Foreign languages deserve a place on our campus

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J’écris ce message pour ceux qui croient que l’université est un endroit où la liberté de la parole et la tolération sont liées à notre capacité de l’interaction avec des autres cultures et des nationalités. A l’université, les langues étrangères montrent la vie autonome, alors on doit les utiliser plus souvent afin d’enseigner tout le monde des vies et des fois différentes.

Did you understand that? If you did, hopefully you will agree with the sentiments involved and agree with the principle that the right to freedom of expression is one that we, as a community, must hold dear. As a university we are entitled to communicate as we desire and can therefore choose whichever language we feel is necessary to publicise our views outside of the constraints of the lecture theatre.

I am, of course, commenting on a particular issue that has cropped up in recent weeks; that is the existence of foreign language advertisements on campus. It has been argued that, amongst the many claims put forward by detractors, that they raise racial tensions, damage community cohesion and are alienating and offensive. However, these issues fail to take into account many counter-examples and counter-arguments that oppose their hackney-eyed and tired conclusions.

Firstly, the idea that a simple poster can be both alienating and offensive is ridiculous. Do these people watch foreign films and feel that they cannot enjoy the experience? Advertisements in another language can be comforting for students who may be thousands of miles away from their homeland, comparable to the British signs that litter southern Spain to cater for the British community and tourist industry there. There is no harm in aiming a poster at foreign students, to try and make them feel accepted and to allow them to express themselves as they wish to without the fear of repercussions. Campus allows for this safe haven; it allows them to feel secure about who they are and where they come from. This is hardly the “alienating” and “offensive” tracts that some have claimed and to make these arguments is a testament to both ignorance and a lack of empathy for the wellbeing of others.

The idea that the existence of foreign languages can damage social cohesion is a fallacy. Surely forcing a subsection of society on campus to communicate in English, even in issues that have nothing to do whatsoever with the university, is in itself damaging to social cohesion on campus? Students have the right to be able to communicate in any way that they want with other individuals; outside of lectures the idea that someone should be forced to speak a certain language, poster in a certain language and have meetings in a certain language undermines the university experience. If we cannot tolerate other ways of life here where can we be sure that they will be tolerated?

We should look to embrace the different culture, languages and people that exist at this university and should feel proud that we produce such a warm friendly atmosphere for incoming international students. It is a testament to campus that so many lifestyles are not only tolerated but actively encouraged. In this case, it seems that a small minority wish to challenge the legitimacy of these views and the social cohesion on campus; ironically undermining the very concepts that they claim to support. Is it really an issue that damages race relations, either on campus or in wider society? It is not. The idea that we should dismantle our ideas on freedom of communication in order to attend to the paranoid ramblings of a select few is both lunacy and a gross misrepresentation of the issues at hand.

This is a message for all you who feel that your university is a place where freedom of expression and toleration are intrinsically connected with our ability to interact with other cultures and nationalities. Foreign languages on campus are an example of autonomous living and should be not only allowed but encouraged as a way of educating people of different ways of life and different belief systems. It would be a sad day if these ideas were removed due to ill-informed fear and suspicion by a small sub-section of those who come here for an education. Surely, allowing the promotion of foreign languages on campus is at least remaining true to our purpose here at university; to learn, experience and participate in different lifestyles. I for one see this as a positive. It is a shame some do not.

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