New UN Sec-Gen'l flunks French test

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Dec 20 16:03:16 UTC 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006
Next U.N. secretary-general flunks first French test with U.N. press corps

UNITED NATIONS: Ban Ki-moon passed a crucial test in Paris last month, a
French-only lunch with President Jacques Chirac. But the next U.N.
secretary-general flunked his first French test with the U.N. press corps.
France has required all U.N. secretary-generals to speak French, and the
former South Korean foreign minister, who takes over from Kofi Annan as
secretary-general on Jan. 1, has been plugging away at French lessons. But
when he got asked a question in French at a press conference Thursday
after being sworn in, Ban got flustered saying he couldn't follow the
question because a U.N. interpreter was translating it into English over a

"If you could speak lentment (slowly) in French, I will do my best, but it
is very difficult for me, off the cuff, to reply in French," Ban told the
Canadian reporter. The interpreter then repeated the question should
French remain the second language of the U.N. along with English but Ban
complained he could not hear well.The head of the U.N.'s news and media
division who was running the press conference, Ahmad Fawzi, then repeated
the question. Ban answered in English that member states decided to have
six official languages English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and
Arabic and to use English and French during informal and semi-official
proceedings. The South Korean foreign minister's meeting with Chirac last
month was the first with such a rigorous language requirement, though they
had met before.

After the press conference, Ban did an interview for French television and
his staff said he answered two questions in French without any problem.

Posted by Abdul Qahhar


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