How can language learning help us to navigate the difficult experience of worldview conflicts? Peacebuilding becomes most challenging when the conflict is not the surface issue, but the difference in the ways that people organize their way of making meaning in the world and the ways by which they make decisions about action. Most entrenched conflicts actually are not about the apparent issues, but these underlying ways of seeing the world that are opposed to each other. Language learning can provide essential tools for addressing these conflicts in constructive ways.
This week, TESOL International’s Live Learning Center highlighted Milton J. Bennett’s presentation entitled, “Perceptual Agility, Intercultural Communication, and Good Jokes.” Although it starts off a bit slow, Bennett brings in aspects of language and intercultural communication research that connect well with peacebuilding in worldview conflict situations.
Citing an article in the Journal of Neuroscience by Yan Jing Wu & Guillaum Theirry (2013), Bennett highlights that the ability to shift between two language contexts actually improves “the effectiveness of nonverbal conflict resolution,” and results in increased “functional plasticity.” The shift required in language learning allows our brains to make other shifts more quickly as well, and influences how we respond to conflict. Language learning helps us in switching between cultural worldviews, creating a unique space for building peace across worldview conflicts.
Check out the presentation video this week and more information on Bennett’s website at http://www.idrinstitute.org/.