The countdown to 2021 is on and international students at Selkirk College are sending out an invitation to discover an array of cultures by learning to say “Happy New Year!” in different languages.
At least 14 languages will be shared during a December 21 virtual event that brings together the different threads of culture that make up the Selkirk College educational fabric. Open to all students, staff and community members, the event will be held via Zoom between 3-4:30 p.m. and is a vital way to connect international learners with the wider community.
“Personalities and characteristics of every person are different, but strongly based on where they come from and the language they speak,” says Jigyasa Nagpal, a second-year Post-Graduate in Accounting Program student who arrived to the West Kootenay from India.
“There are a lot of cultural differences when you come to a new country. When we are sharing our own culture, we are telling other people who we are and why we are like this. It helps us with more understanding.”
Nagpal grew up in Meerut, just north of New Delhi, and came to study at Selkirk College because she wanted to explore Canadian culture on a deeper level. Current pandemic restrictions have denied Nagpal the cultural sharing opportunities she experienced while a first year student and she is looking forward to making connections during the virtual event.
“Canada is full of diversity, it’s important to respect other cultures and show interest. When that happens, you feel more connected,” Nagpal says. “When you know about another person’s culture, you will embrace the other person more. With COVID, it is important to have something like this to do with the community so that we can see people and continue to share.”
Exploring More than Words
Selkirk College alumnus Ilkay Cakirogullari is of Turkish decent and grew up in Germany where multiple languages are spoken. A graduate of the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Program and the School of University Arts & Sciences, Cakirogullari was a kindergarten teacher in Germany before coming to Canada to study. The 29-year-old will be one of the presenters, sharing both German and Turkish greetings.
“I prefer to look at it from interpretation and not translation,” says Cakirogullari. “We can read a text in German and translate it into English, but it will not resemble the meaning of the text. An interpretation has so much more: the culture, the values, the environment that influences the language. This is the perspective that we need today to understand the culture.”
Currently working virtually on his Bachelor of Communications degree from Thompson Rivers University, Cakirogullari continues to live in the West Kootenay and is also taking a Selkirk College Creative Writing class with Instructor Leesa Dean. Cakirogullari says the online language event is like being given keys to doors that open up new worlds.
“Language is not only words, there is so much more behind it,” he says. “Language provides us with a diverse perspective of life.”
Providing Learners with an Experience
Featured languages on December 21 will include Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, English, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, French, Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish, Turkish and local Indigenous languages. Each student presenter will have five minutes to provide both the New Year’s greeting and some insight into their culture. The event will end with 15-minute breakout rooms to provide students the opportunity to make new friends.
“It has been difficult for international students because COVID-19 has stopped our on-campus activities,” says Elizabeth Li, a Selkirk College International Student Recruiter and Cultural Advisor. “This online language activity will expand sharing cultures with all the students and also our community members. We hope we are together to face this big challenge in our society, not isolated.”
Li grew up in China and graduated from Minzu University, a post-secondary renowned for its diversity. With students from more than 50 cultural backgrounds at Minzu, Li values the level of global understanding that can take place at post-secondary.
“The students who come to study here want to make new friends and learn more about Canada,” she says. “Let's help them and enjoy learning their culture as well.”