February 4, 2020 – Croatia’s Permanent EU Ambassador Irena Andrassy makes history with the latest linguistic gaffe from Croatia’s esteemed leaders – she is in good company.
The level of spoken English in Croatia is excellent overall, and TCN recently reported on a study which showed that Croatians were the second-best English speakers in Central and Eastern Europe, and indeed were improving quicker than anywhere in the world after Portugal. You can read the report here.
So, in a normal country, it would not be too much to expect the country’s top diplomats and politicians to speak fluent, or at least close to fluent, English, especially if they are dealing with major international events.
Such as the last official words, recorded for posterity, exchanged between the ambassador to the EU of the country presiding over the presidency, and the departing UK ambassador.
Croatia is not a normal country.
So it comes as no surprise to many here that the Croatian ambassador to the EU, representing the entire European Union with the last official words to her UK counterpart, could not even manage to get a simple message right, such as “Goodbye and Good Luck.”
Instead Irena Andrassy sent her British counterpart, Tim Barrow, with “Thank you, Goodbye, and Good Riddance”, according to the Financial Times.
Which is possibly a message that several MEPs might have passed on to Nigel Farage, but hardly the send-off one would expect for a partner with 11 months of trade negotiations ahead.
Irena Andrassy tried to make light of the incident later on social media, which was a nice attempt to cover up the gaffe, whereas the FT reports that she had mistaken the meaning of good riddance for good luck.
Ordinary Croatians have become used to the linguistic genius of their political representatives on the international stage speaking English.
Ingrid Anticevic Marinovic set the bar very high in early 2013, preparing the EU for what might come next with her infamous ‘People Must Trust Us’, which made her a household name overnight in Croatia.
Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor redefined the concept of time in 2011, telling a Hungarian tourist that she had visited Budapest ‘the day after yesterday.’ To Kosor’s credit, she saw the funny side, subsequently naming her excellent blog Dan Nakon Jucer (the Day After Jucer).
New PM Tim Oreskovic took linguistic genius to new heights during his first public appearance in 2016. A Canadian-Croat, Oreskovic was plucked from pharma company Pliva at short noticed and installed as a compromise Prime Minister. Few Croatians had heard of him, and they were slightly bemused to hear their new leader refer to them as ‘buildings’ rather than ‘citizens’ as he got his words mixed up (the words for building and citizen are similar in Croatian).
The accidental State had reached a new level with a Prime Minister who could not speak the language, it seemed.
So what of the future? Sadly, that doesn’t look too bright, either. Deputy Commissioner for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Suica raised some eyebrows with the level of her English, especially as she is a former English teacher.
But if there is one politician who knows his linguistic limits, it is man who usually knows no limits, embattled Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic. He may will wish certain people good riddance, especially those who start copying his name, but you can guarantee he will not say so in English…