On February 13, almost 60 students from Global Languages classes came together to for a lively conversation on how different cultures convey  friendship, love, appreciation, and other cross-cultural topics while sharing the treats of pizza and cupcakes.

After an ice-breaker where students guessed the language of a love song, the students joined three discussion tables. Conversation topics clustered around three major themes: Appreciation, admiration or enjoyment of things, activities, ideas, hobbies; approaches to giving compliments; Filial and familial love, communication of love and care in the families, verbal and nonverbal expressions of love; and Romantic love, expressions “to like” and “to love.”

These conversations offered a chance to reflect on how different languages and cultures approach expressions of love. In some cultures, people say “I love you” every day, while in others, it’s a special phrase reserved for significant moments. Some languages use the same verb for “love” whether we talk about romantic and filial love, or about our favorite foods, while other languages have two or more verbs depending on the context. And, as students conveyed in their conversations, love and care is shown in many cultures through daily gestures, such as preparing a family meal or by using special nicknames with each other. After a group discussion session that was facilitated by Global Languages instructors, students from each table shared their ideas, perspectives, and experiences, and offered comparisons and contrasts that illuminated many cultural nuances.

After the conversations, students played a trivia game that was centered around facts in history, geography, and the arts with the themes of friendship and love, and had a chance to win small prizes. For instance, students had to guess images of famous paintings and landmarks (such as Gustav Klimt’s famous painting The Kiss, or “I love you” wall in Paris), and learned about The Friendship Highway, and the history of Taj Mahal.

Student feedback about the event was overwhelmingly positive. First-year student, April Wu noted that she “enjoyed learning about how different languages interpret love and had a great time and was exposed to so many different perspectives.” Duha Syar, Senior in Course 10 commented:
“I really enjoyed talking to students in other language classes. I didn’t realize so many of my friends were taking language classes and talking about our languages’ differences and similarities. The pizza was also very tasty.” Kartik Chandra, PhD Student noted that he “enjoyed the event— especially the way it built upon the wonderful linguistic diversity at MIT” and added “I would be delighted if Global Languages hosted similar events in the future!”

The event was moderated by Joyce Roberge, Global Languages Academic Administrator, who worked on organizing the event with Maria Khtoimsky, Senior Lecturer in Russian. Global Languages Director, Per Urlaub, as well as language lecturers from all groups joined in conversations and shared their personal cross-cultural experiences. It was an evening filled with laugher, cultural discoveries, and heartfelt conversations. Based on students’ positive feedback, GL plans to host similar cross-cultural conversations in the future.