Russian President Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday jokingly compared his learning of German to a circus bear learning to ride a bike, and said he studied English regularly to have "normal" conversations with other leaders.
"Before I went to Germany and lived surrounded by the language, I did not possess it," said Putin, who lived in Germany as a KGB officer before returning to Russia and becoming involved in politics in the early 1990s.
"But I lived there for nearly five years, in direct contact with our German colleagues and friends," Putin said, responding to questions from Russians during a live television appearance.
"In five years, even someone with average language ability can master a foreign language -- like the bear that goes to the circus and learns to ride a bicycle," Putin said.
The Russian president said he studied English "fairly regularly" in order to carry on conversations with foreign counterparts without the help of translators.
"Why do I do this?... It is necessary to have a normal working regimen with colleagues, so that there is no language barrier. You can't always talk about everything in the presence of translators," he said.
Putin said he had also made an effort to utter a few words in French during his speech before the International Olympic Committee in Guatemala last July.
"This was a request from several members of the IOC, as a sign of respect for French-speaking countries, including Francophone African countries," Putin said.