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28 Jul, 2015

Masterpiece essays by 70 multi-lingual students top UN-organised competition

United Nations — A Vietnamese university student writing in Arabic, an Australian writing in Chinese, a Kazakh writing in French and a Korean writing in Spanish are among the 70 winners of a global multi-lingual essay-writing contest organised by the United Nations to involve the world’s young people in crafting the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

From a pool of over 1,200 entrants, 70 students from 42 countries representing 60 universities have been selected as winners of the Many Languages, One World international essay contest. The contest is organized by ELS Educational Services, Inc. and the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI).

The contest challenged college and university students from around the globe to write an essay examining the UN’s post-2015 global development agenda. The applicants had to highlight the importance of multilingualism as it relates to global citizenship. The UN applauded the “thoughtful, insightful essays” that it received on the subject. The contest was also designed to encourage young people to study a new language.


Travel Impact Newswire is the only travel industry publication to report this great story, which will no doubt have a huge trickle-down impact by motivating many universities and travel organisations to undertake similar projects.

All part of the award-winning journalism produced over the years by Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil.

The essay had to be submitted in one of the six official United Nations languages, which is not the student’s first-language, or the principal language of instruction in their primary or secondary education. In many cases, students submitted essays in their third or fourth language. The official languages of the United Nations are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

Here are some quotes from the English-language essays:

Zhenyu Zhou: “A currency has to be exchanged to be used in another country, and likewise a language has to be translated in order to be understood by people speaking a different language. Yet on the other hand, there is an important difference between the two: the diversity of currencies, in itself is a symbol of the economic barriers between the nations, and a symptom of different development levels as well, whereas the diversity of languages is a vivid reflection of the cultural variety and civilizational multiplicity. The unification of currencies, as exemplified by Euro, is an indispensable part in the progress toward a more equitable world order. However, the unification of languages, often a necessary means practiced by many ethnocentric invaders to enslave other peoples, would be a catastrophic threat to cultural diversity and spiritual prosperity.”

Phuong Vu: “I need to admit that despite being subjected to prejudice myself, I held a prejudice against Islam. It was like a land of mystery overshadowed by sensational media coverage. There hasn’t been much to hear about, except violence and anger. About two months ago, my perception was changed by an encounter with our Muslim “neighbors”. It was an international summit for youth leaders of South East Asia in Manila, Philippines. We were flown in to discuss contemporary issues like climate change, literacy, human trafficking and youth empowerment. The experience opened my eyes. I had never realized that so many Muslims lived right next door to Vietnam, in southern Thailand, southern Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and more. In fact, Muslims accounted for a large proportion of the youth delegates.”

Aliia Zainullina: “The first day I came to university, our teacher told us that if we want to be real experts in Eastern civilizations, we should know at least six languages – three Eastern, which include Turkish, Arabic and Persian and three Western, which are English, French and German. And she was right. Having Turkish as my major language and doing my research on sufi literature I have encountered all of these. I had original sources in English, German, Persian and Arabic. Fortunately, I have studied all of these languages and it was possible for me to extract necessary information. Well, frankly speaking, it is almost impossible to imagine a community which does not have interactions with other ones as they are all strongly related to each other. For example, sufi philosophy made a huge impact on famous German writer Goethe, whose work named “West eastern divan” reflects the poems of medieval Persian poet Hafiz.”

Students who participated in the contest are pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as Doctoral candidates. Winners hail from prestigious international universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), Yonsei University (South Korea), and Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (France). Their fields of study include art, human rights, medicine, engineering, law, business management, communications, international relations, and linguistics.

The winners also participated in a five day Global Youth Forum hosted by ELS at the campus of UNAI member, Adelphi University. They worked in their language teams to develop action plans focused on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. On 24 July 2015, the winners presented these plans at UN HQ in an interactive session in the General Assembly Hall.

Anyone 18 years of age and older who is currently enrolled full-time in a college or university could apply. The application had to be supported by a Faculty Member or University Administrator of the institution to attest that the work is written in a language that is not the applicant’s first language, nor was it the language of instruction of their primary or secondary education.

ELS Educational Services, Inc. paid for each contest winner’s travel, room and meals throughout their participation in the International Youth Forum from June 25-29th, 2014. After the Essay submission deadline of March 15th, a language specialist read and scored each essay according to a scoring rubric. A personal interview was also conducted (some in person, others over Skype) of the finalists who were chosen in the first round.

All the winning essays can be read here: http://www.els.edu/en/MLOWArchive/WinningEssays

For more information please visit the Many Languages One World website.