Does Putin Speak English? After Trump Meeting, the Kremlin Weighs In

Russian President Vladimir Putin may have been praising Donald Trump’s listening skills last week but on Monday, his own abilities as a good speaker were receiving plaudits. Putin’s English, seldom heard by western audiences, is good enough to correct his translators, according to the man hired to speak on Putin’s behalf.

“In free discourse, at the sidelines of summits, he often speaks in English by himself,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state-run Rossiya 1 television channel on Monday, talking about how Putin approached other leaders at the G20 summit. “But during negotiations and when he is conducting an official meeting, of course he communicates, through a translator.”

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“However he practically understands English completely and sometimes even corrects the translators,” Peskov said. “A translator will always have a crisis moment. I worked as a translator at a high level myself, which is why I am familiar with the stress of it.”

Officially, besides his native Russian, Putin speaks English and German—a language he used on a daily basis in his past career for the Soviet security services (KGB) while deployed in the city of Dresden in East Germany during the 1980s.

Putin frequently opts to use German during his travels to German-speaking countries and has even used it in official functions. During his first presidential visit to Berlin in 2001 he addressed German lawmakers “in the language of Goethe, Schiller and Kant.”

During director Oliver Stone’s recently broadcast interview series with Putin, the president interchanged between English and Russian when speaking to the U.S. filmmaker, including during a tour of his Kremlin office. He also chose to address the Bureau of International Expositions in English, in 2013.

When asked what languages he spoke during his annual televised answering of pre-screened questions from Russian, Putin was more modest, replying: “In Russia, thank God, I get by in German and I can express myself more or less in English.” His foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov has been praised by former U.S. President Barack Obama for his impressive English skills and a tendency to correct translators.