Why Mayor Pete’s Multilingualism Matters

by Mark OlmstedJul 25, 2019 (Medium.com)

It represents an incredible brain.

My name is Mark Olmsted, and I feel qualified to speak on this topic because I edit film subtitles for a living, and I speak several languages.

There was an article by this… yahoo, frankly, in the New York Times of all places, that claimed that Pete Buttigieg’s intellectual erudition was meaningless, was just the equivalent of a party trick. He particularly sort of dismissed his ability to speak so many languages, and so let me tell you why that’s complete bullshit.

When you learn a second language, there are two ways: sometimes you learn it as you pick it up along with your native language, so you grow up speaking bilingually, and then there’s when you acquire it afterwards.

Now, Pete Buttigieg learned a lot of Maltese from his father growing up, and that was an easier way to learn it than teaching yourself or going to school, but it still counts for a lot because Maltese is one of those super-interesting languages that takes a little bit from a lot of different languages and so it was a very good basis for him.

Then, to my understanding, he learned French, (which is my second language), and the language of diplomacy, and as you can imagine, his ability to speak French on the world stage would be so helpful and effective,

Spanish, obviously, you can communicate with half the planet not to mention 20% of the United States population.

And Italian, it’s just so damn beautiful that anyone who makes it his business to learn it is a man after my own heart.

But the really impressive language learning started with Norwegian because he read a book in English translated from the Norwegian, and he liked it so much, even in the English, that he wanted to read the original, so, again, completely different from the Romance languages, and it shows an intellectual curiosity that is so sorely absent in the present occupant of the White House. And what could we need more than that? Plus, teaching yourself languages, it’s incredibly difficult and if you haven’t done it, you know, you wouldn’t know, I mean it’s just, it represents an incredible brain.

And then he learned Arabic which made him a really good intelligence analyst because he knew what they were saying without having to have it interpreted, and he learned Persian Dari which meant he could actually communicate with the people that we were occupying. Plus, Arabic is written in the opposite direction and in a different alphabet, which itself, it keeps the brain supple and learning new grammars; it’s like solving a puzzle, finishing a puzzle, and this sort of problem-solving acumen of Pete Buttigieg’s is one of the things that makes him most qualified to be president because that’s what learning new languages is. It’s solving a problem, and it also is what being president involves mostly. It’s like facing problems and thinking of super creative interesting and new ways to solve them.

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