English Language Day at the United Nations (UN) is celebrated on 23 April every year. This special day forms part of a wider initiative to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity, as well as to promote equal use of all six official languages throughout the United Nations.
Why are these language days at the UN important? They are important because their purpose is to inform and entertain global citizens, to increase awareness and respect for the history, culture and achievements of each of the six working languages among the UN community. They also promotes tolerance, ensures effective and increased participation and collaboration of the global work the UN does, which in turn encourages the collaboration and connectivity between nations around the world.
This is so important for us at Torrens University, as we are Australia’s International University. We are globally minded and our students come from all around the world. This means that language, communication and cultural diversity and tolerance that the UN language days promote are critical to us.
Set on the date of William Shakespeare’s birthday, English Language Day at the UN celebrates the culture, history and importance of the English language. As you would know, English is significant as it is the global language. It is one of the two working languages of the UN and it has also become the ‘lingua franca’ of international relations around the world.
At Torrens University, English is also our lingua franca. Although we do deliver some courses in alternative languages, English is the language that connects our students to our university and our programs. For international students that come to us hoping to fulfil their dream of an Australian Higher Education, learning the English language is the first step in their journey of learning. This can sometimes seem like a long and somewhat arduous process, however, we are dedicated to every student that comes to us and entrusts us with their tertiary education, especially international students, and so we are committed to teaching the English language well and place immense importance on this at our Torrens University Language Centre.
At our Torrens University Language Centre, we take our students from elementary all the way through to the entry point for a Master’s degree. Our teachers are specialists in teaching English to speakers of other languages and in delivering our program, we are acutely aware that teaching a language is also about teaching and immersing culture; both local and academic.
Being the Vice President of International at Torrens University, most people wouldn’t know I used to be an ESL teacher. For many years, I ended up being lucky enough to live and work in Italy, China, Spain, and Colombia. Like it or not, English is the primary medium through which the world communicates, and being able to articulate yourself in another language is one of the most empowering experiences a student can have.
This is why our ESL (English as a second language) classrooms are a very special place for our international students. We spend 20 hours a week with our students, who are studying English quite intensively. During this time, students not only learn grammar, vocabulary, and how to write an essay but also about their fellow colleagues’ cultures and home countries. The ESL classroom is also a place where students can learn about our Australian culture – we facilitate an open and inclusive environment where students can feel free to ask their teachers questions about things they observe and might not understand about the Australian culture. Our ESL program is not only a classroom, but it is a place where our international students become comfortable and first acculturate to their new home and surroundings.
Our Torrens University Language Centre Program Director, Barbara Sotiriadis has been teaching ESL for a long time and articulates how our Torrens ESL program is more than just a course to us. She says,
“I’ve taught ESL since 2001 both here and in Switzerland. At times it doesn’t feel like a job, but an immense privilege. To sit in a room with a bunch of highly motivated people, exchanging thoughts and ideas as they learned to express both in another language. Some of my longest and most enduring friendships were formed in classrooms and I have learned about so many different cultures, different ways of thinking, and beliefs”.
We are dedicated to providing our students with the very best possible learning experience. Today, on English Language day, let’s remember it is not only about learning the English language for our students, but the experience and immersion into a new culture. To learn more about our Torrens University Language Centre, click here.
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