Macron's German teacher opens up about 'ideal student'

AFP - [email protected]
Macron's German teacher opens up about 'ideal student'
French President Emmanuel Macron stands in front of the German flag during a State Banquet at Bellevue presidential palace in Berlin on May 26, 2024, during his state visit. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

When Emmanuel Macron switches to German as he makes a keynote address in Dresden later on Monday, Frank Gröninger will be all ears to detect if the French president has internalised his instructions.


Over the last year, Gröninger, a German language teacher based in France, has been helping Macron to prepare for his state visit to Germany -- the first in a quarter of a century by a French president.

The French leader learnt German in school but had turned to the language teacher, who also trained Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, to improve it.

Macron is keen to interact with Germans in their own tongue, Groeninger told AFP.

"He wants to reach and touch people through the German language," said the teacher, who also helped Macron to prepare his eulogy for the late former German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble which he delivered before the Bundestag partly in German.

"People probably think that he just memorises everything. But he understands everything that he is saying," said Groeninger.


Bread and cold cuts

In his younger days, Macron travelled twice to the western city of Dortmund on student exchanges.

"I would never forget the German Abendbrot (evening bread) -- this tradition of not serving anything warm in the evening, but bread and cold cuts," he once told his German biographer.


Since then as French leader, Macron has made many more trips to Germany, including one to Hamburg in October, where Chancellor Olaf Scholz treated him to the local delight -- fish sandwich.

Despite the culinary culture shocks, Gröninger said his student is not lacking in enthusiasm.

"He is an ideal student. He is receptive and really wants to do his best. He also has fun doing it," said Gröninger.

But scheduling is an issue, said the teacher, who has to be at the ready in case the president has a spare minute to practice a bit more.

Before giving his first lesson, the teacher had doubts about correcting the French president.

"I was thinking, how am I going to interrupt him?" he recalled. "But I was surprised. He is a very nice guy."


As to Macron's weakness in German, the teacher politely pointed to the "typical difficulties of the French to pronounce the H" correctly.

Key in the training is mouth movements, said Gröninger, who noted that "the French language activates only three muscles, the German a few more".



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