Lauren Klein, a UNC Charlotte student in the Department of Languages and Culture Studies, has been chosen as a winner of the United Nations Academic Impact "Many Languages, One World" contest.
From among 1,500 entries, 60 students were chosen to represent each of the six official languages of the United Nations - Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Together with the other contest winners, Klein will travel to New York to participate in a four-day Global Youth Forum and present her work to the United Nations.
Klein was selected as one of ten representatives of the Russian language. In order to be selected, she had to first demonstrate written proficiency in Russian in the form of a 1,000 word essay and then demonstrate spoken proficiency by undergoing an oral interview in Russian.
In her essay, Klein addresses the question of the relationship of multilingualism to global citizenship by drawing on her family's history and her own personal experiences with learning languages. Compelled by a love of Russian literature, particularly the works of Vladimir Nabokov, Klein began to study Russian independently at the age of 16. To her dismay, however, she encountered adverse attitudes towards Russian in her family. Unbeknownst to her until recently, Lauren's maternal great-grandparents fled the Russian Empire for Canada as Jewish refugees at the beginning of the 20th century.
These harrowing circumstances only amplified the importance of Russian for Klein. In her view, studying another language increases humanity, respect, and understanding between people of different cultural backgrounds. Indeed, this contest has been a great opportunity for Klein to connect with native speakers of Russian. She received valuable input, feedback, and support from her mentor and UNC Charlotte professor, Yuliya Baldwin, as well as other teachers and students in the U.S and in Russia.