Language Matters

Kathleen Stein Smith, Ph.D

Kathy at Many Languages One World (MLOW) 2015 — a wonderful week culminating at the UN

I have just returned from “Many Languages One World (MLOW),” now in its second year.

MLOW is a program sponsored by ELS Educational Services, Inc. and the United Nations Academic Impact to highlight the importance of multilingualism in global citizenship and to promote multilingualism and the study of the six official languages of the UN (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish — in alphabetical order).

Entrants are full-time college or university students, and the 2,000-word essays are written in a language that is not the student’s native language or the primarily language of his/her pre-university education.

The essay topic for this year related to the post-2015 UN global sustainable development agenda.  Over 1,250 essays were submitted, finalists were interviewed, and the 70 winners from 42 countries were selected.

While 60 winners, 10 for each official language of the UN, had been selected in 2014, in order to commemorate the conclusion of the UN’s 70th anniversary year, 70 winners were selected in 2015.

The students were brought to New York where they spent a week on the campus of Adelphi University.  After orientation and 2 days of intense preparation and practice, they presented at the UN General Assembly on July 24th and enjoyed a weekend of sightseeing in New York before returning home.

As French language facilitator, my mission was to coach the 12 French language winners, from 9 countries, as they prepared their presentations and Powerpoint slides, and to accompany them to the UN.

Each language group was assigned one of the goals of the current draft of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and the French language group was assigned Goal 16 — “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

As had been my experience last year, I came away from the event impressed, not only by the linguistic knowledge of the students and the diverse insights they brought to their topics, but even more so for their ability to effectively communicate across linguistic and cultural differences while visibly enjoying the beginnings of new global friendships.

Many thanks to all who have made Many Languages One World possible — ELS, the UN Academic Impact, and Adelphi University.  Special thanks to the MLOW staff and to the entire team of facilitators, whose dedication and professionalism were exemplary.

Heartfelt thanks to the student winners, whose ability to transcend local language and culture to address global issues gives hope for the future.

For additional information:

To view the MLOW 2015 French Language presentations:


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