Stop-start visas and delicious bottoms

How language can make Macrons of us all

Collaboration with an English “ghostwriter” can help European leaders improve their international communication by turning high-quality conversational English into true “mother-tongue” written English 

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, is urbane, international and proudly multi-lingual, but that doesn’t mean he’s never fallen foul of the odd verbal clanger when striving for the perfect bon mot

In fact, he is something of a repeat offender.

Most recently he confused the word “start” with “stop” when discussing visas for UK citizens post-Brexit. Easy mistake to make. We’ll give him that one, even if many were quick to criticise.

But earlier this year he controversially referred to his Australian counterpart’s wife as “delicious”. Shaky ground in these sensitive #MeToo times, you will agree. The first lady, Lucy Turnbull - who had only just recovered from playing host to one Donald J Trump - was no doubt moved to speculate that perhaps international diplomacy had upped sticks and retreated back to the comfy misogyny of the 1970s. 

Soon after, Macron was at it again, slipping the quintessentially English term “Bottom Up” into a complex speech in his own language. His countrymen were outraged. Us Brits were merely confused: Was this an ill-advised stab at Carry On-style innuendo? Or had he enjoyed one too many glasses of Chablis over lunch

Most likely, given his confidence and assurance in his command of English, he was simply showing off. Grabbing for a soundbyte and coming up a fraction short.

Of course, our own politicians have long ceased attempting to ingratiate themselves with foreign audiences by flexing their linguistic dexterity. Our vocabularies are woefully limited and our accents ‘Allo ‘Allo at best. Even our tortured fumbles towards the merest token gesture are generally doomed to failure (I’m talking to you, Jeremy Hunt). 

The truth is, we have long accepted that our European friends generally speak much better English than we do their languages. 

I recently wrote about how ghostwriting blogs and thought leadership articles for non-English-speaking clients has given me a tremendously rewarding - and unexpected - sideline to my freelance offering.

It is a tribute to the European clients I work with that together we can create authentic and (hopefully) sophisticated English language content that can carry their unique ideas to international audiences.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a card-carrying, mono-lingual, shout-loudly-in-my-own-language-and-hope-for-the-best kind of guy. Despite a cherished “B” in GCSE French, I still get sweaty palms at the boulangerie when trying to order something more complicated than a croissant. 

But I know my limitations and the people I work with are so comfortable and creative in their spoken English, that we can easily strike to the heart of what they are trying to say, and find a way of expressing it effectively. My most difficult job is picking up the nuances and rhythms of their stories to create content that sounds both credible and authentically them.

My process is simple: I record an interview and, through a combination of straight transcribing and interpretive translation, try to produce a first-person piece that they can use across their professional platforms and beyond.

So if anyone in my network is looking to produce English-language thought-leadership pieces but perhaps lacks the confidence, do get in touch. 

I’m available to you too, Emmanuel. I have a working knowledge of the differences between “stop” and “start” and am certainly familiar with much of the Carry On ouvre. 

Let’s see if we can’t make Barbara Windsor proud.



"Despite a cherished “B” in GCSE French, I still get sweaty palms at the boulangerie when trying to order something more complicated than a croissant."