US politicians' multilingual chops
March 27, 2013 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Can you give me specific instances of US political candidates or elected officials publically speaking in a language other than English?

Not counting short phrases like Obama saying "Sí, se puede" or Romney recording "Me llamo Mitt Romney y apruevo este mensaje". It has to demonstrate some level of extemporaneous proficiency.

I'm also not looking for generalized statements of ability like "Jon Huntsman speaks Chinese" or "Nydia Velázquez speaks Spanish". I'm looking for specific examples, i.e. "Senator So-and-so gave a radio interview in Spanish" or "Such-and-such City Council candidate had a public forum in Vietnamese, and here's a video of it." The politician doesn't have to be high-level or even well-known (though if they are, great).

Thanks!
posted by threeants to Law & Government (31 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh yeah; also not counting Puerto Rican politicians in Puerto Rico, Chamorro-speaking politicians in Guam, etc. 50 states plus DC. Thanks!
posted by threeants at 3:14 PM on March 27, 2013


Googling will find you a bunch of examples of L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speechifying in Spanish. Here's one example. (You can also find articles about his progress in language ability -- like many US-born Latinos he didn't speak "perfect" Spanish and has worked to improve it over the years.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:16 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, I worked on a doc where I had to collect footage of this very thing.
Jeb Bush
Van Tran, in SoCal
posted by Ideefixe at 3:21 PM on March 27, 2013


When she was announced as the nominee for Labor Secretary when Obama was first taking office, Hilda Solis delivered remarks in both Spanish and English.

Can't find a clip of it right now, though. Caught it on the radio when it happened.
posted by dismas at 3:22 PM on March 27, 2013


Here's John Kerry in France about a month ago (he speaks 5 minutes in). Mind you, it's only for a minute before he switches to English.
posted by O9scar at 3:22 PM on March 27, 2013


Mayor Bloomberg infamously did it, so miserably that it has been parodied on Twitter.
posted by yclipse at 3:33 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here is Huntsman actually giving the beginning of a speech in Mandarin. He switches to English partway through. "On July 18, he gave a speech at the invitation of the Taipei Forum Foundation, an organization run by former National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi (蘇起)." This is a longer video of him speaking.
posted by jessamyn at 3:34 PM on March 27, 2013


A YouTube search on "jacqueline kennedy spanish" will get you several.
posted by ceiba at 3:38 PM on March 27, 2013


Colin Powell has enough Yiddish to carry on a basic conversation, quite famously doing so when he met Shamir. For an early report, see "Colin Powell: Super Mensch," The Jerusalem Report, March 14, 1991, p. 32. There aren't any videos of Powell speaking Yiddish at any length, though, although he does offer up a few words near the end of this.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:44 PM on March 27, 2013


Mayor Bloomberg infamously did it, so miserably that it has been parodied on Twitter.

Yeah, this one actually occurred to me, but I think it's less an example of "speaking another language" than "sounding out letters that coincidentally also make Spanish words." :)

Thanks all, these are great so far.
posted by threeants at 3:44 PM on March 27, 2013


Bill Richardson frequently gives public speeches both in English and Spanish, including his speech on being named Secretary of Commerce.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:46 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is not quite what you are looking for but Languagelog has a sourced list of which candidates in the 2008 presidential campaign spoke which languages. There are citations but no YouTube links. A few not mentioned: Mike Gravel speaking Canadian French, Chris Dodd speaking Spanish.
posted by jessamyn at 3:54 PM on March 27, 2013


That Rod Blagojevich speaks Spanish and not Serbian was an issue in his original campaign for Illinois governor. He gave a speech in Spanish (I have no idea how successfully) and the Serbian community was put out he could speak Spanish and not Serbian, as he's the child of Serbian immigrants. Unfortunately, Rod Blagojevich is famous for his linguistic prowess, so I'm failing at finding evidence of this episode.
posted by hoyland at 3:55 PM on March 27, 2013


Er... he's famous for things other than his linguistic prowess.
posted by hoyland at 4:01 PM on March 27, 2013


Sukhee Kang, a politician in Southern California, is a native of South Korea who immigrated to the U.S. as an adult. He has been referred to as the first Korean-American to serve as mayor of a major U.S. city. While major it was not uncommon for him to give interviews in Korean to Korean-language news organizations. A quick search turned up this video of him briefly speaking in Korean. I'm certain it would be possible to find better evidence of him speaking publicly in Korean.
posted by RichardP at 4:03 PM on March 27, 2013


OK, I found a news interview with Sukhee Kang conducted in Korean.
posted by RichardP at 4:07 PM on March 27, 2013


Senator Marco Rubio speaks Spanish, and delivered the GOP response to the State of the Union in both English and (pre-recorded) Spanish this year.
posted by yuwtze at 4:11 PM on March 27, 2013


Mitt Romney speaks French - a fact gleefully pointed out by his opponents.
posted by The World Famous at 4:20 PM on March 27, 2013


Senator Tim Kaine does a decent number of interviews and such in Spanish - here's an example from back when he was governor, but if you search YouTube for "tim kaine spanish" you'll find plenty of others. He's not exactly going to be mistaken for a native speaker, but he's capable of carrying on a conversation.
posted by naoko at 4:54 PM on March 27, 2013


One of the current candidates for mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, is fluent in Spanish; there's a link out there somewhere of an interview with Jorge Ramos of Univision in which he (Garcetti) demonstrates his chops. Sorry I don't have time to find it at the moment.
posted by chicainthecity at 4:56 PM on March 27, 2013


At one point in 2008, Richardson and Dodd talked about having a debate in Spanish, but I don't think it actually happened.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:58 PM on March 27, 2013


Blong Xiong is a Democratic city councilman in Fresno, CA. He is of Hmong extraction and ran (unsucessfully) in CA-21 last year. Here he is, speaking what I believe is Hmong.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 5:09 PM on March 27, 2013


Bush (the hated) has given speeches in Spanish.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:58 PM on March 27, 2013


Wikipedia page on multilingual presidents.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:09 PM on March 27, 2013


Rep. Grace Meng, a Democrat who represents Flushing, NY, speaks Mandarin.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 6:55 PM on March 27, 2013


Kristen Gillibrand was an Asian Studies major and speaks Chinese fluently; can't find a video, but wikipedia and NYT corroborates.
posted by batter_my_heart at 7:38 PM on March 27, 2013


I remember watching Bill Richardson reelection ads in Santa Fe that were all Spanish.
posted by colin_l at 7:38 PM on March 27, 2013


Obama lived in Indonesia for a while he was kid and speaks the language (some). Language Log. Apparently he has a decent accent, but can mostly manage small talk spontaneously, and mispronounces big words. (Link includes a video.)
posted by nangar at 8:58 PM on March 27, 2013


Gabrielle Giffords speaks Spanish. In fact, it arguably played a critical role in the motive behind her attempted assassination -- at a public Q&A in 2007, the future shooter had asked her some strange, esoteric question (along the lines of "What is government if we don't know that words have any meaning"), and she responded, somewhat jokingly, with a few words in Spanish, confusing and angering him.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:19 PM on March 27, 2013


re Bloomberg

>Yeah, this one actually occurred to me, but I think it's less an example of "speaking another language" than "sounding out letters that coincidentally also make Spanish words." :)

Don't confuse the parody with the reality. Bloomberg actually spoke real (though plodding) Spanish. It's just that his inflections were horrible.
posted by megatherium at 4:29 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is fluent in Spanish.
YouTube
posted by Leenie at 11:07 AM on March 28, 2013


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