FORUM 1: Should learning a foreign language be a requirement in college? Yes: bilingualism is a good preparation for a career | Opinion

Other foreign correspondents lined up with their translators to interview the bereaved while I was able to speak with them alone.

Did it make a difference? The Russians I interviewed were touched that we could speak in their own language. More importantly, translators who worked for foreign offices were known to be spies, using the coveted positions to file reports with the KGB on the sources and subjects of international journalists.

It was clear to me that the Sakharov mourners I interviewed felt more comfortable and were more willing to share their true feelings about him. Many cried as they spoke.

One of the sad ironies of our current age is that at a time when the United States is diversifying and globalization is outsourcing more American jobs, fewer young people are studying foreign languages.

Among the top 10 universities in the country, according to US News & World Report, only Columbia University requires foreign language studies (three years) to be admitted. My alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley, is one of many other elite schools to demand it.

And once in college, fewer students are required to demonstrate even basic fluency in a foreign language to graduate. Only 12% of higher education institutions retain such a mandate, according to a survey carried out last year by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

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