Lithuanian PM takes English lessons twice a week

Saulius Skvernelis
DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

Skvernelis spoke informally in English with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his recent visit to Berlin, but the official part of the meeting, a news conference and an interview to the German media took place in the Lithuanian and German languages through an interpreter.

The prime minister said that he was unlikely to give formal speeches in English anytime soon.

“I’m learning (English) twice a week. I spoke with the chancellor without the help of an interpreter, but my formal speeches and statements will continue to be in the Lithuanian language,” he told BNS.

The head of government has made four foreign visits since he took office in December. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite traditionally represents Lithuania in EU summits.

The prime minister said that he had spoken with Grybauskaite that he could also go to an EU summit if needed, but added that it was alright with him if the president traveled there.

“Given the president’s experience and authority, I’m not insisting on going. The state’s interests are what matter most,” he told BNS.

Liutauras Gudžinskas of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University says that having English-speaking leaders is important for the diplomacy of small nations.

“It’s very important for the image of the country. Small nations don’t have the luxury of speaking their local languages only. One’s ability to establish diplomatic relations is perhaps the only way to achieve results if one doesn’t have significant economic power,” the political scientist said.

Andrius Kubilius has the best command of English among Lithuania’s former prime ministers. He would give international speeches and interviews in English.

Algirdas Butkevičius also spoke English in public on several occasions, although with a strong accent

Skvernelis says in his CV that he also speaks Russian and Polish.

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