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Monoglot Obama

3:38 PM, Jun 19, 2013 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
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President Obama told a German audience today that the U.S. lags behind other countries because Americans don't speak enough foreign languages. It’s not the first time he’s expressed the sentiment: back in 2008, Obama said, “It's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is merci beaucoup, right?"

Obama in Germany

Obama may be right that Americans should speak more foreign languages. (Of course, that leaves aside the propriety of lambasting the people you lead while representing them in a foreign country.) But it's a strange point for him, of all people, to make. After all, Obama has no demonstrated facility for (or, indeed, interest in) foreign languages. The self-proclaimed "citizen of the world" has conceded that he speaks no foreign languages. (Though, in his remarks today in which he upbraided Americans' lack of foreign languages, he did manage to choke out a mangled “guten abend”—that, for all of our American readers, means “good evening.”) 

A helpful suggestion: Instead of hitting the golf links so often, Obama may want to clear some weekend time for a little Rosetta Stone.

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