How do we defend the teaching of modern languages and cultures at universities
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In an excerpt from a keynote lecture, given at the University of Orléans, France, in June 2015, Jan Čulík highlights the strategic importance of language-based study of foreign cultures.
He argues that the West is making the mistake of interpreting non-English speaking cultures incorrectly, exclusively on the basis of its own cultural experience. The impact of this is global destabilisation.
Jan reminds us about the pressing role that languages play in a world ridden by political conflict and war. How can it be that language, literature and culture courses at universities are often the first to be cut by governments’ and managers’ efforts to save money, when understanding languages and cultures is at the heart of global security? How can we create peaceful and secure countries with no mutual understanding of our different ways of life and diverse identities? History has taught us many times over that lack of understanding breeds prejudice and fear. It often leads to hate speech and racist behaviour. Are languages and culture courses academically dispensable or do they contribute to our societies’ progress towards a more peaceful, humane future? Reflect on the above questions as you watch Jan’s commentary.
Jan Čulík is a Senior Lecturer in Czech Studies at the University of Glasgow. For many years now, he has been emphasising the vital importance of intercultural communication. Recently he has been writing extensively about the rise of xenophobia and islamophobia in the post-communist countries of the European Union.
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