Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony could be seen noticeably reading aloud his opening speech in English at the Budapest Forum – Building Sustainable Democracies conference, government-critical news site Telex reported. The English-language speech is only unique because Karácsony has, by his own admission, a “hyper-passive” knowledge of the language, which is why he has come under a lot of attacks in the past months.
In his recent 15-minute English speech, Mayor Karácsony talked about the many challenges of democracy. „In a sense, democracy is almost always in crisis because it promises something that is very difficult to achieve,” he said. Among the problems, Karácsony cited the poverty that exists in democratic societies, which is not simply a failure of social policy, but a damage to the credibility of democracy.
A leading politician speaking at a conference in English is not newsworthy in itself, but Gergely Karácsony’s poor English language skills have received a lot of coverage in the pro-government press in recent months.
Previously the mayor of Budapest, who is also the prime ministerial candidate of opposition parties MSZP-Párbeszéd-LMP, had admitted that he often uses an interpreter, as his English is not good enough to participate in international negotiations. Many of his critics have argued that fluency in English is a must in international relations.
It was later also revealed that he does not have a state-recognized English language certification either, only a departmental exam (a university language exam not recognized by the state).
Moreover, in the absence of an accredited language exam, Mayor Karácsony would not have been allowed to hold the position of adjunct professor at Corvinus University of Budapest where he was working between 2004 and 2008, according to Hungary’s Educational Office.
Commenting on the criticism, Karácsony had said in a Facebook post earlier:
„In response to the sudden interest, I readily admit that the Prime Minister’s spoken English is probably better than mine, there is at least as much difference between our language skills as there is between a Soros scholarship spent in England and a language certificate acquired at the university. That’s why I work on my English all the time. But I don’t plan to catch up with the Prime Minister’s newly acquired Chinese and Russian.”
Now he has tried to showcase his developing English skills. You can watch his speech starting at around the four minute mark of the video here.
Featured photo by Balázs Mohai/MTI