Connecting Through Heritage Languages: “Heritage Meets Heritage” Fosters Deeper Appreciation

With shy smiles but determined enthusiasm, students from diverse backgrounds and eighteen different Heritage Languages gathered to be part of the “Heritage Meets Heritage” event in its new form. This new format is the brainchild of our colleague Sybil Alexandrov, who teaches and oversees the Heritage Course in the Spanish and Portuguese Department.

Seven other languages at Yale (Arabic, Chinese, Modern Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Korean, and Russian) passionately collaborated on bringing about this event aiming to foster a space of inter-cultural dialogue and celebrate the unique experiences shared by heritage language learners. The evening unfolded with a warmth that permeated the entire space, as attendees from varied backgrounds engaged in conversations, each exploring the intricate nuances of navigating life at the intersection of two cultures.

Mary Jo Lubrano from the Yale Center for Language Study opened the evening with information on language diversity in the United States as well as on the Yale Campus. It was amazing to learn about the diversity of languages and varied components in our community. Mary Jo reminded us that the attendees in the room are in fact a reflection of that diversity. 

Beyond these spontaneous interactions, we had planned additional opportunities for engagement. Students were invited to sit around a table of a mixed group. Conversation cards that we priorly placed on each table ensured a vibrant blend of cultural backgrounds in each group (my favorite is the one that asks them to share a home remedy from the culture that they are familiar with). In these intimate settings, they delved deeper, sharing personal stories, experiences, and some nuances they witnessed as heritage speakers.

As the evening progressed, a playful spirit of friendly competition emerged. We had prepared a cultural knowledge Kahoot game, that included questions about languages, foods, traditions, customs, and trivia related to the eight represented cultures. The game provided a delightful blend of learning and lighthearted rivalry, culminating in cheers and applause for the winning students, who received three prizes, each prize carrying a cultural value.

But the evening wasn’t just about intellectual challenges and competition. We had curated a sensory experience, providing delicious snacks representative of each participating culture. The vibrant colors and a variety of flavors further enriched the experience, offering a delightful food journey across continents.

The evening concluded with a raffle, where if their name was drawn, participants received more prizes and cultural artifacts. We hope that the thrill of winning, coupled with the warm companionship built throughout the evening, leaves a lasting impression on all attendees.

“Heritage Meets Heritage” proved to be more than just an event; it was a testament to the power of shared experiences in fostering understanding and fostering an appreciation for diversity. It was a celebration of the unique journeys of heritage language learners and a platform for them to connect, learn, and grow from one another’s stories.

A special note of gratitude goes out to our sponsors, my colleagues in the participating languages and their departments at Yale, the Yale Center of Language Study, The Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Yale Belonging Initiative for their invaluable support in making this event a resounding success.

As the echoes of laughter and conversation faded within the walls of room one hundred in Dow Hall, one thing remained clear – the spirit of “Heritage Meets Heritage” will continue to resonate within the diverse student community at Yale, inspiring further dialogue, understanding, and celebration of the rich tapestry of cultural experiences that everyone brings to the table.

Click here to see pictures from the event.

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