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University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus

University of Colorado Denver, Newsroom

Comparative literature professor speaks to problems in multilingualism

Language is critical for the future

4/16/2012
Mark Shell, Harvard University professor of Comparative Literature

DENVER - The words we use and the language we use to say those words are critical components of our messages, according to Mark Shell, Harvard University professor of Comparative Literature. 

Shell spoke with a group gathered today in the Tivoli's Multicultural Lounge to dicuss multilingualism.

As Americans, Shell said, we are choosing to unlearn the language of our youth in favor for knowing partial English. 

He described how universities are becoming a place where language education teaches basic skills of written English and nothing else. Other languages are becoming non-existent in universities today by way of foreign language departments disappearing, said Shell.

Shell stated studies have shown that fully bilingual students are more intelligent than their single-lingual counterparts. He also said that Americans need to understand English better to begin to understand other languages. There is a problem across the country, he said, with people attempting to speak two languages while not truly understanding and speaking one language. 

Although there are many different languages that are being spoken on campuses across the country, such as CU Denver, they are not multilingual campuses but multicultural instead. Shell concluded with the idea that there always is going to be tension between knowing multiple languages and knowing no particular language overall.  

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