The knowledge of foreign languages has never been the best quality of Spanish leaders, but national media rarely mentions it, probably because politicians are not the exception but a fairly good representation of the average.
Few Spaniards speak fluently English as a result of an education system and a society that never took seriously training in and learning of foreign languages. In a recent study by Cristina Manzano, editor of esglobal, the number of Spaniards who can speak, write and understand English is below 20% of total population.
It is commendable, nevertheless, the effort made by presidents José María Aznar and Mariano Rajoy to break the mold and get at ease late in life with Shakespeare’s language. On April 9, 2013, Alex Dunham looked at the progress made by the present Primer Minister. Rajoy didn`t pass the test.
Rajoy’s difficulties to mantain a conversation in English with Denmark’s president. on March 27, 2012 (La Sexta)
Spanish PM Rajoy: ‘I can’t talk to Obama yet’
Alex Dunham (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Spanish leaders have been the butt of many language jokes ever since the days of Franco.
Former socialist prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero was also ridiculed for remaining seated on his own during an EU summit while other world leaders chattered away in several languages.
Former PSOE president Felipe González preferred using French to English on the international stage.
Some of Spain’s leaders are on the other hand linguistic powerhouses.
King Juan Carlos can speak French, Portuguese, Italian and English.
The former president of the Madrid region, Esperanza Aguirre, is proficient in English and fluent in French.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos can even speak some Serbo-Croat and Arabic.
However, figures from an EU survey on linguistic competency show that only 25 percent of Spanish politicians speak another language.
Is it time for Spanish political leaders to head back to the classrooms?….
Let’s be fair: US presidents and British primer ministers have not been much better. If we open the focus to the rest of Europe, we find about everything. For Dunham,
Spain’s endemic foreign language problem dates back to when the right-wing dictator Francisco Franco came to power in 1936.
Franco gave French more importance than English in the schooling system, but both were largely theory- based rather than practical.