Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Russian-speaking student learns lessons of humanity

Lauren Klein, a UNC Charlotte student, Department of Languages and Culture Studies, has been chosen as a winner of the United Nations Academic Impact “Many Languages, One World” contest. 

From among 1,500 contests, 60 students were chosen to represent each of the six official languages of the United Nations—Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.  Together with the other contest winners, Klein will travel to New York to participate in a four-day Global Youth Forum and present her work to the United Nations. 

Lauren Klein
Lauren, who has just completed her fourth semester of Russian language, was selected as one of 10 representatives of Russian.  In order to be selected, she had to first demonstrate written proficiency in Russian in the form of a 1,000 word essay and then demonstrate spoken proficiency by undergoing an oral interview in Russian.  In her essay, Lauren addresses the question of the relationship of multilingualism to global citizenship by drawing on her family’s history and her own personal experiences with languages learning.  

Compelled by a love of Russian literature, particularly the works of Vladimir Nabokov, whom she quotes in her essay, Klein began to study Russian independently at the age of 16.  To her dismay, however, she encountered adverse attitudes towards Russian in her family, which stemmed from events of the past.  Unbeknownst to her until recently, Lauren’s maternal great-grandparents fled the Russian Empire for Canada as Jewish refugees at the beginning of the 20th century.  Yet these harrowing circumstances only amplified the importance of Russian for Klein. 

In her view, studying another language increases humanity, respect, and understanding between people of different cultural backgrounds.  The United Nations contest has been a great opportunity for Klein to connect with native speakers of Russian, from her UNC Charlotte professor Yuliya Baldwin, who worked closely with Klein throughout the process, to other teachers and students in the United States and in Russia who generously helped her improve her Russian language skills.  

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