Table: Getting Ahead
Italian Prime Minister
Long took private English lessons, but aides discourage him from using it in public, fearing a gaffe. He understands more English than he speaks.
Learned English doing odd jobs around the U.S. and was briefly engaged to an American woman. It's not as good as his Russian, but Chirac is more comfortable in English than his Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin.
JOSE MARIA AZNAR
Spanish Prime Minister
Elementary level, an embarrassment for Aznar. Spanish media roasted him after a meeting with President Clinton in which Spanish King Juan Carlos I served as interpreter.
Excellent. He learned it at school in Britain and later on assignment as a Citibank manager in London. Ollila, like most Finns, also speaks Swedish but sticks to English even with Swedes.
Like many grads of France's Grandes Ecoles, Messier speaks fluent English. And his French accent should take an American turn as he settles into his new luxury apartment in Manhattan.