Mitt Romney Speaks French!


This video of Mitt Romney speaking French to Olympics volunteers in 2002. Noreen Malone says she “can’t really imagine this 2002 video…going over especially well with the right-wing base.” Andrew Sullivan says the video could “do some damage” to Romney with the right. The fact that they’re both right is what makes me deeply cynical about this country.

The fact that speaking another language is actually a bad thing for a sizable portion of my countrymen just makes me shake my head. The fact that our Congress actually voted to change the name of french fries to “freedom fries” after the invasion of Iraq because France didn’t support that invasion makes me want to climb a clock tower. Rational people are appalled that so many Americans could actually be that stupid, but many others are too busy shouting “USA! USA! USA!” to notice or care.

Comments

  1. robertfaber says

    Romney’s French accent is horrible for spending two years in France. The R’s were ok, but the vowels were way off. It was almost as if any midwestern newscaster with no knowledge of French was reading it off the teleprompter. He can read it somewhat better than that, but it was grating on the ears.

    It is however sad that the only acceptable second language for a politician in the United States is Spanish, and you better not be more able than the typical 2nd year student (looking at you, George W, Bush), let alone have it be your primary language.

    As for France, they said of Iraq that Saddam had no WMDs, no nuclear program, and an invasion would be a decade long quagmire. They were 100% correct, and the US was 100% wrong. The freedom fries thing is like the stupid kids who ridicule the student who got an A on the test, because, well, stupidity is becoming a virtue here.

  2. robertfaber says

    As a follow up, interesting that the two Mormons each speak a second language (Huntsman is fluent in Mandarin Chinese). A second language is not a liability for Mormons, a great many of whom (including my two half-brothers) have done their two year mission work in foreign countries.

  3. eamick says

    The fact that our Congress actually voted to change the name of french fries to “freedom fries” after the invasion of Iraq

    There was no vote.

  4. says

    As regards the “freedom fries”, I have always been rather puzzled about the little thing about which the right-wingers seem to be completely oblivious: that the Revolutionary War probably would have been lost by the Americans if France had not intervened from 1778 on, offering logistical and naval help.

    So much for the fries, but, well, historical knowledge always tends to block the way of patriotism. At least we Germans have learned this lesson, and where booed by the general US public accordingly, when our gouvernment said “no” to the war.

    Nele

  5. Jim says

    This is just the greatest indictment against us. I am just reeling with disbelief. The idea that being able to speak one of the world’s greatest languages is a political disability leaves me contemptuous of these idiot republicans.

    I’m learning Arabic right now. Can you imagine what the right would think of that.

  6. laurentweppe says

    The fact that speaking another language is actually a bad thing for a sizable portion of my countrymen just makes me shake my head

    Well, if that can reassure you: this is the current level of the “debate” in Europe:

    -The Euro crisis is destroying our economy!
    -We’re suffering from the lack of a strong European central government.
    -But we can’t have a strong central government! We don’t speak the same language!
    -What about English?
    -But If we start speaking English, it would be a sign of submition toward the USA! Europe is dooooooomed!

  7. eamick says

    the Revolutionary War probably would have been lost by the Americans if France had not intervened from 1778 on, offering logistical and naval help.

    It’s especially amusing to recall that the Marquis de Lafayette’s portrait is in the House chamber. I don’t recall anyone suggesting it be removed or covered up during that whole idiocy.

  8. jjgdenisrobert says

    @robertfaber: Actually, Huntsman’s Chinese is worse than Mittens’ French. The way he speaks Chinese would get his a lot of covered snickers in China. He probably never had to actually use the language as ambassador…

  9. wscott says

    Well, if that can reassure you: this is the current level of the “debate” in Europe:

    Thanks, I actually do feel a bit better!

    The way he speaks Chinese would get his a lot of covered snickers in China.

    So it’s on par with Sarah Palin’s English?

  10. says

    The dumbest one I heard was about a high school basketball player named Bobby French, who had himself introduced before a game as Bobby Freedom. Nothing says loyalty like ditching your family name.
    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go cook up some “liberty cabbage” and go look for some dachsunds to boo.
    (That’s a WWI reference, for you non-history majors.)
    Killed By Fish

  11. The Christian Cynic says

    jjgdenisrobert:

    Actually, Huntsman’s Chinese is worse than Mittens’ French. The way he speaks Chinese would get his a lot of covered snickers in China. He probably never had to actually use the language as ambassador…

    Not that it matters, but worse or better than Obama’s Bahasa? I ask only because Obama’s second language experience (and his years in Indonesia more broadly) were played up significantly during the campaign (and even the early part of his tenure), and while I do think that significant experience outside the US is a desirable (but not requisite) attribute in a candidate, I can’t help but feel like there’s a double standard at play here.

  12. cconti says

    I never knew Obama spoke Bahasa. In any event, it is far from being a double standard. Obama’s constituency would hardly blame Obama for knowing another language, while in some part of the US it is ground for treason. And as far as proficiency, that came up simply as an aside on the fact the Romney speaks French. Someone just pointed out “not very well” and as far as Huntsman, there was an article on Slate in regard to his poor knowledge of Chinese (can’t recall if Mandarin or otherwise).

  13. wpjoe says

    OK. I still don’t really like Romney, but this makes me like him a little. It’s irrelevant to him, since I’m not going to vote for any republican, but I wonder if it would be a positive for independents.

  14. slc1 says

    Re Area Man @ #16

    The commentors on the Slate article seem to think that its author is full of shit.

  15. says

    As someone from a state where speaking French isn’t uncommon (actually the most conservative part of Maine has the most French speakers) hearing his pronunciation is pretty painful. However I agree with wpjoe, while you would have to literally hold a gun to my head for me to vote for him, it does make me like him just a tiny bit for at least making the attempt to speak another language.

  16. Azkyroth says

    I’m learning Arabic right now. Can you imagine what the right would think of that.

    You mean, “what the right would REACT of that.”

  17. Ichthyic says

    As regards the “freedom fries”, I have always been rather puzzled about the little thing about which the right-wingers seem to be completely oblivious:

    the other thing being that the “french” in french fries has nothing at all to do with where they came from, but rather how they are cut.

    it was just absurdly stupid. I always wanted to hit the person who suggested “freedom fries” over the head repeatedly with a 2×4.

  18. Ichthyic says

    but rather how they are cut.

    or how they are fried, depending on who’s history you accept.

  19. The Christian Cynic says

    cconti:

    I never knew Obama spoke Bahasa.

    Maybe I’m just a news junkie, but that’s a detail that was fairly well-publicized. Here’s one such example of an examination of Obama’s fluency in Bahasa (although it is perhaps more complimentary than I might have insinuated in my last comment).

    In any event, it is far from being a double standard. Obama’s constituency would hardly blame Obama for knowing another language, while in some part of the US it is ground for treason.

    That’s not at all what I meant by a double standard at play here. I meant that people who may have been likely to see Obama’s knowledge of Bahasa as an asset may be the same ones finding Romney’s and Huntsman’s relative disfluencies in French and Chinese (respectively) as shameful or worthy of disparagement. It has nothing to do with the “constituencies” of either.

  20. jjgdenisrobert says

    A few points:

    1. Yes, what Huntsman speaks is “mandarin” (there’s really no such thing as “mandarin”, though; The technical name is putonghua).

    2. Obama never made a point of the fact that he spoke or didn’t speak Bahasa. He didn’t need to.

    3. I’m a native French speaker, and I’ve never heard the expression “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”. I’ve always heard (and used): “Plus ça change, plus c’est pareil”.

    4. And yes, Mittens’ French pronunciation is pretty horrendous. But he’s no worse than most Anglos in Montreal (where I was born and raised).

  21. Rey Fox says

    Well now, this is just a couple of writers speculating that it might be damaging to Romney. Let’s wait until Fox News pundits actually start howling about it before we start in with the “woe is us” speech.

  22. says

    @25

    I went to school in France until quatrième. The expression is frequently abbreviated, especially orally. At any rate, it isn’t incorrect to drop ‘chose’.

  23. Aquaria says

    Okay, why didn’t it copy the whole thing I picked?

    I usually cut and paste French, rather than trying to remember all the Mac codes for the diacriticals.

  24. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    These things never go away…following up on feralboy’s comment at 12, American Jews whose names end in -stein (pr. “-shtine”) are still pronouncing it “-steen”, so it’ll sound less “German”! Hey folks: It’s all over, we Canned the Kaiser! You can stop now!

  25. dingojack says

    Perhaps you could send Jon Huntsman and we could send Kevin Rudd on a ‘fact-finding’ mission to China.
    The Chinese are too polite to point and laugh, but it might raise thier spirits a little anyway. ;)
    ‘dead ghost person’ Dingo

  26. Aquaria says

    I’m a native French speaker, and I’ve never heard the expression “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”. I’ve always heard (and used): “Plus ça change, plus c’est pareil”.

    I’m not a native French speaker, but my Cajun grandmother was. I’m pretty sure she said it with pareil, but I thought it was simply a Cajun corruption of something else. Anyone who’s ever heard Cajuns bend French to the breaking point know what I’m talking about.

    Everyone else I’ve ever seen use the phrase said même or même chose, but it looks like she was actually using proper French.

    For once.

  27. bybelknap says

    Just more of the “don’t trust edumacated people” horseshit that is so popular with USAians. Gawds I can’t wait to implement my exit strategy and become an ex-pat.

  28. davidmc says

    Well, it’s understandable really, speaking French, as we all know, is just one step away from eating snails

  29. raymoscow says

    There’s something unAmerican about a person who speaks anything besides Americanish.

    Daddy Bush spoke French, once even in public, which probably is why Clinton was able to beat him. Dubya supposedly spoke Spanish, but he was savy enough not to let anyone actually see him doing it.

    For the record, my French is so bad that I only speak it when I must (if the other person only speaks French).

  30. Olav says

    The Christian Cynic says:

    Not that it matters, but worse or better than Obama’s Bahasa?

    Just to be pedantic, and for your information: the name of the language is either Bahasa Indonesia (in Indonesian) or Indonesian (in English). Never “Bahasa” without qualifier, the word really just means “language”.

    Bahasa Inggris is English.

  31. dingojack says

    Aquaria – according to Google Translate (that ever reliable source) the two phrases translate identically, for what it’s worth.
    Peut-être Aquaria Mamie avait raison après tout!
    Dingo

  32. lordshipmayhem says

    Meanwhile, up here in Canada, it’s controversial if the candidate for anything Federal isn’t bilingual, specifically fluency in French and English.

    It’s at the point where “bilingual” is used as shorthand for fluency in both of those two specific languages. Spanish doesn’t count, nor Mandarin, nor German, nor Japanese, etc. etc.

  33. harold says

    Christian Cynic said –

    I meant that people who may have been likely to see Obama’s knowledge of Bahasa as an asset may be the same ones finding Romney’s and Huntsman’s relative disfluencies in French and Chinese (respectively) as shameful or worthy of disparagement. It has nothing to do with the “constituencies” of either.

    This double standard is probably very rare, if it even exists at all.

    There are people who see knowledge of languages as a plus. I am one of them, even though the current state of my abilities is speaking bad French and having a limited knowledge of Spanish.

    Then there are anti-intellectual right wing bigots who resent knowledge of languages. In this article, it is conjectured by commentators that such people would resent Romney’s ability to speak French. No actual French-hating right wing bigots are quoted for the article, but I suspect that the conjecture about them is correct.

    I cannot imagine anyone thinking that it is positive for President Obama to speak Indonesian, yet simultaneously disparaging Romney for speaking French (I disparage him for many other reasons, but certainly not for speaking French).

    It is probably very rare for people to disparage Romney specifically for being able to speak some French, while simultaneously praising Obama for speaking Indonesian.

  34. duck1887 says

    Ah, a thread which warms the heart of this ling major (long ago)!

    First, kudos (that’s Greek) to Sqrat for #2, but since “sous-vêtements” is plural, it should be “vivent”, right?

    re: #7, good luck with Arabic, Jim! Watch out for the “broken plural”! (In Arabic, it is *normal* for the plural of masculine nouns to be unpredictably irregular.) Also, one thing I always found amusing about our intro textbook (Heywood & Nahmad) was that the example sentences were just as culturally specific as in other languages: while in Spanish you have things like “Juanita served tortillas to her family,” in Arabic you have “The camel is in the desert.” Much more useful! 8-)

    About Romney’s accent: that’s nothing, you should hear Mayor Bloomberg (NYC) speak Spanish. He’s not even trying – he just bulls through those phonemes like he’s charging through the jungle with a machete. After a particularly memorable performance recently, some wag started up a Twitter feed called “El Bloombito”, tweeting things like “Watch out-o for el storm-o grande!”, which was not exactly fair, but pretty funny anyway.

  35. kuralssssp says

    Mitt Romney parler Francaise? My respect for him has multiplied considerably from zero to about a millionth or billionth of a point. I haven’t been to France but have known French from a few different walks of life in India as well as here in the US. There is a remarkably greater tolerance for Anglais/Allgemaine/Italienne/Hindi accented French among native speakers of the language than one would normally imagine. The French ethos of our time encourages assimilation, you speak a little of the language, bring your own patois, sing the Marsellaise, jive to Johnny Halliday (Jerry Lewis and Eddie Murphy for good measure) and you’re family! Last summer in Quebec (the city as well as the province and of course Montreal where I left my liver and heart) was an eye opener. My French proficient friend had to keep us mono-linguals at the back of the line so that we with our mangled, “Monsieur, la carte svp,” wouldn’t prompt an obliging wait staff to hold forth in English. Because our friend was finding it difficult to practice her French!

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