Kevin and George discuss foreign language training.
Kevin: I was impressed to hear you allocated 114 million dollars for foreign language programs in the U.S.
George: Yeah? Language is an important aspect of speaking, I mean it’s important to language well. And to learn another… er language.
Kevin: Well my goal is that by 2020, we have every Australian student studying a foreign language.
George: That’s good. Every student?
Kevin: It’s for our future security and prosperity, and about having a vision to make Australia the most Asia literate country in the collective West. But I was curious why you targeted the learning of Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Farsi.
George: Learning somebody else's language is a kind gesture. It really is a fundamental way to reach out to somebody and say, I care about you.
Kevin: I know what you mean. Hu Jintao said the same thing when I made that speech in Mandarin.
George: Course we also need intelligence officers, who, when somebody says something in Arabic or Farsi or Urdu, knows what they're talking about. We need interrogators.
Kevin Rudd’s initiative is laudable and should be supported. Nevertheless, learning another language, especially tonal languages like Chinese or Thai, takes time and effort. And employing someone who is say, an Australian-born Chinese who has a business degree, is better than employing an native English speaking Australian who has a business degree and a couple of years of Chinese language study.