(WASHINGTON) — As Pope Francis delivered his address on the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday morning, the pontiff spoke in English, albeit slowly and with a heavy accent.
His Holiness, who is Argentinian born, is a native Spanish speaker. He also speaks fluent Italian. Some other languages he is comfortable speaking are German, French and Portuguese.
But not English. Indeed, English is a language he struggles with greatly, which he openly admits.
“My English is poor!” he exclaimed while on a papal visit to Asia, according to the Wall Street Journal.
However, English is not a new language for the pope. Years before he was the pontiff, Francis went to live in Dublin, Ireland during the winter of 1980. Francis, then 43, attempted to learn English for the first time. According to the Irish Independent, Pope Francis borrowed 14 euros to buy language tapes to practice.
“The hardest [language] for me has always been English. Above all, the pronunciation, because I don’t have an ear for it,” Pope Francis said, the Washington Post reported.
Ahead of his trip to the U.S., Pope Francis prepared by brushing up on his English.
“He’s been practicing for months now,” said Helen Osman, a key planner of the pope’s visit for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Washington Post. “It’s very important to him that he clearly communicates what he’s trying to say.”
The first time the pope spoke in English publicly was in October 20, 2013 in a video message.
The remainder of the time that he is in the U.S., Pope Francis will deliver three more speeches in English, the rest will be in Spanish.
The pope will address Congress in English on Thursday, the first speech ever given to this body by a pontiff.
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