Speaking French in the US may cause you some problems especially when you’re running for the Presidency.
Maryse Burgaud, a France 2 correspondent in the US, recently tried to interview Mitt Romney, ruling for the republican candidacy, in French. This one pretended to not understand.
Romney is perfectly able to understand and speak French. In 2002, as Chairman of the Salt Lake City Organising Committee for the Winter Olympic Games, he expressed in this language without major problems as shows the video below.
Nonetheless, his sayings were differently translated by his detractors in a mock-video although Romney is delivering the same speech in French with the Marseillaise as background music, a way to pass some counter-truths and confuse the electors better.
It’s not the first time a candidate for the US presidency speaks in French. Eight years ago, John Kerry was able to do this and such a gesture could be considered as a sign of respect vis-à-vis French and French speaking people. But for the Americans, speaking French is pretentious, not to say arrogant and even could be considered as a negative point for some electors, that Kerry can confirm.
Thus, it is preferable to ignore French when you want to be the US president in order to seduce the average American even if mastering this language can be useful, sign of openness and respect of your partners. In this respect, it is useless saying Barack Obama is unable to speak French, which is an asset curiously in this case!
This story is another expression of the American people ignorance for the French language, considering that English is enough to communicate outside the US, because English is the lingua franca. It’s true but mastering the language of the other may be a precious asset especially when you’ve a partner as France, a rebel but precious partner.
Thus tackling Romney on his perfect mastering of the French language and his love for France is very curious not to say ridiculous. While his compatriots should congratulate him and considerate that as an advantage, Romney is gibed and jeered by his challengers thinking that speaking French is lying which is the sense of the mock-video. That also explains why Romney decided to be discreet and snob some journalists asking him a question in French, in order not to lose votes among the average American.
In other words, being Francophile is not sexy when you’re running for the presidency. You may even lose votes. It’s a pity especially when I know some American citizens speaking perfectly French and completely in love with the French culture and language, as Jessie, my College of Europe comrade and Julie, the lover of my friend Nicholas. But, their compatriots think different unfortunately!