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LCC International University > News and Events > Multilingualism is a Superpower

Multilingualism is a Superpower


“Multilingualism is your superpower, not your weapon,” is what I said. But what I really was thinking was “you guys are amazing polyglots!” I was presenting at a conference recently in Jonas Jablonskis Gymnasium in Kaunas, central Lithuania. The Kaunas Education Innovation Centre and Kaunas Jonas Jablonskis Gymnasium hosted a thoughtful, academic conference for the youth of Lithuania entitled “Finding your voice in a global world.”

Conversations in Lithuania. Presentations in English. Jokes in Spanish. Greetings in Ukrainian. In the room full of teenagers, many excitedly reported that they are learning English, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese. They are studying languages at school, but also online, and through the media.

We celebrate multilingual events, especially for youth. Our youth of Lithuania are amazing, and they use their superpower of multilingualism to find their voice in a global world. All afternoon, multilingual secondary pupils gave fluent and thoughtful presentations on the topics of global innovations, sustainability, media, and diversity. Pupils attended in-person and online, from across Lithuania and including one school in Ukraine.

The first day promoted Lithuanian language skills. As a historical Sanskrit language, Lithuanian is treasured by the Lithuanian people for cultural insights and historical significance.

The second day of the conference was devoted to multilingualism. Heather Gaddis, US Embassy Representative, engaged the audience with games and proverbs highlighting both the “messiness” and the opportunities that plurilingualism provides.

My presentation was a caution. The more languages you speak, the more opportunities you have to interact with people from vastly different cultures from your own. So often, we tend to stereotype people as to their cultural identity instead of seeing them as individuals. All British are formal. All Mexicans are late. All Americans are loud. While cultures shape our worldview, we must be ever aware of our false accusations of a particular group. Multilingualism can be used to speak harsh hurtful words into a potentially volatile situation.

Listen well. Ask questions. Be a learner. Not hard lessons but important in our increasingly plurilingual world. We can speak many languages to promote our superpower of speech, not using words as weapons. Applause, applause to our multilingual pupils of Lithuania! May they find their voice in their global world.

Author: Robin Gingerich, Ph.D., MA TESOL Program Director at LCC International University.

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