Late this March, a Norwegian news outlet sprang a surprise question on Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and candidate for president. The previous week, the writer Anand Giridharadas, who has close to half a million Twitter followers, tweeted that he met Buttigieg and introduced him to a Norwegian friend. “Instantaneously,” he wrote, “Mayor Pete starts talking to her in Norwegian, like a magic trick.” Apparently Buttigieg had read a Norwegian novel in translation and been so taken by it that he learned the language just to finish the author’s untranslated works.
The Norwegian crew wanted to hear it for themselves. In a video that circulated on social media, the reporters smile like proud parents as Buttigieg haltingly says, in Norwegian, “I’ve forgotten so much Norwegian,” followed by a few words about a book and a Norwegian pastor and then an apology, in English: “Sorry, I just ran out of Norwegian.”