13 December 2016

Multilingualism Brings Us Closer

On Thursday, 1 December 2016, I was a volunteer at the 3rd Annual J. Michael Adams Lecture and Conversation Series. This was particularly a rewarding experience since I was involved in planning the event, creating and sending invitations and writing introductory speeches, and loved seeing the event come into fruition.


The keynote speaker was educator and co-founder of the “Many Languages, One World” essay contest, Mark Harris, President Emeritus of ELS Educational Services and Berlitz. Harris spoke about the importance of multilingualism and language education, employing the lens of refugee politics and xenophobia. This was a timely approach to take since, as Harris points out, there has been a rise in xenophobia around the world recently. He stressed the importance of multilingual education because it helps refugees to integrate and gives them a voice when they learn the language of the countries in which they reside. He further stated that multilingualism is important to instill in the students of the global north because it helps remind us all of tolerance and respect “so we can live it every day.”


In addition to remarks from Mr. Harris, the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, spoke on the ways multilingualism manifests itself in a diverse nation like India. This was a particular treat to the nearly 100 Indian exchange students from Amity University that were present at the lecture. Ambassador Akbaruddin said that in India, it was common for a sentence to start in one language and transfer to a second, and end in a third. It was fascinating to hear about how multilingualism can be so engrained in a culture that is commonplace to have a conversation in many languages.


Finally, Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon spoke to the audience in his last address of the J. Michael Adams Lecture and Conversation Series. He spoke very highly of the late J. Michael Adams, the educator and President of Fairleigh Dickenson University, after whom the lecture is named. Ms. Susan Adams, the former First Lady of Fairleigh Dickenson University, was visibly touched by the SG’s kind words and was overwhelmed with emotion when he was finished talking. It was a lovely, heartwarming way to end the lecture and conversation series.


If you weren’t able to join us in person or via webcast for this year’s J. Michael Adams Lecture and Conversation Series you can watch it here