Rajiv RanjanAssistant Hindi-Urdu teacher at Department of Linguistics, Languages ​​and Cultures at Michigan State University, is part of the Asian Studies Program and the Master of Arts in Foreign Language Teaching (MAFLT) Program. Through the MAFLT, he gives summer courses to graduate students pursuing specialized training in language teaching. Currently, he is writing a textbook in Urdu and mentoring seven authors of MSU textbooks in other less commonly taught languages.

Global and cultural literacy is important today for many reasons. These elements help build global acceptance, compassion and understanding, which in turn leads to friendship and collaboration. It helps us to be ready to understand, face and overcome increasing challenges. overall challenges.

We have seen with the COVID-19 pandemic how many global issues are not limited by cultural or geographic boundaries. Over the coming decades, challenges such as climate change will require a global perspective and multicultural understanding. Global and cultural literacy also helps us see the same world through different linguistic and cultural lenses and better experience and understand the human community as a whole. This knowledge helps us to become global citizens and to be able to work and live across borders.

When I reflect on my own life, I can’t even imagine how much living in rural India and becoming a teacher at Michigan State University has changed. I am part of the first generation of my family with a university education. Coming to America wasn’t even a dream until one of my teachers in India told me I wasn’t cut out for America. That was my motivation in some ways.

I was born in a rural part of northern India and moved to a more urban area to complete my secondary education. In my state, there were no colleges or universities that offered degree programs in linguistics, so I moved to Delhi where I obtained a master of arts in linguistics. After graduating with my Masters, I moved to Hyderabad, a major city in South India, to pursue a Masters of Philosophy in Linguistics.

In 2010, I was accepted into the Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant program at the University of Iowa where I also earned my Doctor of Philosophy degree in second language acquisition. In 2015, I started teaching at Michigan State University as an assistant professor of Hindi language.

Language teaching is one of the loves of my life. Growing up in a multilingual society in India, I hadn’t realized the importance of knowing multiple languages. In India, it is common for people to know at least three languages. That said, my learning English has really exposed me to the challenges of acquiring a foreign/second language. I started learning English because it’s considered a prestige language in South Asia, and it’s a common belief in South Asia that to be successful, you have to learn English.

It is important for students to learn additional languages ​​in the present moment. Since English is a global language, many people around the world are learning English in addition to their native language. I think native English speakers who don’t learn additional languages ​​are missing out on a great opportunity to experience diverse perspectives through which they can see the world.

While the saying is true that literature is the mirror of society and language is a building block of literature, learning a language adds an extra lens to view the world and helps build a more tolerant and compassionate society. It also offers tangible business benefits. For example, multilingual doctors or computer engineers can communicate better with their colleagues than monolinguals. This increased ability to connect can advance their career aspirations.

My main goal in life is to have my culture represented in the country of my work. There are several misconceptions about South Asian culture and languages. For example, political borders are not linguistic and cultural borders. Urdu is a national language of Pakistan, but there are more Urdu speakers in India than in Pakistan. Punjabi is considered a language of India, but there are more Punjabi speakers in Pakistan than in India. Culturally, one of the Indian states, West Bengal, is closer to Bangladesh than other states in India. Even though South Asia is linguistically very diverse, it is home to the largest English-speaking population in the world.

Rajiv Ranjan (second row, second from right) and Dean Chris Long (second row, right) with the 2019 Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant cohort.

Rajiv Ranjan (second row, second from right) and Dean Chris Long (second row, right) with the 2019 Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant cohort.

You can’t really say anything about South Asia without being both correct and incorrect. There are several nuances in South Asian cultures and languages. South Asia has a multi-language, multi-cultural, multi-philosophy of life, multi-religion, multi-family, multi-form of government, multi-everything. It’s very intricate, which makes it incredibly exciting and beautiful. I consider South Asia to be a beautiful garden with an extraordinary variety of flowers. There are no words in any language to describe how dynamic South Asia is.

Asian American Pacific Islander Desi (APIDA) Heritage Month is important in celebrating the successes and recognizing the ongoing struggles of APIDA immigrants and those of APIDA heritage in America. It has been said that America is moving from a “melting pot” view of diversity to more of a “salad bowl”. In this paradigm shift, it is important to shine a light on the many immigrant communities and celebrate their contributions to American society while critically examining and reflecting on what more can be done to create an equitable society. for all members.

America is a country of immigrants, and if we don’t value our immigrants, we are unable to fully experience America as a land of opportunity and success.