It is the best way to approach another culture. The problem we're facing at the moment with globalisation is that English has become such a universal language, people believe that's all they need to communicate all over the world. If you speak their original language, people will see that you are interested and that you share something. Linked to an understanding of culture is literature, and if you want to know the literature of a country you have to learn the language.
One of the good things about working in a university is that even as you get older, the people around you stay the same age. We all lose a little bit of idealism as we age and we tend to let reality become a little too strong. One of the great parts of the job is that I am still surrounded by people who believe in certain ideals, be it humanity or freedom; people who are ready to go on humanitarian missions and for whom the word freedom really has a meaning.
Cherish your identity. I am a German who grew up in France, so on the one hand I really consider myself a European, but on the other I have German nationality and am very happy to have it. We have had a difficult past and a lot of people in Germany have problems with their national identity. But for me, wherever I went, the German identity was a part of me.
Music has something to do with the language of a higher world. When you go to the opera, it talks to your heart and soul and deals with essential, existential subjects. In my pre-concert talks, I am always trying to highlight that it is your own life that is up there on the stage. As told to Helena Frith Powell