You may not have noticed, because it's been a gradual change in the international climate. There's evidence of a global warming that is thawing things long-frozen. It's not evident everywhere, but in some surprising regions. And it's not all bad news.
For those of us who grew up in the Cold War Era, the icy relationships between many nations was the norm. To keep the peace, each threatened war. Now, it seems, many of those former adversaries have found a way to get along, and many barriers have come down. Nevertheless, there remain several volatile regions, and a number of upstart countries that continue to upset the international balance.
This new global warming is manifested in a broad and sweeping international exchange. Many countries are becoming melting pots of different nationalities, as companies globalize, and business travel expands. Indeed, the international travel experiences of many of our college youth have made the world a much smaller place. Where, as children, many of us were content to travel out of state for vacations and education, many of our children now travel to foreign lands for the same reasons.
My own son, who showed little interest in travel during many of our family outings, has been to Europe several times, took summer classes in southern France, spent a semester in Japan learning the language and culture, and after receiving his undergraduate degree in Biology, served two years in Japan teaching English, a language we rarely heard him speak. Jason was born with a shock of red hair, full of wonder and promise. This year, still with his shock of red hair and full of wonder and promise, he began attending graduate school in Japan. Many of his friends also traveled extensively during college and taught our language in foreign lands, and volunteered for international aid assignments as well.
The world is becoming a very small place. The products and services we use come from all over the globe. I recently bought four Arrow shirts at a department store, and when looking at the labels for their composition, found that one was made in Viet Nam, one was from Thailand, one was from Bangladesh and one was "Heche en Mexico." Soon after, I spoke with a customer service representative from a credit card company -- she had a delightful southern belle's name and an interesting southern accent, tinged with a taste of India. A mere generation ago, none of these would have seemed possible.
As the world becomes smaller, and national boundaries fade, the need to communicate in various languages becomes more important. All of mankind's advances are built on the scientific and intellectual knowledge base of previous generations. The most efficient way to build on that knowledge is to make it universal through translation, so that language is not a barrier to progress. But translation alone is not enough; cultural differences must be bridged in order to build trust, the key to communication.