PM unintentionally reveals struggle to learn English with list of clangers

Emma Anderson
Emma Anderson - [email protected]
PM unintentionally reveals struggle to learn English with list of clangers
Mariano Rajoy has been mocked for not speaking English. Photo: Gerard Julien / AFP.

The Spanish Prime Minister has revealed his poor English skills by inadvertently divulging some of the more basic gaffes he has made when attempting to speak English.


Mariano Rajoy’s interview at his private Moncloa Palace residence may have been intended to help him open up in a personal way ahead of the December elections, but instead it has opened him up to mockery.

The Spanish leader, who is seeking re-election in December, showed journalist Ana Rosa around his home for a glimpse into his daily life for Spanish news broadcaster Telecinco on Monday.

But somewhere between introducing his dog, Rico, and discussing his daily work-out routine, Rajoy also took a moment to discuss his efforts to improve his English.

While explaining to Rosa how he was a "disciplined" student of English so that he could speak to other world leaders like Barack Obama, Rajoy showed some of his professor’s personalized notes to him regarding his common English blunders.

Dated September 6th, just two days after a visit from British Prime Minister David Cameron, the phrases may well have been a list of corrections after attempts to converse with his English-speaking counterpart.

The list of his mistakes included “I have to said” rather than "I have to say" and "It’s near French" instead of "It’s near France". He also apparently said things like "He don't go", "Germany people" and "You heard to me".

Rather tellingly, the list included the correction "'when died Margaret Thatcher" to "when Margaret Thatcher died", a phrase likely referring to the event that took place during Cameron's previous visit to Madrid on April 8th, 2013.

Screen grab: Telecinco/YouTube 

There was also a list of “new vocabulary” for Rajoy to learn, including the words slow, finger and interviewee.

Rajoy said that although he could not speak to Obama in English when the American president was re-elected in 2012, he boasted that he could now converse with him but then admitted "not very well".

As he showed off more of his learning materials, Rosa noted that his textbooks filled with colourful cartoons were "like English books for children"

Rajoy responded that "well, that’s because it’s from the beginning".

"Now, I’m not Shakespeare, but come on," Rajoy said.

Since the interview aired, social media users have been poking fun at the prime minister’s English abilities.

"At this level, Mariano Rajoy talks with Obama in English? Please, stop with the education for Rajoy."

"I am imagining Rajoy's English teacher trying to explain the English possessive. I think that woman is not being paid enough."

Rajoy has continually been mocked for not being able to speak English very well. During Eurozone talks about the Greek debt crisis over the summer, a photo of Rajoy seemingly looking sad and left out from a group of other leaders went viral with jokes about his lack of English bringing him down.

A survey of English teachers in Spain last year found that nine out of ten instructors thought the Prime Minister wouldn’t be able to pass a high school English test.

And after a school offered the Prime Minister the chance to take a free language course in England last year, Rajoy politely declined.


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