PARIS, France, Jan 11 – French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has come under fire from the far right for showing disrespect for the French language by daring to address a conference in English.
Macron, a 39-year-old centrist whose prospects are being taken increasingly seriously, took what amounts to an unusual move in French politics by defending the European Union during a visit to Berlin on Tuesday.
And he raised eyebrows further by doing it in the language of “les anglosaxons” too much for far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose nationalist instincts are matched by a contempt for the European Union.
“Presidential candidate Macron goes to Berlin to do a conference in English… poor France!” she wrote on Tuesday in a tweet personally signed by her.
Responding to a tweeted suggestion that Macron’s language skills had upstaged his monolingual opponents, Le Pen’s loyal lieutenant Florian Philippot went further.
“He just shows that he has no respect for our language and that he doesn’t believe in France,” wrote the vice-president of the National Front party.
The French government fiercely protects the language of Moliere, spoken by more than 220 million people worldwide thanks to France’s colonial past.
While its leaders have a poor record in English President Francois Hollande has little command of the language of Shakespeare more and more young French people see it as vital.
Hollande was mocked in 2012 when he wrote to US President Barack Obama to congratulate him on his re-election and signed off with the words, “Friendly, Francois Hollande.”
It was an embarrassing mistranslation of the French word “amicalement”, used at the end of letters to mean “best wishes.”
In 2006, then French president Jacques Chirac famously stormed out of an EU summit in protest at a French businessman who had addressed the room in English.
Macron, a former banker and economy minister who is running as an independent, claims that his movement “En Marche” is the only pro-European force in France’s presidential election this April and May.
A recent poll showed him ahead of Le Pen in the first round of the April-May election for the first time under certain scenarios.
Analysts see France’s election as highly unpredictable, with the final list of candidates still unknown.