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First ever International Mother Language Day celebration on CSULB

Multiple academic departments joined forces to spread diversity and positivity Tuesday.

Kyle+Petrulio%2C+linguistic+assistant%2C+adds+to+the+Empathy+Production+Project%2C+which+focuses+on+ways+to+foster+empathy+production+with+the+phrase%2C+%E2%80%9CI+appreciate+and+respect+you%E2%80%9D+in+all+the+languages+spoken+in+CSULB+community.
Kyle Petrulio, linguistic assistant, adds to the Empathy Production Project, which focuses on ways to foster empathy production with the phrase, “I appreciate and respect you” in all the languages spoken in CSULB community.

Kyle Petrulio, linguistic assistant, adds to the Empathy Production Project, which focuses on ways to foster empathy production with the phrase, “I appreciate and respect you” in all the languages spoken in CSULB community.

Alexie Johnson

Alexie Johnson

Kyle Petrulio, linguistic assistant, adds to the Empathy Production Project, which focuses on ways to foster empathy production with the phrase, “I appreciate and respect you” in all the languages spoken in CSULB community.

Zulema Suarez, Staff Writer

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If you walked by the Psychology quad around noon on Tuesday, you might have noticed a huge crowd of people playing games, taking quizzes and hanging posters on walls.  If you listened closely, you probably heard many of the people speaking different languages to one another.

The reason behind all of this was to launch the first ever celebration of International Mother Language Day at Cal State Long Beach. The event was organized by the Linguistics Student Association in partner with “I appreciate and respect you” Linguistic Landscaping, launched by  Linguistics Department Chair Alexandra Jaffe and Director of American Indian Studies Craig Stone.

International Mother Language Day has been recognized since 1999, and celebrated worldwide since 2000. On campus, the event was sponsored by language and language-related departments like anthropology, American Indian studies and American Sign Language.

The celebration consisted of presentations and posters focusing on the languages of California, a parade of people holding signs saying the languages they are fluent in and students getting the opportunity to write “I appreciate and respect you” in their mother language – or any language they know.  

“This was an attempt to recognize and appreciate this diversity. Dr. Stone felt like there was not sufficient empathy and for our department, in particular, we felt that to appreciate the diversity we need to first identify, describe and document it,” Amir Sharifi, a linguistics and anthropology professor. “[International Mother Language Day] is the perfect day to do it.”

Stone described how the idea to celebrate the day came to be.

“Last year there was this advertisement on campus for a play, and it was just racial slurs,” he said. “It was just like, ‘Do you want to make everyone on campus feel unsafe, unwelcome and uncomfortable?’”

In response to that, Stone said he wanted to put signs up where the first phrase people would learn from a language wouldn’t be something derogatory. He said that a good amount of people on campus were not feeling respected or appreciated.

“What would it be like to smudge the campus in positivity and wipe it clean?” Stone said.

After writing on the language wall, students had the opportunity to be voice recorded saying “I appreciate and respect you” in the language they chose and placed on an app for the Department of Linguistics.

“Our goal is really to place these posters around campus, and each one of them shows you the language, and each poster has a QR code,” Jaffe said. “You get a QR code reader from any app store, and when you scan it, it’ll take you directly to a website where you hear an audio or see a video of the person saying the phrase in the language on the poster.”

Jaffe also mentioned that this project is only the beginning for what they expect to be a very successful year for the Linguistics department, and Sharifi expects the International Mother Language Day to become an annual event for CSULB.

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