As the 2013-14 academic year draws to an end, we at the CSLC wish to take a moment to congratulate all of our seniors on not only their graduation (a feat only 6.7% of the world's population has accomplished), but also what they have achieved and accomplished during their undergraduate careers. We honor our seniors—-individuals who earned minors, supplementary majors, and majors in the fourteen languages offered at Notre Dame and supported by the CSLC.
Seniors, we have been privileged to witness as well as share in your growth over the past few years. We applaud and appreciate your accomplishments. In acquiring mastery of a language, each of you, our Graduating Seniors, learned more than vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and syntax: you have acquired a new way of seeing and understanding the world. You have traveled abroad and challenged yourself to reach new heights and embrace new experiences. You became global citizens.
In acquiring language ability as part of their degree, our graduates are indeed exceptional but not unique. As the noted Oxford linguist Suzanne Romaine claims, bilingualism and multilingualism “are a normal and unremarkable necessity of everyday life for the majority of the world’s population.” However, in North America, only 35% of Canada’s population and 20% of the United States’ are bilingual. “For too long,” as Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, stated at the 2010 Foreign Language Summit, “Americans have relied on other countries to speak our language…But we won’t be able to do that in the increasingly complex and interconnected world.”
The Secretary’s comments reflect a current growing appreciation of the role that multilingual individuals, such as our graduates, can play in an increasingly diverse society. There is also a greater understanding of the academic and cognitive benefits that may accrue from learning other languages. Bilingualism and multilingualism have many benefits to society. Americans who are fluent in more than one language can enhance economic competitiveness abroad, maintain the United States’ political and security interests, and work to promote an understanding of cultural diversity within the United States. Proficiency in languages other than English is critical to our contemporary world and in ensuring a peaceful and just global society.
Seniors, as you leave campus with degrees in hand, it is a bittersweet time for us at the CSLC; it is both a time of celebration and difficult partings. As you commence the next phase of your journey, we wish you every success. We are confident that you will be lifelong learners who will use your language skills and cultural competence to make a meaningful difference in the world one day at a time, one conversation at a time, one e-mail at a time.