French note ‘global’ Obama’s lack of language skills

Mark Wilson/Getty Images On the subject of international media reactions to Obama’s win, Le Monde‘s Corine Lesnes practically swoons over the Illinois senator, placing him in the same category as Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. Noting Obama’s multinational family tree and appeal around the world, she also calls him America’s first “global candidate.” ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
594749_080604_obama32.jpg
594749_080604_obama32.jpg

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On the subject of international media reactions to Obama's win, Le Monde's Corine Lesnes practically swoons over the Illinois senator, placing him in the same category as Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. Noting Obama's multinational family tree and appeal around the world, she also calls him America's first "global candidate." She can't help but note that "he doesn't speak any foreign languages (except Indonesian)," however.

It makes sense that a French newspaper article would be the first place I had ever seen the presidential candidates' foreign-language skills mentioned. But given that I already know more about Obama's basketball skills and the condition of John McCain's prostate than I ever really wanted to, it seems like this would have come up at some point. After a little Googling I found that Obama told The Hill that in addition to Indonesian, he speaks "a little Spanish." As far as I can determine, McCain doesn't speak any languages.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On the subject of international media reactions to Obama’s win, Le Monde‘s Corine Lesnes practically swoons over the Illinois senator, placing him in the same category as Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. Noting Obama’s multinational family tree and appeal around the world, she also calls him America’s first “global candidate.” She can’t help but note that “he doesn’t speak any foreign languages (except Indonesian),” however.

It makes sense that a French newspaper article would be the first place I had ever seen the presidential candidates’ foreign-language skills mentioned. But given that I already know more about Obama’s basketball skills and the condition of John McCain’s prostate than I ever really wanted to, it seems like this would have come up at some point. After a little Googling I found that Obama told The Hill that in addition to Indonesian, he speaks “a little Spanish.” As far as I can determine, McCain doesn’t speak any languages.

The leader of the free world probably doesn’t actually need to know foreign languages to have a good grasp of foreign affairs (and for what it’s worth, I’ve personally witnessed Nicolas Sarkozy attempt English and it wasn’t pretty) but it might be something to keep in mind the next time candidates get all sanctimonious about educating America’s youth to compete in the global economy.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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