In our increasingly connected world where cultures and languages intersect, saying even a few words in someone else's language can completely change your relationships. The great strength of Vancouver is its plurality, and we're proud that so many of the world's cultures are represented in its diverse mix. However, this diversity creates communications challenges, and for many of our citizens language is a real barrier. It's my view that we can turn language into a bridge instead. By learning only a few phrases in the languages of our neighbours we show them a profound respect and connect with them at a fundamental level of their identity.
This Vancouver experience is what drove me to build upon the idea of "greeting fluency". The Greeting Fluency Initiative, established by the Global Civic Policy Society I lead, seeks to encourage citizens to make a small effort to learn a few words in other languages. My own experience is that the greatest personal rewards come from learning the first few words.
I believe we will never truly "own" multiculturalism until we have personally invested in it. Greeting Fluency is one simple way to do this.
Lynn and I are organizing a special event and we invite all of you to join us. On Saturday, March 31 from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM the Greeting Fluency Day will take place in the Woodwards building. Starting with Chinook which was spoken by native people along the West Coast of North America, citizens will learn a few words in French, Mandarin, Farsi, Korean, Russian, Japanese, Tagalog and Punjabi. They will also hear interesting stories and insights from some wonderful people who speak those languages. There will be a few short musical presentations and a break at lunch to sample food from many different cultures.
Since we launched the Greeting Fluency Initiative last year it has taken on many new dimensions. It has started to develop Greeting Fluency videos to help assist people explore new languages. It will also soon launch its Greeting Fluency Aid, a user-friendly app for smart phones. Make an effort to show your neighbours that Vancouver is an inclusive city that values all of its citizens. Reach out and ask them to teach you a word from their language. My suspicion is that you will get just as much or more out of it than they will.
For those who speak another language, I invite you to submit a few phrases via YouTube to the Vancouver Sun. See the Sun's "Fluency" page here.
– post by Sam Sullivan