Today Germany’s Angela Merkel will visit England for a few hours.
While there she will speak to the British Parliament and visit the Queen.
According to the German newspaper “Die Welt” Merkel speaks English well enough for negotiations, especially in order to avoid the extra time for a translation.Yet she will only speak, at most, a few words in English to the media or the gathered members of the British parliament.
Certainly she will be reading from a prepared text. But is her English really so bad that a little preparation beforehand can’t polish her spoken words to perfection? This seems unlikely.
Or is she nervous about the response from the media to any imperfection?
Does she need to maintain a power position in her first language?
Again this is unlikely given her currently powerful position in Europe, and indeed the world. She is now perhaps the world’s most famous, and certainly the most powerful, woman. She should be able to handle criticism.
Or does she want to emphasise that she comes from Germany?
Again, no one in Europe can forget Germany’s currently very strong position. What’s more, German culture tends to play down its image at the national level. To generalise, I have found the French love to wave their flag through their exuberant French accent in English, whereas the Germans prefer to obscure the influence of their German on their English.
So what is it?
Personally, I am a little puzzled.
To me it shows an unnecessary embarassment, given her actual fluency in English.
By using the more global language of English she can both take more control of the message and of herself as the person speaking the message.
By using English she can reach the hearts of her listeners better.
By using English, to point out that it is not her native German, she can display her intelligence better.
By using English she takes her proper place in the global conversation taking place in English.
Since I can’t see inside Merkel’s head and heart, what do you think?