The Washington Times - September 20, 2008, 11:07AM

President Bush has made a habit of speaking Spanish to Latin audiences ever since he was the governor of Texas.

Limited Spanish.


That habit finally caught up with him today, when he tried to follow a question from a Spanish-speaking reporter during a press conference with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe at the White House.

The reporter began slowly in Spanish, and after a few words, Mr. Bush said, “Yes.” Mr. Bush prides himself on his ability to speak Spanish and enjoys enunciating Spanish phrases and words.

But the reporter then sped up his question, apparently confident that Mr. Bush was comprehending, eventually firing short bursts of the foreign language at the president.

After the reporter finished his question, there was a short pause. Mr. Uribe asked Mr. Bush if he had understood.

“No, but I’ll play like I understood,” Mr. Bush said, provoking laughter from many of the reporters in the Rose Garden.

He then leaned over to Mr. Uribe, put his arm around him, and said, “I gotta ask my translator.”

Mr. Uribe spoke for 25 seconds into Mr. Bush’s ear, as photographers captured the off beat moment.

The second time that Mr. Uribe called on a member of his press corps for a question, Mr. Bush admitted his need for the native tongue.

“Speak English this time Juan, will you?” he said.

That didn’t stop the president from turning, after he and Mr. Uribe had finished their press conference, and saying to one of the Colombian reporters, “Adios Juan Carlos.”