The joy of conversation

FASS students host "Babel On" event

- January 29, 2014

Babel On organizer Alicia Niemann (right) performs a song in German. (Bruce Bottomley photo)
Babel On organizer Alicia Niemann (right) performs a song in German. (Bruce Bottomley photo)

Electronic music, Gaelic poetry, Spanish songs and Russian poems were just a few of the “linguistic geekeries” at Dalhousie’s first Babel-On multilingual poetry party.

Over 40 people gathered in the Spanish lounge last Friday afternoon to hear poetry reading and music in six different languages (and one dialect).

“The thought of everyone coming together to enjoy the finer points of language was great,” said Nicholas Foran, a master's student in German at Dal and the event’s MC.

The event was hosted by the French, German and European Studies student societies. With financial support from the Dalhousie Arts and Social Sciences Society, Alicia Niemann, one of the organizers, was able to provide food from different cultures, including French cheeses and Caprese salad.

The event was an opportunity to collaborate and showcase the diversity of languages at Dal.

Third-year Computer Science and French student William Collin did an electronic music performance in French and German. He calls his music “ambient electronic” and did his first live performance under his DJ name, Europa’s Ocean.

Speeches and songs

John Kirk, a professor in the Spanish department, sang with the students from his Translation class. He expressed the importance of events that celebrate the languages.

“At Dal, the idea of internationalization is very important, but we need to walk the talk,” he said, after the event. “Language is important for everything from business to understanding how people think.”

Students and professors performed poetry from famous international poets, as well as original works. Emily Perkins, a fourth-year Spanish student, said she performed an original poem because she couldn’t choose between all the great Spanish poets she has been introduced to in class. Associate Professor Jerry White read a poem in Gaelic. And first- and second-year Russian students performed poems in Russian, with translations to English for the rest of the non-Russian speakers.

Robert Summerby-Murray, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, stopped by to appreciate the demonstrative way of learning languages.

“You can learn about it in the classroom, but you can learn about it in a demonstrative way,” he said after the event. “It demonstrates the way in which we can unite around culture.”


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