In a recent interview on BBC news ex-British ambassador Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles discusses what happened when he tried to use his newly found language skills while ordering in a restaurant.
The subsequent error is hilarious. The interview does have a serious subject though. Professor David Bellos, director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, discusses the importance of foreign language instruction for government officials when they are sent abroad.
I recently heard an interview that talked about the diminished role of diplomacy abroad (especially at lower levels of government) since the end of the cold war. Now more than ever, government officials, or anyone doing business in a foreign country, should try and get an understanding of the language and customs of their host country. We would expect no less of anyone trying to do business here in the United States.