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ELS President Mark W. Harris meets United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to discuss the importance of multilingualism for global citizens

January 8, 2016

Shortly following the very successful 2nd Many Languages One World Student Essay Contest and Global Youth Forum, sponsored by ELS Educational Services in conjunction with the United Nations Academic Impact, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon invited ELS President Mark W. Harris to the UN on September 8, 2015, to exchange views on the role of multilingualism in contributing to the formation of young scholars’ self-awareness as globally responsible citizens.

During the meeting the Secretary General asserted his personal commitment to the importance of learning other languages as a means to enhance communications and understanding between cultures and nations.

Mr. Harris, who has participated in language learning himself, is currently leading language learning in more than seventy countries worldwide. After studying at the University of Madrid in the 70’s, Mr. Harris studied Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania where he taught Spanish to undergraduate students while completing his master’s degree.

Language is a key to both intellectual and spiritual connection whereby we can understand our common destiny in a world full of misunderstandings, unsustainable practices, shortage of food, water and sanitation, unequal access to education and horrific human suffering inflicted on innocent people by meaningless wars.

Secretary General Ban and Mr. Harris resolved to continue efforts to promote the learning of languages to youth around the world through the promotion of the UN Academic Impact and events like the Many Languages One World Student Essay Contest and Global Youth Forum.

Shortly after this meeting, on September 25, 2015, Pope Francis visited the United Nations and addressed the General Assembly in his native language of Spanish. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon greeted him in Spanish and introduced the Pope in Spanish, one of the several languages that the Secretary General has learned. The English translation of the Pope’s speech can be found here. Following the visit by the Pope on the morning of September 25th, the General Assembly opened its 70th Session with a series of speeches by Mr. Ban followed by representatives of various delegations prior to the formal adopting the official platform under the theme: Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, in the following seven days efforts were made to teach The World’s Largest Lesson. This involved an attempt to teach seven billion primary students about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in just seven days.

During the months of June through August, as finalization of the 2030 Agenda was being discussed, lessons plans for The World’s Largest Lesson were developed by volunteers around the world. Volunteers from ELS Educational Services and affiliated Berlitz Training Solutions translated the English language lesson plans into Bengali, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Other volunteers translated the English lesson plans into Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia Chinese/Mandarin and French. Organizers of The World’s Largest Lesson calculated that primary students studying in these nine languages would total more than the seven million students targeted to be taught about the 2030 objectives in just seven days.

YouTube video introduction by Malala

Why do you study languages? Does this change the way you see your role and responsibility in our one world?

ELS Educational Services and the United Nations Academic Impact invite all of you global-minded polyglots to write an essay about multilingualism and the role of multilingualism in global citizenship.

Ten winners from around the world in each of the official language of the UN: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish will be sponsored to come to New York to participate in a five day Youth Forum to be convened on the campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Each winner will have five minutes to present their views in a presentation at the United Nations.

Please visit ManyLanguagesOneWorld.ELS.edu for complete contest rules.