Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Jun 2 2022

Julie Sedivy- What if we admit we love our languages?

Multilingualism Matters Chicago Talk Series

June 2, 2022

3:00 PM - 5:00 PM


McCormick Auditorium, Norris University Center


1999 Campus Dr., Evanston, IL



This is a public lecture event organized Multilingualism Matters Chicago, hosted by Northwestern University.

From the event organizers:

Julie Sedivy has taught linguistics and psychology at Brown University and the University of Calgary. In addition to textbooks (Language in Mind, an introduction to psycholinguistics), she writes for general audiences about language – how it sets up camp in the human mind, and how it plays out in human interactions and in society at large. Her latest book is Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self.

Event Poster can be viewed HERE.

What if we admit we love our languages?

American society holds deeply ambivalent attitudes toward the learning of foreign languages. On one hand, other languages are recognized as valuable skills in a global economy; on the other hand, they are seen as potential threats to national identity and unity. In other words, we would like Americans to be able to speak other languages, but not to be emotionally attached to them. This ambivalence percolates throughout institutions and policies, with consequences that range from educational inefficiencies to the alienation of immigrants from their families of origin.

I suggest an alternative to the cautious utilitarianism that dominates many discussions of multilingualism. What if we were to whole-heartedly acknowledge and support the ways in which the lives and psyches of many Americans are deeply entangled with other languages? How would this change educational practices and policies? And what benefits would we reap for individuals, communities, and society at large? I argue that among other payoffs, nurturing a healthy multilingualism—one that values emotional ties to more than one linguistic and cultural group—can serve as an antidote to a toxic culture of conflict and polarization precisely because it fosters a complicated sense of identity that transcends rigid allegiance a single group.


Bilingualism Matters Chicago

Date posted

May 3, 2022

Date updated

May 3, 2022