Yeah, I know he studied ophthalmology in England, and his wife was born and grew up there.
But I was struck by Assad’s fluency in his interview with Charlie Rose. I had called it up expecting it to be conducted through an interpreter. Even if a foreign leader speaks English well, an interpreter offers advantages — first, your own people see you speaking your native tongue; it’s a nationalistic statement. Then, it gives you extra time to think of a good answer.
But Assad didn’t choose that path. In a situation in which his regime and by extension his life are on the line, dealing with a highly respected interviewer asking probing questions, he managed to maneuver his way through the interview without stumbling. He had thoroughly internalized his talking points, his version of the story, and he stuck to it, stayed smooth.
He not only stayed on message, he showed a deft understanding of and ability to manipulate U.S. politics at this critical moment, as The Washington Post observed.
He did all that in a second language.
On one level, this is further testimony to just how ubiquitous our own language has become globally. On the personal, though, I find myself wondering how he keeps up his proficiency to this level. Surely it isn’t spoken much in his daily interaction with his officials and generals as he fights this war.
Do he and his wife speak it daily at home?