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April 09, 2008



I have a few video clips of him speaking English from our trip to Rome. It's super cute (IMO). Also, EWTN has an archived audio interview with "Cardinal Ratzinger" that is rather lengthy, in English, and worth a listen. The site isn't set up to give me a simple URL to pass on. So if you go instead to here, http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/intro.asp
and use the second box, "All Programs" to search for "Ratzinger", it'll come up in the results as result #4: "The World Over"; "Raymond Arroyo w/ Interview with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - now Pope Benedict XVI." At least I think that's the one.

I thought about putting our vacation video on Youtube for others to enjoy the English greetings and messages.

Matheus F. Ticiani

Thanks for posting again, Jimmy (on your own blog!)

...there is nothing like hearing someone speaking your native language to give you a sense of them on a personal level...

That's true. I love listening to the Pope speaking Portuguese. By the way, he can be heard speaking various languages on the Vatican Radio site.

J.R. Stoodley

The Spanish surprised me, but I suppose it is appropriate given the demographics of the Catholic Church in the United States (especially outside my native Northeast which I too frequently think of as typical of the US in general).

Also, is it just my Anglo ears or does Pope Benedict sound more at ease speaking Spanish than English? Perhaps it's because he's lived in Italy so long and Italian and Spanish are similar.


I did hear him speak english when he address the Canadiam bishops a while back. It is rare and it does make him feel very warm and grandfatherly. I hope is delivery gets better in his US speeches though. He does seem quite monotone.


JRS, I thought the same thing. You're probably right in your thinking, to which I'd add that Spanish is a derivation of Latin. Still, English and German have the same roots. Thankfully, the German word for beer is pronounced the same as the English word(although they spell it funny), so I won't be in danger of dying of thirst if I ever visit Germany. ("Eine grosse, bitte.")

Matheus, funny you should bring up Portuguese; the one phrase of Portuguese I know is: "Uma garaffe de cerveza, faz favor."

Matheus F. Ticiani

Dear Bill

I don't like to nitpick, but the phrase is somewhat incorrect, it seems to be either in Spanish, or in the aberrant and funny mixture of Spanish and Portuguese that we here in Brazil call "Portunhol" ("Português and Espanhol"). The correct way would be "Uma garrafa de cerveja, faz o favor (or por favor.
And speaking of beer in German, my favorite beers are German: Warsteiner and Franziskaner (this one has a Franciscan friar on the label).


Perhaps the phrase I learned is how it would be phrased in Portugal? The important question is: If I spoke that phrase in Brazil, would the bartender know what I wanted?

Matheus F. Ticiani

Yes, he would. No doubt about it. As far as I know, the Portuguese nouns garrafa e cerveja are written only that way, regardless of the country.


I was blessed to be at a Papal audience with approximately 5,000 others in Rome two years ago. The Pope was so warmly welcomed by everyone, and our energy in seeing him also seemed to energize him! I felt that he looked immensely tired in this video. I pray that he will be warmly welcomed in both DC and NY with great love and energy.

J.R. Stoodley

Ich habe ein bissien Deutsch in Schule gelernt, but I've forgotten too much of it to even finish that sentence (and I may well have made a mistake in what I did write). I was never good with languages.

While English and German have the same West-Germanic root language, they have followed very different paths and so it is quite difficult for us to sound natural in speaking each other's languages. English has lost the German "ch" sound and German has lost the "th" sound, for example and it's quite difficult for us to make our mouths produce them. Our "r"s are different too. In Bavaria (unlike most of the rest of Germany which uses the "French 'r'" but in not quite the same way as the French) they use the same basic "r" as in Italy and Spain (and Scandinavia, probaby the ancestral Germanic 'r'), as opposed to the unique English "r". And English I imagine is very hard to learn to pronounce, since though there are certainly patterns in the relation between spelling and pronunciation ultimately I suppose one would pretty much have to memorize how to pronounce each word, unlike most languages where you can pretty much tell from the spelling. Furthermore Americans especially (though other English speakers to an extent) slur their word in a way that you would have to learn as well if you are to sound natural.

Also from what I've heard Pope Benendict at the time he was elected anyway just didn't know English as well as Italian or French. Remember he's still part of the generation where English was not so universally taught to young people.

J.R. Stoodley

Also remember German grammer is quite different. Also while tons of the vocabulary is related (and since he knows Romance languages too he knows the cognates for the Latin and Latin via French words too) true, complete cognates are still fairly rare and usually spelled differently (beer and Bier, fish and Fisch...gold and Gold works out though). But also the similarity of the vocabulary can trip you up. For example "Wo" and "Wer". You would expect them to be "who" and "where" respectively but it is actually the opposite.

And of course that reminds me of another sound German lacks, the "w" sound ("w"s make the "v" sound and "v" and "f" both make the f sound)

The vowels are different too, though I think the main difficulty comes from the other direction, Engish speakers trying to pronounce German's umlaut vowels.


JR Also, is it just my Anglo ears or does Pope Benedict sound more at ease speaking Spanish than English? Perhaps it's because he's lived in Italy so long and Italian and Spanish are similar.

I think Pope Benedict (may God bless him!) could possibly be more at ease speaking Spanish than English, but not due to his Italian (which, God forgive me, is as soothing as fingernail-on-chalkboard). Rather due to the large contingent of Spanish-speaking Catholics in the Vatican and magesterium in general. Spanish is like the unofficial second language within the Vatican (the first being Italian- not Latin).


Just as an aside, JP II was also a good Polyglot, and spoke Spanish fluently, but often had to read English in prepared/written statements. His Italian was very top-notch.


Also from what I've heard Pope Benendict at the time he was elected anyway just didn't know English as well as Italian or French.

Oy, if that is true, then we need to invent a new word for his better-than-impossibly-great Italian and Spanish. Anyone try to get the Cardinal Ratzinger interview I tried to link to in my first post, hosted at EWTN.com? This was recorded before he was elected, and although he has a thick accent, his English usage and vocabulary and way of expressing himself exceed the skills of most smart native English speakers I know!

I'm sorry that I could not check the audio file I posted. I did try, but my Mac's Real Player doesn't open it, and I don't have the time or inclination to troubleshoot. I tend to think it's just me, anyway. I hope someone out there can verify that the file works and that others will enjoy the interview.


By the way, my husband thinks that some people just have more trouble sounding "fluent" reading prepared written statements. He thinks George W. Bush has this problem, and sounds much more natural and eloquent when he's winging it. Perhaps it is true for Papa. I do think that his English is outstanding as Cardinal Ratzinger in that interview. We were both very surprised.

Sleeping Beastly

Man... I really wish I could be there for his Mass... I guess I'll just have to pray he lives to make a visit to the west coast someday, or maybe find a way to drag the family to Rome. Thank God for the communications media that keep bringing me his words in print and video. JPII was a tough act to follow, but Papa Benedict is just what we need today.

His Spanish wasn't much better than his English, and did sound very influenced by Italian. It had a more Italian rhythm, and where he mispronounced vowels, his actual pronunciation was in line with Italian pronunciations of the same words. My guess is that he does speak Spanish (and writes it perfectly) but spends more time speaking Italian.


He thinks George W. Bush has this problem, and sounds much more natural and eloquent when he's winging it.

Actually, all evidence is to the contrary. It's when Bush gives speeches rehearsed and in front of a teleprompter that he gives his best performances. When he "wings-it" he ends up using words like "strategery" and "dissassemblement".


I don't think "George Bush" and "fluent" or "eloquent" should be used in the same sentence or paragraph. Not that I disagree with the man's politics much, but language is his achillies heel and the reason why the public is not behind him ...

Hanging Around ...


I have to say that I am at the point of tears regarding the lack of meaningful posts from you during the past several months. The idea of "Best Catholic Apologetics Blog" is a farce at this point. Perhaps you should just shut the thing down now.

I know you are a man of honor and I'm sure you have a very good reason for not posting but I think you owe your loyal audience some explanation. Also, what are your expectations for the remainder of 2008?

Still hanging around because I believe you are capable of being the best blogger around ...



I don't think of George Bush as either eloquent either. He mispronounces words like "nuclear" "internet" and "foliage" to make one doubt the merrits of a Yale education. But as you say, that doesn't (or shouldn't) influence whether you agree or disagree with his politics (I do both). But I find it odd that you would not care to make such a comment using your regular handle.

Hanging, that goes ditto for you.


Sorry, I broke the protocol of using more than one handle on a single thread. I am responsible for the Anon comment as well.

I have not commented in several months because I have not seen a post that interested me (I'm not big on the general culture posts), however, back when Jimmy was posting regularly I normally commented as Mark.


Meant to say: I am responsible for the "Hanging around" comment as well.

Sleeping Beastly

Personally, I like SDG's posts as much as Jimmy's. Thanks to both of ya.

Dan Hunter

I absolutely love hearing the Holy Father speak and chant in Latin at Holy Mass.
His Latin, like many Germans, is close to impeccable.
I tend to agree with Mozart, and a Chant instructor I once had, that Germans chant Gregorian plainsong much better than Italians or the French

I especially am moved when the Pontiff chants the preface and the Sanctus,

Deo Gratias.

J.R. Stoodley

I think if Jimmy wants to tone down his blogging and have more posts by SDG and Tim J. that's his perogative. This is his blog, and he has no responsibility to maintain it at the same level it used to be at.

I do think it might be nice for him to post an explanation and a suggestion of what we can expect from this blog in the future. He doesn't owe us it but it might be a good idea nonetheless.

And I think it might be a good idea in the meanwhile to pray for him just in case this is something serious. There could be something going on, whether positive or negative, in his personal or spiritual life that he's not comfortable talking about completely publicly.

James Morris

Do you remember when he was The Papal Rottweiller, The Papal Enforcer?
He makes even the German language sound gentle.

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