En anglais s’il vous plait?

If you really want to piss off a French diplomat, tell him he has to speak in English at the United Nations, where French is still one of the two official working languages. Gérard Araud, France’s typically suave U.N. ambassador, briefly lost his cool today when U.N. technicians failed to bring a supply of headsets ...

By
573848_100202_French80690075b2.jpg
573848_100202_French80690075b2.jpg

If you really want to piss off a French diplomat, tell him he has to speak in English at the United Nations, where French is still one of the two official working languages.

Gérard Araud, France's typically suave U.N. ambassador, briefly lost his cool today when U.N. technicians failed to bring a supply of headsets to allow simultaneous interpretation from French to English at a U.N. press briefing. Araud, who is serving as the rotating president of the security council this month, slammed his hands on the table, crossed his arms and tapped his fingers impatiently.

Initially, he refused requests from the press to carry on the briefing in English, which he speaks well. "I don't speak English, first. Point," he said in English. "Let's be serious, this is not the way it works," he continued, this time in French. "There are six languages in this organization and we speak all six of them. This is simply unacceptable."

If you really want to piss off a French diplomat, tell him he has to speak in English at the United Nations, where French is still one of the two official working languages.

Gérard Araud, France’s typically suave U.N. ambassador, briefly lost his cool today when U.N. technicians failed to bring a supply of headsets to allow simultaneous interpretation from French to English at a U.N. press briefing. Araud, who is serving as the rotating president of the security council this month, slammed his hands on the table, crossed his arms and tapped his fingers impatiently.

Initially, he refused requests from the press to carry on the briefing in English, which he speaks well. “I don’t speak English, first. Point,” he said in English. “Let’s be serious, this is not the way it works,” he continued, this time in French. “There are six languages in this organization and we speak all six of them. This is simply unacceptable.”

After it became clear that no headsets were coming, Araud quickly regained his composure and his sense of humor, and offered a compromise. He would respond to questions from English-speaking reporters in English and French journalists in French.

“I’m happy to do it in Spanish, Chinese, French and English,” he said.

Here’s a link to the U.N. webcast archive. The Araud briefing is the first one. There’s an English interpretation. 

Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.