Did Japan’s First Lady just pretend not to speak English so she can ignore Trump?

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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We’ve all had to suffer through the mind-numbing boredom of sitting next to someone we don’t like at a dinner party.

And while the majority of us will grin and bear it will trying to make the most of a bad situation, Japan’s First Lady seemed to take a much bolder approach when she recently found herself seated next to Donald Trump at dinner.

Rather than engage the President in a two-hour stint of small talk and polite conversation, Akie Abe instead opted to keep her mouth shut – by apparently pretending she didn’t speak a word of English.

News of the awkward exchange surfaced during Trump’s recent interview with the New York Times, where he told reporters that Abe spoke so little English she couldn’t even use the word “hello”.

In an excerpt of the interview shared on the Times’ website, Trump is recorded as saying the following:

So, I was seated next to the wife of Prime Minister Abe [Shinzo Abe of Japan], who I think is a terrific guy, and she’s a terrific woman, but doesn’t speak English.

HABERMAN: Like, nothing, right? Like zero?

TRUMP: Like, not “hello.”

HABERMAN: That must make for an awkward seating.

TRUMP: Well, it’s hard, because you know, you’re sitting there for——


TRUMP: So the dinner was probably an hour and 45 minutes.

Happily, it didn’t take long for shrewd social media users to spot the problem with Trump’s theory about Abe’s use of English.

Sam Thielman of Talking Points Memo took to Twitter to share a video of Abe giving the keynote address during a Ford Foundation event back in 2014 (below), in which the First Lady is speaking – you guessed it – English.

While this isn’t confirmation that she can speak the language fluently, we have to assume she at least knows how to use the word “hello”.

In a tweet that has been retweeted nearly 15,000 times and liked by over 38,000 people, Thielman said simply, “Akie Abe is my new hero”.

And we would have to wholeheartedly agree.

Images: Rex Features


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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Follow her on Twitter