How multilingual ability can foster global citizenship and cultural understanding?


Abstract—- Global Citizenship involves many aspects, such as exchange of freedoms of rights, carrying responsibility, patriotism, cultural understanding and so on, among which multilingual ability plays an important role. This paper intends to explore the role that multilingual ability can play in fostering global citizenship and cultural understanding on the basis of introducing different definitions and contexts reflection.

Index Terms— global citizenship, cultural understanding, multilingual ability


The thematic of global citizenship and cultural understanding has been gaining popularity in recent years, either at national level or in many youth advocacy forums such as United Nations General Assembly, African Union Youth Forum, Asian Pacific Youth Summit and European Youth Day as Well. However, global citizenship notion is not formed overnight. It involves a specific process, during which personal projects, advocacy, creativity, positive outcomes and actions all contributed to a global impact taking in account comprehension of cultural diversity.

When we introduce multilingual to the notion of global citizenship, we must take into consideration not only the cultural identity of the citizen, but also the impact and asset of speaking more than one language can bring to its work. Just like Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (Remarks to the 2010 Young Atlanticist Summit, 20 November 2010) said « You have to take ownership and leadership of tomorrow. For that to be possible, you have to strengthen your capacity and widen your vision as a global citizen. »


Different youth institutions seek to define global citizenship from different point of view in order to answer the questions encountered their own fields, and to support their own ideas and theories.

Ideas for Global Citizenship, when focusing on content in “global citizenship” thought “it is a way of living that recognizes our world is an increasingly complex web of connections and interdependencies. One in which our choices and actions may have repercussions for people and communities locally, nationally or internationally”. They further pointed out, “in other words, Global citizenship nurtures personal respect and respect for others, wherever they live. It encourages individuals to think deeply and critically about what is equitable and just, and what will minimize harm to our planet. Exploring global citizenship themes help learners grow more confident in standing up for their beliefs, and more skilled in evaluating the ethics and impact of their decisions.

When Open Democracy UK was studying the concept of being a global citizen, they took “global citizenship” into consideration as well. In his definition, global citizenship is based on two assumptions:

  1. There is such a thing as an emerging world community to which people can identify
  2. That such a community has a nascent set of values and practices.

They refer a global citizen to someone who identifies with being part of an emerging world community and whose actions contribute to building this community’s values and practices.

According to OXFAM definition, global citizenship linked to education helps enable young people to develop the core competencies which allow them to actively engage with the world, and help to make it a more just and sustainable place.

With these definitions, we deduced that global citizenship build citizens capacities in becoming active agent of transformation in their communities. Individuals address specific issues by making concrete actions for concrete results.


Cultural understanding can be seen as the bedrock of communication and it takes into account reaching and stays aware of global civilizations starting from our cultural values, beliefs and acquirements.  Discussing with people from another country another area of the world helps one to recognize the differences in each culture and lifestyle.

In April 2015, I took part in the Global Citizenship Education Workshop organized by the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP), Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCEIU) and the United Nations Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) held in Busan, South Korea. During the workshop, participants were drowned from different part of the world. For the one week spent in Busan, we experienced a unique moment. Here is my own description of cultural understands:

  • It allows you to interpret and evaluate things in a different ways
  • In my country, you can huge your friend and give her or him a kiss when he is feeling bad or is in a sad moment but in some cultures, it means another think like example you fall in love with that person so it can cause misunderstandings
  • We had a cultural night during the workshop and I noticed firstly the traditional clothes of each country were different; secondly the greetings were totally different that means in a formal occasion people behavior on a cultural aspect change.
  • The music, foods, lifestyles were totally different

What was exciting is that this gathering allows us to realize the impact our culture have on our life. No matter the difference of cultural background, we shared a commune goal of making the world a better place and we noticed an interconnection within our actions, achievements and wishes. Cultural understanding helps ones to go against racism and discrimination because common values, principles and beliefs are shared.


According to different circumstances mentioned in the above definitions, I would like to divide the reflections starting from my personal, academic, and cultural to the national context.

  1. Personal Context

Personal context refers to my opinions on global citizenship and cultural understanding.  Take the word “citizen” as an example. It states the membership of a person to a specific society. We can’t understand the exact meaning of the compound words Global Citizenship without the clear explanation of what global citizen is and how it is linked to cultural understanding. Being a global citizen makes you become the voice of the voiceless and a change maker. Your actions impact and transform lives. You fight important issues and the difference in your culture with others gives you awareness of the uniqueness of humanity and how we are interconnected all over the world.


  1. Academic Context

Being a student in another country helps you to understand their educational career life and how you could transcend and implement the knowledge within your own country of membership. Global citizenship and cultural understanding helps you to have mutual respect, notion on civic commitments, be ready to accept diversity and have good approach to it.

  1. Cultural Context

On the cultural context, global citizenship allows be member of an interconnected world and be aware that your local actions can have global impact. You’re not only a patrimony of humanity, you’re also a founder of values, principles and lifestyle someone in another part of the world can take like a role model. On the cultural aspect, it allows you to appreciate the uniqueness of your culture and realize on which scale you are linked to others culture.

  1. National Context

On the national context, global citizenship and cultural understanding give you tools and more confidence to lobby, influence policy and decision-makers. Ones can use global frameworks for advocacy, campaigns and mobilization entering in line with global citizenship notion. We then realize that everything happens between our vision and our values. Finally, you have the means and strategies to build alliances and partnerships and to use communication actors as your allies.


As we can see, multilingual ability plays a very important role in fostering global citizenship and cultural understanding. Let’s try to generalize its role as follows.

  1. Understanding Cultural References

Cultural references are related to arts in their original form. Being multilingual helps one to appreciate a work of art in its original form. It allows acquiring knowledge and information towards cultural understanding.


  1. Appreciation of Things in Another Aspect

The way things are seen in a person native society can be different to others society. Speaking more than one lingual not only makes to be a global person, it also allows you to value the lifestyle of others and helps you have a broad mind and approach than a monolingual person.

  1. Connection with other Civilizations

Having parents of different nationalities make you a person belonging to two societies, two families, two beliefs, two heritage, two histories and two families but one Humanity. It allows you to be connected to other lifestyle and shared common values and principles with them.

  1. Interaction with People of different Nationalities

Your discussions with people in their own language have a deep sense and it allows you to be connected with them. You are able to learn, build relationships, partners, and entertain with them at any time. It fosters global citizenship and cultural understanding.

  1. Break cultural barriers and build bridge in a globalized world

Being a multilingual person allows ones to avoid misconceptions. Not only you have many opportunities, people can also trust you because you belong to their circle and you go beyond expectations by breaking cultural barriers and stereotypes.


We have talked about global citizenship and cultural understanding, reflections from different contexts, and role of multilingual ability in fostering these. In a word, multilingual ability plays a very important role in global citizenship and cultural understanding. Global citizenship and multilingual ability are in close relationship: global citizenship elaborates on the environmental specific actions and the multilingual ability allows be connected on a global scale by involving cultural understanding. The knowledge of multilingual ability is a premise of the global citizenship notion.







2 réflexions au sujet de « How multilingual ability can foster global citizenship and cultural understanding? »

  1. Gayoung Choi

    This is very cool tag. I am writing an essay to apply for the Many languages, one World sponsered by UN. I can’t agree more on that multilingual fosters global citizenship. Many cultural elements in Language! Thanks for such a nice post!



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