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What Languages Does Angela Merkel Speak? 

As the former chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel has had to hold her own in a lot of multilingual situations. Often politicians rely solely on interpreters to conduct business in other languages, but if you’re fluent in another language, it can really help strengthen diplomatic bonds between nations. With that being the case what languages does Angela Merkel speak, and how fluent is she? 

Let’s dive in and find out more!

What Languages Does Angela Merkel Speak?

In total, it’s reported that Angela Merkel speaks three languages fluently: German, English, and Russian.

Of course, as the former leader of Germany for many years, and being born in Hamburg to German parents, German is her first language and the one that she speaks the most often. Merkel also speaks English fluently, as so many German people grow up learning it for international purposes, however, this is not the case with Merkel, who grew up in East German during Soviet times. 

German Government Building

This is probably why Angela Merkel also speaks Russian fluently, which is a notoriously difficult language to learn and even has a different alphabet from English and German to learn.

Given Germany’s historic and tumultuous relationship with Russia and the former Soviet Union, it’s probably not that surprising that Merkel decided to learn Russian. 

Does Angela Merkel Speak Russian?

Yes, Angela Merkel does speak Russian fluently and has demonstrated it on visits to the country and during exchanges with Vladimir Putin, both in interviews and in more casual conversations at summits.

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She also famously spoke to Russian astronauts on the International Space Station in their native language. They were onboard with a German astronaut who Merkel was speaking to for press purposes. It was a cool touch to see her switch interchangeably between the two languages with such ease. 

While Merkel does appear to speak Russian with ease, she does use an interpreter in diplomatic situations. Despite her conversational skills with Putin, this is likely a safety net just in case any niche language comes up, or to reduce the chances of any miscommunication.

Intense political situations are not a time for linguistic slip-ups!

Why Does Angela Merkel Speak Russian?

Other than it being useful for a German Chancellor to know at least some basic Russian, Merkel grew up in a period when the Soviet Union was still in charge of East Germany, where Angela was born and grew up. As such, learning Russian was mandatory in school.

Angela Merkel’s proficiency for languages was noted from an early age, with her winning prizes for her Russian skills and consistently coming out as the top of her class.

At this point, Merkel would’ve been bilingual in German and Russian, as during this period, English was not taught in East German schools at all. This was something that Merkel was going to have to learn off her own back or later in life. 

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Is Angela Merkel Fluent in English?

You’ve perhaps seen video clips of Angela Merkel speaking English, so you can see that she is fluent in the language. As English wasn’t taught in schools in East Germany when Merkel was growing up, it’s likely that it was her mother who taught her to speak and write in English. Merkel’s mother was an English teacher, so language skills definitely run in the family!

These English skills would’ve been honed further during the 1980s when Angela Merkel worked as a research scientist, reading and writing papers in English. This is because many of the journals of the day were predominantly printed in English for a more global reach, and that’s still mostly the case even now. 

Writing and reading in such specific and technical English would’ve given Angela Merkel a firm grasp of the English language, especially the more formal nuances.

This put her in good stead when she became a politician and traveled around the world, delivering largely formal speeches, to leaders of other nations, including speaking without an earpiece in the UK parliament. 

During her frequent visits to the UK over the years, Merkel had also met the late Queen Elizabeth II on numerous occasions, always speaking fluent English. This shows how comfortable and confident she is speaking this language, and it was well received by the monarch at the time. 

Ready to Learn the Languages Angela Merkel Speaks?

So, who knew that Angela Merkel was such a proficient trilingual speaker?! With fluency in three different languages, including the notoriously tricky Russian language, it’s no wonder that she commanded many of the rooms she walked into during her tenure as leader of Germany.

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Her background as a research scientist, writing in English, certainly gave their the logical and analytical English language skills to make it to the top of her political profession, and stay there for so long! Learning languages goes a long way!

If you’re an absolute beginner with your target language, check out my simple language learning plan to get you started. If you’ve taken a few lessons on Duolingo, the best place for you to start is iTalki! You can start having conversations with native speakers for around $5-$9 per hour.

I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without it. If you want to work on vocabulary, LingQ is the best app for vocabulary. You can upload anything from Youtube videos to Elle Magazine articles and keep track of words you’re learning and words you already know. I’m obsessed.

Other great apps are Memrise and Babbel if you want to upgrade from Duolingo (here are more Duolingo alternatives!)

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