Condi Rice Language Fluency

According to her Wikipedia Bio, Condoleezza Rice (try and spell that right the first time!) speaks four languages: English, Spanish, French and Russian.
Does anyone here know how fluent she is in Spanish, French or Russian (I’ve heard her speak English, and I’d rate her as perfectly fluent)?

Yeah, that usually happens when you’re raised in an English speaking country… :confused:

Sorry, my poor excuse for a sense of humor is even worse when I’m writing instead of typing.

Counterexample: One George W Bush.

Trying for a serious answer, I don’t know of her fluency, but regardless of the level she will almost assuredly use an interpreter whenever needed because when you work as a diplomat, it’s really prudent to avoid misunderstandings.

I wonder if any foreign minister or other diplomat conducts official talks with someone in another language without an interpreter. It just seems way too dangerous.

“No, we did not give you permission to drop a nuclear bomb on us…”

That sort of stuff.

Secretary Rice is an acknowledged expert on Russian affairs and has published in that field. Don’t know where she picked up the Spanish and French aside from the fact that smart people who become professors tend to learn stuff like that.

[Moderator mode ON]

Listen up everyone. Keep political potshots OUT of GQ. Understood?

Humor is great. But sidetracking the OP and making gratuitous political remarks isn’t what this forum is about.

samclem GQ moderator

I would suspect that she would use her fluency in other languages for greetings/meaningless chitchat only. You can greet and exchange pleasantries with (for example) Jacque Chirac, and then leave the serious negotiating to the interpreters.

As to actual fluency…it’s anybody’s guess. My fluency in Spanish decreases greatly the less I use it…give me two years without speaking Spanish and I’m back to struggling with basic sentences. I suspect that Dr. Rice is a little sharper than I am in the language department, so she may well be able to maintain fluency for years without using the language.

Upon re-reading my post, it looks a lot like an IMHO answer rather than a GQ one.

But since it’s the best I can do…[submit reply]

Just a SWAG, but I suspect she might be much more proficient at reading a language than speaking it, a common occurence among scholars who study history or economics or whatever. Possibly she learned Spanish in high school, then took French and Russian in college, Russian because that was her field of interest, French because it is still accepted as the language of diplomacy.

I like that you include this bit of information. Yes, if she grew up in a English-speaking country one could expect her to speak English fluently (generally speaking), but I think it is good to be specific about stuff like this. We often make unwarrented assumptions about language that we ought not.

Henry Kissenger was National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State. I would say he is fluent in English, but he has never gotten rid of his foreign accent.

The company where I worked until last December had this policy where, if they move someone between countries, the employee gets 50 hours of the “local” language if it’s not an official one in their own country. Two cases where it becomes pretty silly:

  • someone who has been living for years in a country that speaks the same language as the new country. I got the lessons when I moved to Philly even though I’d lived in the US for 4 years previously. Nobody had even considered evaluating me before they paid for the lessons.
  • someone from a multilingual country, whose native language is one of the “other” languages. The guys from India who moved to the US were as unhappy with being expected to speak “American” instantly as the Americans with trying to understand them; many of them claimed Urdu or Bengali as their native language, not English. The employees from South Africa usually have Zulu as their native language.

I’ve heard Rice speak in something that was supposed to be Spanish. It went “no comment” on TV except for the caption that said “she’s speaking Spanish.” I’m sure she could speak it at some point, but that particular speech didn’t come out right… she didn’t say anything inappropiate, but definitely was not speaking Spanish either.

I read a few years ago that Rice, back when she had a little more free time, used to read classic Russian novels (by Tolstoy, etc.) in the original. To second another poster, though, it’s easier for most people to read a foreign tongue than to converse fluently in it. OTOH, many literary materials use a more varied vocabulary than ordinary conversation. I don’t doubt that she managed to get through War and Peace in Cyrillic; but I wouldn’t be surprised if she had to kept a dictionary handy.

But he wasn’t raised in an English-speaking country – he was raised in Texas! :smiley:

No doubt, and with good reason – Tolstoi is difficult even if you are fluent in Russian. I have not kept any fluency – I can read the Cyrillic alphabet, and piece together with difficulty Russian sentences at about a first-grade level. But I recall, back when I was studying Russian with a native-born tutor, trying to read War and Peace – and finding the Russian difficult in the first place, and in the second place having a terrible time with the dialogue because I was not fluent in French – and most of the characters talked French to each other. I’d venture to guess that less than half the book is in Russian, though that half is the narrative that binds together the French dialogue.

Her biography at the Whitehouse doesn’t make any mention of language proficiency. If she were completely fluent, I think they might mention it there.