I believe the biggest obstacle to understanding and tolerance in any situation is communication. When you consider the international factor that is generally present in areas marked by terrorism, the language barrier makes it especially difficult to communicate in a meaningful way.

We learned from Three Cups of Tea that not everything moves in Western time. The War on Terrorism isn’t something that we can win over night. We need to put our time and effort in now in hopes that it will prevent terrorism in the future. One way I think this can be done is by helping people learn new languages and giving them a chance to interact with people from different cultures, especially those in conflict areas.

I believe the most effective way to do this is via the Internet. I know that most conflict areas are poor and do not have access to the Internet but accessibility is increasing around the world every day so it is only a matter of time before even the most remote regions have it. Also remember that we no longer thinking in terms of Western time so if we build a website today it will be able to make a difference down the road. I also don’t think we can predict where terrorism will be most prevalent in 50 years so we might as well try to bring understanding and tolerance to everyone.

The website I envision would basically work like this: people who are trying to learn a new language log in and say what language(s) they know and what language(s) they want to practice and pair them up with a native speaker who can help them with the conversational aspects that are hard to pick up in a classroom. They could communicate in a chat room setting or, if possible use voice over IP.

I know the people trying to learn a language would be interested in something like this but getting native speakers involved might be more of a challenge. Ideally, users would trade off between practicing their new language and helping other people understand their native language but I doubt it would work out like that in reality so maybe the native speakers would be motivated more out of curiosity and goodwill.

I feel like this kind of idea could work considering the success of Omegle.com, which is a similar concept without the foreign language aspect and a lack of purpose. A service likes this would both serve to help people learn new languages and also expose people to different cultures. Two key aspects of tolerance and understanding.