Advice to Students, Part III: Learn a Foreign Language

3. What’s a great way to nurture relationships with other people? Learn their language. Learn a foreign language. In my first career as an Army officer, I had the opportunity to live in Germany for six years. Having studied it in high school and college and living there for that long, I was able meet many Germans, learn more about their culture—from the “inside”—and to learn how they think. The world is getting smaller. The presence of international students at your school gives a great a great opportunity. I do not want you simply to get to know that international student during the academic year, I want you to know him or her well enough to visit that friend in his or her own country. Here are the most important words you must know how to say in that foreign language:

  • Hello & good bye
  • How are you?
  • Excuse me.
  • That is wonderful.
  • How do you say ____ ?
  • For me: Where can I get a good pizza pie?
  • And of course: I love you!

You will be running this world soon. I know, that’s a little scary, but true. We all need more empathy with others to understand how they look at the world. The challenges the world face are increasingly transnational—climate change, terrorism, epidemics. We are all increasingly interdependent. In the world today, so many people are building walls between each other; I ask you not to build walls but walkways. Learning another language is a great way to build walkways.

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