• Germany edition
 
Future foreign minister Westerwelle refuses to answer English question
Photo: DPA

Future foreign minister Westerwelle refuses to answer English question

Published: 28 Sep 2009 17:36 GMT+02:00
Updated: 28 Sep 2009 17:36 GMT+02:00

Westerwelle, who heads the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), the preferred coalition partner of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), was asked by the reporter how he would change Germany’s foreign policy. The reporter asked the question in English and said he would prefer an English response.

But Westerwelle apparently balked, and a second attempt by the journalist, this time with the help of a translator, garnered an answer in German.

“We could meet for a fabulous tea outside of a press conference and then speak only English...but this is Germany here,” he said.

Westerwelle has already been criticised for his broken English in the past, the magazine reported.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

05:23 October 31, 2009 by Henriette
The very great number of language courses provided in schools proves the impossibility of enabling all human beings to communicate universally, by use of national languages.

When using interpreters, the "body language" is not conveyed. Rather important.

How easy is it to learn the english language , for refugees, immigrants? and even ... Politicians who have more important tasks to attend to.

Only a neutral auxiliary language, easy to learn, error-proof, taught in all primary schools in every country, would provide our descendants with a tool for inter-national communication, whilst respecting and ensuring the continuity of all national tongues, dialects, idioms within each ethnic group.

One of the objections cited by Education Authorities to the teaching of such a language is : there is no demand from any ethnic community, no evidence of student interest. When the roman numerals were replaced by the Hindu-Arabic numerals, had the education authorities waited for public demand we would still be making long divisions with M, D, C, L, X, V, I... what fun ! In the musical world, if each member of an international orchestra read his partition in his/her own language, could harmony be achieved? Maybe it is time for Educators to take the lead in the communication area. ..

English is often suggested as the international language. English is an elegant language, it would be a pity to see it disintegrating into englishes and being spoken badly by non-native english users. To preserve its integrity, we should protect it from splitting up as Latin did.

Of course, there have been many attempts at "simplifying" English; what would become of the treasures of literature?

However, spoken and written english are dismally dissimilar, which adds to the difficulty for students learning it as a second language.

There have also been many attempts at inventing an international language. Esperanto is at present gaining ground . It is very popular in Korea, Japan, China, Bresil, Canada; surprisingly welcome in parts of the U.S.A., and getting known in Africa. In Europe, whilst Finland was hosting the E.U. it had been added to the list of languages used to publish reports.
11:33 October 31, 2009 by Henriette
EQUALITY !!! . Using english for inter-national communication gives english born speakers a huge advantage. Learning english as a second language is very time consuming, time which can be better used, and the "foreign" speaker is under additional stress, which is distracting.

By using a non national, auxiliary tongue, quick and easy to learn because it has been logically compiled, speakers are on an equal basis, no one is embarrassed at lacking the facility of expression of their interlocutor. There is no rivalry between father-tongues. Everyone keep their own, and none gets cancelled out as by a dominant language. AND for a change english-born-speakers also have to co-operate.
05:30 November 3, 2009 by Henriette
What do the last 3 lines of post # 87 have to do with the subject? A foetus is not a miniature adult. After conception, different parts of the body and brain develop independently and at different points in time. The chromosomes are not solely deciding the embryo's gender. Hormones in the mother during the whole pregnancy complete the work. Illnesses, fevers, medications, etc, come into play. Preponderant hormones at the time of unsynchronised development of the brain, and of the genital organs, give us our aligned, or divergent gender characteristics. From BRAINSEX "The Real Difference Between Men & Women, by Anne Moir & David Jessel.
04:40 November 6, 2009 by albularyo69
What? The reporter can not speak german? What an Idiot!!
01:50 November 20, 2009 by Bilboman
The point most bloggers seem to be missing is that Westerwelle showed a lack of flair and experience and opted instead for a rather feeble attempt at humour. Faced with a question from a reporter in a foreign language, he could have (i) replied deadpan in German, (ii) answered with a simple sentence or two in English and then continued in German. Most politicians I have seen in this unfortunate situation choose (i) or (ii). I would have chosen to reply "Bitte, können Sie das auf Deutsch fragen?" and thrown it straight back at the reporter. (Touché.)

I suspect the BBC reporter did not actually know for sure, at the time he asked the question, if Hr Westerwelle was fluent in English, but he simply asssumed he was. Oh well...
22:49 December 5, 2009 by Dizz
Ironic to look back on this debate a few months on, especially the bits about how bigoted nations might react to his sexuality and so on, now while Westerwelle is defending the Swiss as non-bigots just because they voted to ban the minarets.

And why is he even commenting on this? Doesn't he have enough to do at Germany's diplomatic front line that he's speaking for the Swiss?
06:27 January 14, 2010 by ZEUS
Westerwelle speaks English but a press conference in Germany is not a place for him to prove how good speaker he is. It is a standard etiquette when you are in a country you expect that the Foreign Minister will speak in the country's official language. Now if Westerwelle would make mistakes and what he should say or not say are nonsense.

The BBC reporter could ask in English(thats why there are interpreters) but he cannot demand from the Foreign Minister to respond in English. This is an outlandish lack of respect and complete lack of professionalism. Westerwelle's response to the untactful reporter to my judgment was pretty witty: if you like we can talk later in English but at this moment this is business and the official language of this place -which happens to be located in Germany-is German. I think he handled the case nicely. Imagine a reporter from France to demand from Blair who speaks some French to respond in French! !! It is about time for some English speakers to get over the illusion that English is the language of the world and it is everybody's duty to speak English. Thats why I like Americans , they stubbornly refuse to speak English.
Today's headlines
Munich man arrested for foreigner death threats
Photo: DPA

Munich man arrested for foreigner death threats

A man from Munich was arrested on Monday for posting videos on Facebook in which he posed with a gun and threatened to kill foreigners. READ  

View from Germany
'Only losers in economic war with Russia'
Volkswagen is the German company with the biggest turnover Russia. Photo: DPA

'Only losers in economic war with Russia'

German businesses are lobbying hard against imposing tougher sanctions on Russia after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, warning further sanctions would hurt the country's exports and threaten German jobs. READ  

Man sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy
The Israeli Embassy in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Man sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy

UPDATE: A man set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Berlin on Monday night. Police said it was too soon to say whether it was part of a political protest. READ  

Thousands of litres of beer close motorway
Photo: NRW-aktuell.tv/YouTube screenshot

Thousands of litres of beer close motorway

Thousands of litres of beer were spilled on a motorway near Duisburg in western Germany on Monday night, when a truck carrying several hundred crates of Bitburger toppled over, shutting the Autobahn. READ  

Court allows patients to grow their own cannabis
Photo: DPA

Court allows patients to grow their own cannabis

Seriously ill patients will be allowed to grow their own cannabis at home for medicinal purposes, a German court ruled on Tuesday. READ  

Seven German family members killed in Gaza
An Israeli strike on Gaza City on Monday. Photo: DPA

Seven German family members killed in Gaza

UPDATE: Seven members of a German family living in Gaza City were killed in an Israeli air strike on Monday evening. READ  

Workers in Germany pay record tax sum
Photo: DPA

Workers in Germany pay record tax sum

Workers in Germany are paying a record amount of tax into government coffers, according to figures published on Monday. Those on an average wage of €40,000 pay almost twice as much tax in Germany as they would in the United States or Australia. READ  

Netflix to launch in Germany in September
Laverne Cox, star of Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Photo: EPA/PETER FOLEY

Netflix to launch in Germany in September

Netflix revealed plans on Monday to launch in Germany in September this year, bringing the popular movie and TV streaming service to one of the world’s biggest markets. READ  

Steinmeier: We'll raise pressure on Russia
An armed separatist walks past the bodybags of victims of the MH17 crash. Photo: EPA/IGOR KOVALENKO

Steinmeier: We'll raise pressure on Russia

Germany's foreign minister said Monday the EU will "raise the pressure" on Russia over the Ukraine crisis following the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 with a suspected missile. READ  

No foreigner road toll for German borders?
Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (l) and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer are fighting over the "foreigner toll". Photo: DPA

No foreigner road toll for German borders?

Bavaria’s interior minister has called for German border regions to be exempt from a controversial project to charge foreigners to use the country’s roads, sparking a row within his own party. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Jobtalk: How innovative is Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Joachim Löw: A career in pictures
Photo: Submitted
Society
Is this expat cat the world's oldest?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Germany's week in pictures: July 12th - July 18th
Photo: DPA
National
Heatwave to bring highs of 36C to Germany
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Should Germany follow France and ban the burqa?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Which workers is Germany short of?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten best expat jobs in Germany: Which one would you choose?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: Shutterstock
Features
Some of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make in German
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,227
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd