Can you elaborate on multicultural aspects?
$ Countless examples. A friend of mine had been learning German for many years. Then she went to a German course in Munich. Participants of the course were obviously people from all over the world; the organizers and the teachers were German. One day all participants were invited to watch the film “Weiße Rose” about a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany. The teachers put emphasis on how determined they were to encourage as many people as possible to see this film because the popular version of Nazi Germany is as follows: Hitler plus the obedient, disciplined German nation. And those teachers, although they were grandchildren of people from that generation, kept feeling ashamed for what had happened. And they suspected their children and their grandchildren would still feel ashamed. This picture is very different from what they give you at school, in the history lessons: Hitler = bad guy, Marshal’s plan after the World War II. Full stop. Black or white. The same friend of mine made friends with some Germans later on and they decided to travel together. One day they visited a concentration camp. The Germans were appalled. It evoked so many emotions and memories. One lady talked about her childhood. She was playing on the attic and she found an NSDAP card. She asked her parents what it was and she got spanked and was told not to ask about it anymore. It was a part of her family’s secret history. And you won’t learn things like that if you don’t speak the language of a given nation.
$ The more people speak foreign languages, the less people want to make wars because eventually you realize that on the level of our needs we are all equal. Marshal B. Rosenberg said that. We make wars because our governments tell us to and only a minority like Weiße Rose have guts to be against that.
$ Why do they do it actually?
$ Well, if you think your value is defined by the things you do or achieve, like a slim body, position in a company, money, power, you can become obsessed with it and get what you think you need over dead bodies. What’s your opinion?
$ I don’t know, really. It reminds me also of another friend of mine. She learned Chinese. You know how people boycott China: no human rights, free Tibet, unsocial working conditions, and other clichés. She only met Chinese people in her country and she was impressed by the pride the Chinese took in being Chinese. When she touched the subject of poor illiterate people who emigrate from their hamlets to giant cities to get underpaid jobs, where nobody respects security and hygiene directives, the answer was: we are much happier now than before Deng Xiaoping. Now we can get rich. If we learn and work hard, sky is the limit. And she fell in love with one of her teachers. She got love letters in Chinese saying: you are my special precious pearl I dived for to the bottom of the ocean. You have been waiting for so long, I have been diving for so long and finally we are together. Show me a student’s book with texts like this.
$ Mission impossible.
$ Another aspect. Mass media. I have just mentioned the image of China we have from the media. They spare nobody. A girl who learns German told me how embarrassed she was while reading an article about her fiancé’s country in a prestigious, opinion-forming German magazine. They interviewed a slightly drunk hooligan who didn’t exactly know why he was loyal to his gang and answered the journalist’s questions as if he were a dimwit. He had a swastika tattooed on his arm but he didn’t know what Hitler did in Europe in 1939 and later on. And there was no comment: it is not a representative sample or an exception in this outstandingly hospitable country that welcomes visitors from all over the world.
$ You know what they say: the fourth power.
$ Another friend of mine studied in Hungary. He speaks Hungarian very well and he goes there quite frequently. Recently, when Hungarian government had its big problems, our press described that as a major tragedy, that forint was falling headlong etc. And when my friend had a closer look at this, he noticed that the fall was not more considerable than in the case of our currency. He said he wished our country could have a prime minister like Hungary. Certainly, he was in trouble, sometimes he was doing better, sometimes worse but it was a well-read, articulate, cultured and argumentative politician.
$ Right, cultural aspects are highly motivating in many respects. What does your last letter stand for in your scheme?
$ Falling in love.
$ Last but not least.
$ That’s it.
$ Like your friend who fell in love with her Chinese teacher.
$ I’ve got a better one.
$ What can be better than being a Chinese pearl somebody is diving for deep in the ocean?
$ Listen to this. My parents’ friends went to Canary Islands when their daughter was 17 and their son 15. An Austrian tourist (25 years old) stayed in the same hotel. He fell in love with the girl the very first night. The next day he asked her for a date. Don’t ask me how he did it: the family spoke English, he spoke German, being Austrian and they were in Spain.
$ Body language plus mutual love that sharpens your senses and your telepathy.
$ Probably. So they were dating the whole holiday. I wonder how they communicated at the beginning. Kidding. In time, he taught her German in the most natural way possible: when she wanted to say something he read her thoughts and said the German version of her thoughts. She repeated it once or twice and remembered.
$ What happened next?
$ Back home, they kept on dating, not as often as on the island, of course. He visited her at home, she flew to Austria, too. When she passed her A-level exams, he proposed to her. They got married and settled on the island where they had met.
$ You must be joking!
$ No, I’m not. I didn’t make it up.
$ So, eventually they spoke three languages.
$ No, they didn’t. He never learned English.