Iâ€™ve noticed something new about my Inbox. Iâ€™m starting to get more mail in Spanish, as a few people realize that I can read (moderately) and write (badly and comically Iâ€™m sure) in that language. If only, I thought, those of us who want to know other languages had this opportunity on a casual basis, all the time. I love being on the continent because thereâ€™s often such a mix of languages. I was at a conference in Hungary a few years ago and overheard a table of businesspeople talking in, I think, four languages (including Russian), and my sports history friends were moving between English, French, German, and Japanese, for starters.
One of the things I hope will happen as Berkshire grows is that we will, in the office and in our activities and publications, become multi-lingual. Iâ€™ve even been arguing that we should include a few sidebars of primary text in other languages in our next encyclopedias, perhaps even without translation, just to make the point that people throughout history have used a vast number of languages. (Strom Thurmond reputedly told a South Carolina high school French teacher, introduced as someone who had been expanding the language program in the school district, â€œMaâ€™am, if English was good enough for Jesus, itâ€™s good enough for our boys and girls.â€)
Online translation tools, by the way, are free and easy (and Iâ€™m not above using them whenever possible, much as my dear friend Octavio, who works with me on my Spanish, might disapprove!): Babel Fish or Google Translation. And I’m sure you know that most search engines will translate webpages for you. (An amusing experiment is to use machine translation several times, to see what nonsense you end up with! But it’s a start.)