Postcard from... Berlin


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The Independent Online

No wonder Germany often gets such a bad press when it comes to Europe.

It must be all down to Chancellor Angela Merkel's top negotiator at European summit meetings, namely her veteran, conservative finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble. Although he admits to using English all the time in Brussels when asked to discuss thorny issues such as the Greek bailout, Mr Schauble confesses that his mastery of the language is non-existent if not bordering on the pathetic.

"I speak mostly English with other ministers of EU states. But to be honest, I feel sorry for anyone who has to bear my English," he candidly admitted to Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, "At the end of the day, badly spoken English is the most widely spoken English in the world," he claimed. Mr Schauble may not be aware that mangled English spoken with a thick German accent, has for decades been almost standard "villain speak" for characters throughout English and American film and television, leaving comics aside. This cannot do much for the way Germany comes across at the European negotiating table.

Yet Mr Schauble does not appear too concerned. He let on that he once suggested to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy that as an experiment English translators should be kept out. Sarko was apparently worried that such a move would give the Brits a huge linguistic advantage. But Mr Schauble retorted with his usual German accented Teutonic wit : "They [the British] would more likely have the big disadvantage – we would destroy their language!"