US appoints fluent Urdu speaking diplomat in London embassy

Murtaza Ali Shah
Margaret MacLeod is a senior US State Department official. — Provided by the reporter
Margaret MacLeod is a senior US State Department official. — Provided by the reporter 

LONDON: The US State Department has appointed a fluent speaker of Urdu and Hindi as a spokesperson in London to create better communications with the South Asian linguistic communities.

Margaret MacLeod speaks Urdu and Hindi fluently and her vocabulary is impressive including her knowledge of India and Pakistan which she gained during her work as a diplomat in these countries.

During a visit to the Geo News London office, MacLeod spoke passionately — in fluent Urdu — about how her stay in Pakistan and the friendships she made there had helped her learn Urdu, both literal and colloquial.

MacLeod was posted in Pakistan from 2010 onwards and she was able to explore several cities across Pakistan, with a focus on Pakistan’s historic sites which are of huge interest to historians.

She started taking Urdu lessons in the United States as part of her diplomatic post requirement but she was able to sharpen her skills during her direct interaction with the speakers of these languages in Pakistan and India.

“I have worked in Islamabad and Karachi and travelled to many places,” she said.

The American diplomat said that learning Urdu, coming from her background, was difficult initially but “it’s a beautiful language”. She is also a fluent speaker of Japanese and Gujarati.

She shared: “For me, it was difficult to pronounce many Urdu and Hindi words and do certain deliveries of vowels and words but I did a lot of hard work and practised with my Urdu-speaking friends. I continue to work hard on my Urdu and Hindi.”

MacLeod is now posted in the US Embassy's International Media Hub which engages South Asian, Dari and Pan-Aran media, especially India and Pakistan.

She shared that her sources of obtaining news about Pakistan are Geo News and Voice of America

“I learn Urdu from various sources. For news in Pakistan, I follow Geo News, Voice of America Urdu service and some other mediums. Mainly it's news that I follow. I use my language skills in restaurants and on London streets. I keep meeting people in London who speak Hindi and Urdu," she added. 

MacLeod described Pakistan as a “beautiful country” where she spent two years of her diplomatic life. 

“I worked there for two years and visited Lahore and Karachi. I visited places such as Khewra Salt Mines, and Rothas Qilla. My favourite place was the historic city of Taxila.”

Before taking up her role in London, MacLeod was posted in New Delhi. She was struck by the cultural similarities between the two warring neighbours. 

“Both countries share a lot of common culture. Cultural relations between the people are quite strong. For me, it was a great experience to be in both countries to experience so much.”

MacLeod is a seasoned American diplomat and has served in various overseas assignments, including roles in US Missions in India, Pakistan, and Japan. 

She holds a doctorate in Sustainable Development from Columbia University, earned her bachelor’s degree in International Economics from Georgetown University, and pursued studies at the Delhi School of Economics as a Rotary Scholar. She has worked in the US Senate and the US Mission to the United Nations for many years.