Voices of Berkeley

welcome video with universal subtitles

Announcing the winners of the On the Same Page video contest

Watch the winning videos by George Yang and Janele Mae Tating.

Voices of Berkeley

Every year since 2006, the College of Letters & Science at Berkeley has given incoming students something to talk about. That something has been a book, a film and a theme. This year, what the College of Letters & Science is giving you to talk about is how you talk. Our theme for 2011 is linguistic diversity: the Voices of Berkeley.

We live in a swirl of words. Language shapes our relation to ourselves and to the (social) world. The tongues we speak reflect our origins, our friends and our technologies. This means that each of us is linguistically unique. You and your siblings might have learnt Spanish at home, but you are different because you also studied French at school. You might know as many Hindi verbs as your classmates, but you also learnt Tamil from your grandmother. The same is true for speakers of the same language because no two people talk in exactly the same way. Everyone has an accent. The way you talk is affected by where you grew up, where you live now, who you are friends with, who you work with, your education, your interests, and so on.

Berkeley has one of the most diverse, linguistically varied and sophisticated student bodies in the world. It is a meeting place of languages—the languages of our histories, of our studies, and of our careers. Many of our students bring multiple languages with them to campus, as part of their heritage, in the songs they sing or the voices they remember. Others use their Berkeley experience to gain mastery of the languages that shape and transmit knowledge, from French and Chinese to Java and HTML. And many more will go on to work or live in contexts where English may only be one of many tongues spoken. Students come to Berkeley from all over the world, bringing their languages, idioms, and accents. And they leave with new vocabularies that shape their understanding of science, law, literature, visual culture, and the social world.

Start by Talking Back

Before they arrive, new freshmen and transfer students will be invited to contribute to a new "Voices of Berkeley" database by submitting a sample of their spoken language (or languages). The collected bits of speech will then be analyzed to help paint a digital map of Berkeley's languages that can be traced across time, as the linguistic shape of Berkeley changes.

Learn about—and discuss—Linguistic Diversity

Enroll in a Freshman Seminar related to the theme in fall 2011.

Explore linguistic diversity in depth by reading articles featured in the virtual bookshelf.

Participate in a one-time discussion about linguistic diversity with a faculty member, and qualify to win a Kindle.

Take a class from a faculty member who is incorporating our theme into one of his or her regular fall courses.

Become a Facebook fan of On the Same Page, and discuss the theme with other fans.

Follow us on Twitter, and re-tweet if you are so inspired.

Learn a foreign language—Berkeley offers instruction in sixty different languages!

Explore the California Language Archive, the largest indigenous language archive at a U.S. university, and listen to fascinating audio clips.

Some Voices of Cal are singing voices, and many of these ensembles, choirs and choruses will give you an opportunity to sing in a range of languages, from French, German and Italian to Catalan, Hebrew and Ukrainian.

Discover how language can take shape as visual art. Stop by the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive to see how a young Korean American artist looked at language in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's mesmerizing eight-minute video Mouth to Mouth. On view starting August 25.

Enjoy Related Events

Keynote event: "Dreaming in Different Tongues: Languages and the Way We Think"
Wednesday, September 14, 7:30 pm
Wheeler Auditorium
Moderated by Geoff Nunberg. Featuring Lera Boroditsky, John Cho, Lily Wong Fillmore, and Maxine Hong Kingston.

A series of faculty panels will take place in September

In addition to the above events, which are organized by the On the Same Page program, other exciting related events will take place on campus this fall.