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Welcome Message from Professor Stacey Katz Bourns, Director of the World Languages Center

Dr. Stacey Katz Bourns

The World Languages Center offers courses in an array of languages, all with the same goal: to help you acquire fluency and linguistic proficiency in the language that you choose to study, as well as deep cultural insights into the culture(s) of the people who speak these languages.

Some may question why it is important to learn other languages in today’s world, since we now have technologies that can facilitate communication among speakers of different languages. Technology can indeed serve as an aid when you find yourself in a situation where you need to communicate basic thoughts and needs in a language you have not studied. You may be able to get your point across, but your communication risks remaining superficial or confusing. Technology simply cannot give you the cultural agility that you need to make deeper cultural connections — connections that will allow you to understand peoples, cultures, and ultimately yourself and your own culture, better. As Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun explains in his book, Robot Proof:

“Cultural agility involves more than just knowing how to behave in a video conference or at a foreign restaurant. It requires a deep enough immersion in a culture so that we can fit seamlessly into multicultural teams or get results from people who have dramatically different lives from our own” (pp. 70-71).

In addition, learning to speak another language conveys to others that you have made the commitment to understanding their culture, which is inexorably linked to their language. If you truly wish to become a global citizen, acquiring or at least seeking to develop fluency in another language is an important part of the enterprise.

The following quotation, attributed to Nelson Mandela, sums up the importance of learning another language:

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”