Power Language

The Power of Language  will be hosted by Fries Center for Global Studies at Wesleyan University on the weekend of April 6-7, 2018.

Language is not just a tool for communication but can be a way to express certain values and traditions of a society.  Language not only mediates our relationships and serves as the basis for community, it also controls our capacity to navigate professional and academic environments. Language is not only the words we use to talk about our feelings and ideas, language can also be physical, visual, technological and sensual. The ability to speak a second (or third or fourth) language is a skill shared and desired by many. It allows us to broaden our knowledge of the world through communication with new people or through traveling to new places. How do necessary processes, like (self) translation, shape our perception of ourselves and others? What happens when (self) censorship is made visible, and how does that impact our narratives and self-expression? This symposium will discuss all these topics! We welcome creative writing and performance about language in addition to academic work.

At this two-day symposium, students, professors and community members will explore questions of how language builds boundaries and bridges. Some of the key issues we are looking to explore are:

  • Language and Culture
  • Language and Identity
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Working and Living in a Foreign Language
  • Language and Technology
  • Roundtable Discussion
  • Open Panel for Creative Work and Performance

Please consider participating by submitting a proposal to one of the topics listed below. Read more about each topic in the dropdown menu.

All materials must be received by February 23, 2018.

If you have any questions, ideas or suggestions you would like to share please contact Prof. Sole Anatrone: sanatrone@wesleyan.edu.

  • Language and Culture

    Language is not just a tool for communication but can be a way to express certain values and traditions of a society. Likewise, culture can also shape and define the way a certain language is used. In order to facilitate discussions on how language and culture can be intertwined, we invite you to submit a paper or piece of creative writing on this topic. Below are some suggestions, though we welcome proposals that explore this idea in a variety of ways:

    • How does learning another language facilitate cultural awareness?
    • What are some key elements of language that are essential to expression of culture?
    • How can language play a role in creating social hierarchy? (i.e. Language and gender, race, class, etc.)
    • How can we bridge language barriers in diverse settings, especially in communities with immigrants from different countries?

     

    SUBMIT A PROPOSAL 

  • Language and Identity

    The question how identity shapes language shapes identity, is key to our understanding of how individuals and communities understand themselves. In our increasingly globalized world, people are gaining more access to the study different languages and thus are able to better contemplate these questions about the effect of language on identity.

    • How do necessary processes, like (self) translation, shape our perception of ourselves and others?
    • What happens when (self) censorship is made visible, and how does that impact our narratives and self-expression?
    • How does speaking a “minority” or even stigmatized language affect our perceptions of power?

     

    SUBMIT A PROPOSAL 

  • Second Language Acquisition

    The ability to speak a second (or third or fourth) language is a skill shared and desired by many. It allows us to broaden our knowledge of the world through communication with new people or through traveling to new places. It also increases opportunities in the workforce. However, not everyone has similar experience of acquiring this skill; some of us may learn a new language in the laps of our grandmothers, while others go through rigorous university courses, or piece together scraps out of necessity to survive in a new country. For this topic, we invite submissions that relate to the topic of learning a foreign language in different contexts. The proposals may elaborate on, but are not limited to, the following categories:

    • Benefits of learning a foreign language
    • Learning a foreign language in high school compared to higher education institutions
    • Expanding opportunities to learn foreign languages 
    • Language acquisition and global competence
    • Difficulties of learning a foreign language at a certain age (i.e. critical period hypothesis)

     

    SUBMIT A PROPOSAL 

  • Working and Living in Foreign Language

    Language not only mediates our relationships and serves as the basis for community, it also controls our capacity to navigate professional and academic environments. We invite you to submit an academic paper or piece of creative writing on one of the following themes:

    • Firsthand experience as a foreign-exchange or international student
    • Professorial teaching and research in a foreign language
    • Firsthand experience of, and academic research on, other forms of professional work in a second language. This includes ways in which working in a foreign language affects one's personal professional development or creates hierarchies of access to promotions and professional networks.
    • Firsthand experience or academic research on social, political, professional integration into a foreign country as an asylum-seeker, expatriate, or migrant for other purposes 
    • Professional opportunities to continue learning a foreign language (i.e. fellowships and internships)

     

    SUBMIT A PROPOSAL 

  • Language and Technology

    Developments and breakthroughs in the artificial intelligence industry have captured public attention in recent years. Two important aspects about this technology have to do with how well it can understand human language, and how should it comprehend human language given the many biases within the training data set.

    Debates have focused on questions about bias built into AI through Natural Language Processing models; the ways in which machines understand languages, including the newest breakthrough and algorism in Natural Language Understanding; Overgeneration (eg. making false classifications on tasks including authorship attribution, Named-entity recognition, knowledge base population) that are built into AI through the way they study language; and advance ways in which machines recognize language including (speech recognition, speech-text conversations, speech analysis, textual tagging, and so forth).

    We hope to explore this debates further and invite submissions of academic papers of creative writing on this topic.

     

    SUBMIT A PROPOSAL 

  • Roundtable Discussion

    The symposium aims to bring into conversation a wide range of perspectives on the experiences of learning and living in a second language or across multiple languages. Linguistic competency is a major determinant of access to opportunities for education, career advancement, civic engagement, and other forms of social connection. For the very same reasons, not speaking a certain language can be marginalizing and prohibitive.

    This roundtable discussion will focus on a theme related to living and/or learning in a second language or in multiple languages. The pieces presented and discussed may be creative or critical, and may include content in any (or multiple) language(s), provided there is an accessible translation. The discussion itself will take place primarily in English. Proposed themes include, but are not limited to:

    • Linguistics
    • Translation
    • Language acquisition
    • Multilingualism
    • Multiculturalism

     

    SUBMIT A PROPOSAL 

  • Open Panel for Creative Work and Performance

    Language is not only the words we use to talk about our feelings and ideas, language can also be physical, visual, technological and sensual. This panel invites submissions for all forms of creative expression related to this topic. We are looking for works of poetry, dance, song, creative writing and more that grapple with the complex question of how we understand our world through multiple languages simultaneously.  

     

    SUBMIT A PROPOSAL