Berkshire Hathaway 2018 Annual Meeting Audience Question # 42

The advantage of being multilingual

Warren Buffett:

OK. Station 3.

Audience Member:

Hi, Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger. My name’s Kevin and I’m from Shenzhen, China, currently studying finance and philosophy at Boston College.

I have a rather broad question. In this more and more globalized world, what do you think our younger generation can do to best leverage our background and experience of both China and U.S. to create values and for the benefit two countries’ economy and relationship? And what do you see valuable in a person with a multicultural background? Thank you.

Warren Buffett:

Well, I think in answer to the last question, I think it’s terrific to have a multicultural background.

And I never was any good at languages. But if I were in college today, in either country, I’d be learning the language of the other country, because I think it would be a great advantage over time.

The first part of the question, I’d like to have that stated again to me. I want to make sure I’m answering your specific aspect there on the… I think it’s going to be good for your future. But can we have the microphone on up there again?

Audience Member:

So the first part of the question is, like, what do you think our younger generation can do to best leverage our background and experience of both China and U.S.?

Warren Buffett:

Well, I’d start with being multilingual, I mean, certainly, in terms of, you know, I mean, obviously you want to be able to express yourself in both. And the better you can understand, obviously, the culture of another society, obviously, that’s a benefit.

But I think the market system, modified as it may be, both in China and in the United States, in a way, it really does… there will be an invisible hand, to some extent, that does work to improve the lot of future generations by the fact that both China and the United States, and the rest of the world, is improving. I mean, it is much better, in my view, particularly in a nuclear world. But it’s much better to have people prospering throughout the world, partly through their own efforts but partly through their interactions with the rest of the world.

And we’ve made a lot of progress in that respect particularly since World War II. I mean, it was a terrific idea to have the Marshall Plan, you know, instead of behaving like we did after World War I and getting the result that we got. I think we behaved much more intelligently after World War II.

So I’m bullish on the future of United States. But I’m bullish on the future of China, and to a significant extent, you know, the rest of the world.

People are going to be living better 10, 20, 50 years from now. And I don’t think that’s something that can be stopped even. Charlie? Absent weapons of mass destruction.

Charlie Munger:

Yeah, well, the multicultural stuff, it wouldn’t do you much good to be fluent in both English and Chinese if you were, say, a proctologist in China or a proctologist in Nebraska.

So if you’re going to use your multicultural background, you’ve got to work at some interface between the United States and China.

And you can raise money in the United States and invest it in China like Li Lu does or you can be some kind of an importer or a trade specialist. But you’ve got to get near that interface to benefit from being bilingual and so on.

Warren Buffett:

But you would bet that the interface will be substantially greater.

Charlie Munger:

Huge.

Warren Buffett:

Yeah.

Charlie Munger:

Huge.

Warren Buffett:

And that’s what you want to prepare for.

Charlie Munger:

Yes. And I think that, generally speaking, that we get multicultural you can also be multidisciplinary. But generally I think people make more money if they’re very narrowly specialized, like the proctologist.

And it’s much harder to make a lot of money for most people if you try to imitate Warren and me.

Warren Buffett:

I’m glad I didn’t meet him earlier. I mean…

Click here to return to the Q&A topic list. Alternatively, you can proceed to the next or go back to the previous question.

Don`t copy text!