Did Argentine President Cristina Kirchner actually say in Beijing the following?
“Whoa! bu nung jong when huhweh shwoah de hun how, eenweigh whoa! shwoah da boo how!”
No, not really, though it would have been very interesting to hear how good her Chinese pronunciation was (“Wo bu neng zhongwen hui shuo de hen hao, inwei wo shuo de bu hao!”
Instead she made fun of the difficulty in Western stereotypes of Chinese speakers being able to pronounce “R” correctly, which in folklore comes out as “L”.
According to the Wall Street Journal, she tweeted the following:
Mrs. Kirchner, who is in China trying to drum up investment in infrastructure projects, sent out a tweet in which she swapped L’s for R’s in the Spanish words “petróleo and arroz”—petroleum and rice—to caricature a Chinese accent in Spanish.
“Vinieron sólo por el aloz y el petlóleo?” (They came just for rice and oil?), she tweeted rhetorically, referring to hundreds of people at an event where she was speaking in Beijing.
–Taos Turner, “In Beijing, Kirchner Mocks Chinese Accent; Argentine Leader Courts New Controversy on a State Visit to China When She Mocks Chinese Pronunciation,” Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2015 (8:00 p.m. ET).
Mariano Obarrio, “Viaje oficial; Cristina firmó 15 convenios con China y ofreció invertir en recursos naturales,” La Nacion ( Buenos Aires), 05 de febrero de 2015.
The first point to be made is that she obviously has has very little contact with educated Chinese speakers of English or Spanish, who in 2015 are demonstrating an impressive mastery of foreign languages, particularly in English but also in Spanish.
The second point to be made is that this “gaffe” is not likely to draw attention away from the apparent murder of Alberto Nisman, a government prosecutor who was drafting an arrest warrant for Mrs. Kirchner at the time he was killed, for her alleged involvement in a conspiracy with Iran to not pursue the perpetrators of a terrorist attack on a synagoge in Buenos Aires in 1994 which killed 85 people. The judicial proceedings which followed were marked by irregularities, which in 2005 led Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, later to become Pope Francis, and 84 others to sign a petition calling for new proceedings.
Nisman was scheduled to testfy and present his evidence to Congress the day after he was found dead in his apartment, on January 18. A clumsy government story that he had committed suicide soon fell apart, and even Kirchner tweeted she didn’t believe the suicide story.
The final point is that Argentines need to get a grip, forget Eva Peron, and put Cristina Kirchner and her deceased husband, Nestor, who preceded her in office, completely behind them.
it is time for Argentina to join the modern world of truly democratic countries with a high reputation for transparency and lack of corruption. They need to look for role models to outstanding leaders such as Raul Alfonsin, the first civilian president after the “dirty war” of the 1970’s and the disastrous invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, and not to Juan or Eva Peron.
To redeem herself, Prsident Kirchner should begin working on her Chinese pronunciation forthwith, even if she has to take classes from behind bars.
One of the first things she will learn is that perhaps the hardest letter for a Westerner to prounounce in Chinese is “R”. Key words she will want to practice are “Zhongguoren” (Chinese people) and “Renminbi” (Chinese national currency).
She better get her “R’s” right!
The Trenchant Observer