UCLA professors discuss linguistic diversity, event on Chinese language
By Connie Zhou
April 6, 2015 12:00 a.m.
In a globalized modern society, the demand for foreign language learning and understanding cultural diversity is increasing. From April 3-5, UCLA’s Asian Languages and Cultures Department hosts the 27th Annual North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics. The purpose of the NACCL event is to bring together Chinese language scholars from all over the world to exchange ideas on academic research in the Chinese language.
ZHOU: From April 3-5, UCLA’s Asian Languages and Cultures Department hosts the 27th Annual North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics. The purpose of the NACCL event is to bring together Chinese language scholars from all over the world to exchange ideas on academic research in the Chinese language. Unlike NACCL conferences in the past, this NACCL conference sought to combine academic research in Chinese language with aspects of Chinese language teaching.
Tao: We have a lot of undergraduate students to help us organize the conference. Now, they have a chance to talk to top researchers from the field, and so they can see what is going on in the field.
ZHOU: That was UCLA Professor of Chinese language and linguistics Hongyin Tao. Seated in a newly furnished Royce Hall conference room, Professor Tao, who is also the organizer of the North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics, or NACCL, expresses the significance of this particular conference.
Tao: This is the first time the conference is hosted by UCLA. It is a major conference in the field and very international. This conference is especially interesting because the theme of the conference is integrating Chinese linguistic research with language teaching, because Chinese language teaching is a very popular field these days in the country. So for the first time we have a theme that combines research and the practical aspects of language teaching together. So it should be an interesting conference.
For us to have this conference here, it provides a wonderful opportunity for the researchers and teachers of the area to get together to talk about the latest findings. That is great not only for UCLA but also for the community in the Los Angeles area.
ZHOU: With12.6% of its students hailing from abroad, UCLA is a microcosm of Los Angeles’s cultural diversity. Prior to the NACCL event, first-year biochemistry student Angela Sun, Professor Shushan Karapetian of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and Professor Olga Kagan of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Languages and Cultures share their insight and experiences with language diversity on campus.
Karapetian: I think UCLA is a wonderful reflection of the linguistic diversity of Los Angeles. I would define language diversity as the wealth of languages present in any area.
Sun: UCLA’s language diversity is a good perspective and great side of UCLA. People feel like home when they hear their home languages. This is a characteristic of California, a characteristic of Los Angeles and also a characteristic of UCLA.
ZHOU: While discussing UCLA’s linguistic landscape, the professors draw connections between language diversity to cultural diversity on a broader scale.
Kagan: About 21% of inhabitants of the U.S., according to the latest census, speak a language other than English at home. In Los Angeles county alone, the number is around 56%, which is over half of the population.
ZHOU: Based on data from the latest census, Professor Tao depicts a connection between language diversity to cultural diversity.
Tao: Language diversity is always something exciting. Because language is part of culture, when we talk about multiculturalism, it’s always related to multilingualism.Without different languages we can’t have different cultures. We live in a multicultural world. We need to promote language learning to learn other people and other cultures better.
ZHOU: As international scholars and researchers of the Chinese language participated in the NACCL event, UCLA language professors discuss the potential contributions that international students can bring to UCLA’s linguistic landscape.
Karapetian: Language is a window to so many things. Language is a window to culture. A lot of international students would, for example, TA for a foreign language class. They are the filterers to revealing this new world to local UCLA students. Also, they interact with local students, they become this intermediary between local students and the home culture, and the home country and the home language. They physically and metaphorically contribute to the linguistic diversity here.
ZHOU: Professor Kagan stresses that when international students come and study at UCLA, they bring with them not only foreign languages, but the essence of foreign culture.
Kagan: What these international students bring with them is the authenticity of the culture. They come here after being fully exposed to the language and culture of their country, and they bring this here. When you exchange opinions in English with a foreigner, or you exchange opinions with a foreigner in their language, it is much richer. You need to go both ways. I think if we cherish, support and grow this diversity and the positive attitude of our students to foreign languages that would be a very valuable thing, because as a society we would all benefit from it.
ZHOU: Although the 27th NACCL is only three days long, the discussion of linguistic diversity on campus remains an issue. UCLA professors hope that by advocating the exposure of students to culturally diverse experiences such as the NACCL, UCLA can become a more accepting and welcoming environment. For Daily Bruin Radio, this is Connie Zhou.