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It began like any other driver's test. A young student - we'll call him Hans - and his examiner set off near The Hague, capital of the Netherlands. But when they came to a rail crossing with two sets of tracks, their car stalled and wouldn't start again. Nor was there time to push it out of the way, with trains approaching from both sides. So Hans and the examiner bailed. When it was all over, the car had been pushed 150 yards in one direction and then back again by the opposing train, holding up service for hours. No injuries, but no word, either, on whether Hans got his license.

Ranks of bilingual world leaders now include Bush

When Presidents Bush of the US and Vicente Fox of Mexico meet for the first time today at the latter's ranch in the state of Guanajuato, they'll be able to converse either in English or Spanish because each is proficient in both languages. That puts them in relatively select company among major world leaders who are comfortable in a language other than their native tongues. Not since Herbert Hoover (1929-33), however, has a US president spoken a second language, reports say. (Hoover spoke some Chinese.) A sampling of major government leaders and the language other than their own that they speak, read, or understand:

US: George W. Bush Spanish

Britain: Tony Blair French

Canada: Jean Chretien English

China: Zhu Rongji English

France: Jacques Chirac English

Germany: Gerhard Schroder English

Italy: Giuliano Amato English

Mexico: Vicente Fox English

Russia: Vladimir Putin German

Spain: Jose Maria Aznar French

- Associated Press

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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