April 14th, 2015 @ 9:48 pm by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi
Last week, I was able to participate in a forum entitled “Language Matters” hosted by the UC Davis Language Center This series of public conversations “serves to facilitate conversations surrounding all matters related to language: learning, teaching, scholarship, and advocacy”.
In my brief remarks, I talked about my perspective and personal experience focusing on the intricacies of culture and societal challenges of our times that can only be understood through the study of language. I shared with the group an anecdote from my college years in Greece back in the 1970s.
My friends and I took classes in American culture and language at the Hellenic-American Union in Athens. The instructors who taught the courses were all American and did not speak a word of Greek. On the first day of class, we talked about American culture and the instructor proudly said that even though America is a country of immigrants, all Americans are part of the “melting pot”. When I asked what the melting pot was, the instructor described it as “something like fondue, where you put in all kinds of cheese and it comes out as one.” That day I left with thinking about how painful it could be to in this boiling hot pot.
Forty years later, I have seen this “melting pot” metaphor melting away. The study of language has built the case for a richer educational experience it has also been instrumental in the advocacy of multiculturalism. Language allows us to see the world in new ways and serves as a force for inspiration not only at UC Davis but around the globe.