The International Student Association and Ask Big Questions hosted a discussion Thursday night at the Buffett Center about the importance of bilingualism in a global society. Professors and students weighed the positives and negatives of learning languages in addition to English.
After a dinner of Asian food from Joy Yee’s, professors John Paluch, Jill Felten and Viorica Marian spoke about their experiences as multilingual speakers and professors. About 40 people attended the two-hour event.
Paluch, a German professor, said the vast majority of Americans do not need to understand a second language because English is so dominant. However, he encouraged students to study languages in order to broaden their opportunities.
“I work as hard as I can to get students to go abroad and experience a new culture because it’s really eye-opening,” Paluch said.
Students participating in the discussion came mainly from multilingual backgrounds and shared stories of traveling abroad, attempts to lose their accents and transliterations across cultures.
Medill senior Becca Weinstein, an Ask Big Questions co-chair, recounted her experience studying abroad for six months in the south of France, where she said she could have survived solely with English.
“English comes close to the idea of a universal language,” Weinstein said. “Other people are learning it out of necessity because it’s the common language.”
Editor’s note: This article incorrectly stated that the Ask Big Questions program is associated with Hillel. The group is not affiliated with Hillel, and this article has since been updated to reflect the correction. The Daily regrets the error.