Monday, March 21, 2016

How the World Works

By Paula Castaneda

Vincent (Tzu-Wen) Cheng is an Assistant Professor in the Speech, Communication, and Theatre Arts Department at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Professor Cheng is from Taiwan, teaching how to speak English which is his third language. How you can be more global than that? Professor Cheng was the first speaker at the 2016 Phi Theta Kappa New York regional conference on March 4. In his speech, he introduced us to the new Honors In Action study topic, “How The World Works”. He began his speech with very interesting questions. He asked his audience how many people were born outside the U.S. and for how many people English is the second, third, fourth, etc. language. I was very surprise with the amount of people that raised their hands. His point with these questions was to show us how global we are.

He made us do an exercise to test our self-awareness and see that we know practically nothing about other countries and cultures. If the world were a village of 100 people, there would be:
  • 60 Asians, 15 Africans, 14 people from the Americas, and 11 Europeans.
  • 33 Christians, 22 Muslims, 14 Hindus, 7 Buddhists, 12 people who practice other religions, and 12 people who would not be aligned with a religion.
  • 12 would speak Mandarin, 5 would speak Spanish, 5 would speak English, 3 would speak Arabic, 3 would speak Hindi, 3 would speak Bengali, 3 would speak Portuguese, 2 would speak Russian, 2 would speak Japanese, and 62 would speak other languages.
  • 7 would have a Bachelor’s degree. (We will be that 7 percent of people that get a college degree)
  • 82 would be from less developed countries with an average income of less that $15 a day (51 of whom would live on less than $2 per day)

This is the reality and this is the world where we are living right now. There are more people speaking Mandarin than English but how much do we know about Mandarin? How can we talk to this group of people? What we know is very limited and we have to start thinking about how we can learn more about our world each day. We have to start thinking about how competitive we are in an international society.

Then, he showed us a slide with pictures of famous actors and singers, everybody knew who they were. After that, he showed us another slide with other faces but nobody knew about them. The second group of pictures was faces of Nobel winners. If we know about singers but not about Nobel winners, what does it say about out self-awareness and our understanding of the world?

He ended his speech giving us some advices to expand our knowledge:
  • Learn a second or third language. Most of the people in LaGCC are bilingual or multilingual, if you are, then add another language to your list, it would be even better.
  • Research global current events from different sources. Did you know that 4 or 5 companies own the 500 channels that we have in our TV? As a consequence, what you watch on TV is not very diverse so try to look for other sources.
  • Study abroad. We have a lot of internationals students in LaGCC. If they can do it, we can do it as well. It is an amazing opportunity. You learn a lot and you grow up as a person.
  • Find every opportunity to interact with people who are very different from you. We have this opportunity every single day in our college. You can be sitting in a classroom with people from 10 or more different countries. So let’s take advantage of this. You can learn very interesting things from different cultures.

In my opinion, Professor Cheng’s main point was to show us how many cultures and how many different people are in our world but we barely know about many of them. Perspectives change between cultures, and as a consequence, how the things work change as well. The way the world works is different for everybody because we are all different from each other. It’s very important to learn how it differs from one another because at some point of your life you are going to have to deal with someone who has different culture than you do and the last thing you want to do is to not be able to understand the world from his or her perspective.

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