point. I always find it ironic that I'm viewed with suspicion when I mention that I live abroad. If anything, it has made me more appreciative of the rights and freedoms that many Americans take for granted.

      And speaking of living abroad, how's the job search going?

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  9. It beggars belief, doesn't it? Talk about isolationist. Kids from every country should learn to speak at least on other foreign language at school, and the more the better.

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  10. It really is beyond belief, especially when there are so many other issues that should be discussed during this election year in the United States -- education is one that immediately comes to mind.

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  11. Dear Mary Kay -

    I discovered your Blog a few weeks ago. I love it so much that I read it everyday now as if it is a gift I get everyday. Thank you for taking time to write and share.

    About Newt, I shared with my husband a couple nights ago that he is ignorant, stupid and nuisance. Do we have better things to discuss in American politics? I am a transplanted Chinese, I speak three different languages well and have been learning French for six years. It is great to be able to understand different cultures, people, foods, and heritages through languages.

    My best regards,

    Rona

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    1. Welcome, Rona, and many thanks for your very kind comment!

      I sincerely wish that more people had your enthusiasm for learning about different cultures, people, food, etc. because it has been my experience that the more that we learn about people from another culture, the more we realize how similar we are on a very basic level -- we're all human.

      Good luck with your French lessons!

      I just realized that I'm going to miss the big Chinese New Year celebration in Paris next week because I'm going to be in Switzerland on Monday. After seeing photos of it last year, I was really looking forward to it.

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  12. The ad is so amateurish this it's laughable. And that's what I did when I watched it--laughed. I think Mitt would run an interesting campaign and race, although I just don't think anyone can beat Obama right now. I wish the political season was much shorter in this country, and I wish I felt that more Americans were actually informed but neither are the case.

    And even Jon Hunstman's ability to speak Chinese has been used against him--the nation really is xenophobic.

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  13. I also wish that the campaign season was shorter in the USA. It would be interesting to know how long it typically is in other countries. I just did an unsuccessful search on google that didn't yield much information.

    We're also following the elections in France with interest.

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  14. Ugh. So typical for Americans to make it a bad thing to speak more than one language (when I just dream of it each day!) Being in hotels for 10 days, I was able to read the paper in the morning (I'm too cheap to buy it here) and just would shake my head at all of the articles about the primary, etc. It's a circus!

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  15. I know what you mean about being too cheap to buy a newspaper. In Switzerland, I occasionally went to a cafe where they provided copies of the Herald Tribune. It was a twofer because I got to read the paper and drink a coffee for the price of the paper.

    And about the primary - I'm biting my tongue!

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  16. hi, i love your post. I'm a learner. I have major trouble with pronouncing the "r" some words it is great and in others I as well say it in english. This was a good help. Cheers, @Susana

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