Walking the Talk and Talking the Walk: Learning and Living the Language of Diversity & Inclusion

The 2016 elections highlighted the stark divisions that face the United States across racial, gendered, religious, and other lines. As such, the university’s role in critiquing, responding to, and combating these hostile mindsets is crucial. Ingrained within language learning is the idea of acquiring new vocabulary in a way that often changes our outlook and our expressive ability. Foreign language classrooms offer a space for this cross-cultural engagement to occur. It also allows learners to experience discomfort safely as they grapple with new perspectives and modes of expression and learn to inhabit the position of the unfamiliar. This makes language learning a useful metaphor for approaching and advancing diversity and inclusion in higher education.


This session will begin with a brief overview of the relationship between language, cognition, and equity in its many forms (cultural sensitivity, social consciousness, inclusiveness, intersectionality, decolonization, etc.). After this discussion, we will explore the concept of diversity and inclusion as a “language” (i.e., a discourse) that we learn over time. This language requires not only that we examine and potentially internalize emerging discourses that may be new to us, it also calls on us to acknowledge, value, and respond to the different voices and identities that all individuals bring to the classroom.


Working as a group, we will:

  • recontextualize the new “vocabulary” of diversity and inclusion (e.g., “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” “microaggressions,” etc.) in practical educational terms,

  • discuss the cognitive aspects of discomfort and embarrassment in connection to the need for practice, consciousness, and the ability to learn from failure as one continues to “walk the talk” of diversity and inclusion,

  • and explore different language-based educational strategies for making diversity and inclusion a central aspect of our teaching.


  • Intercultural Studies

Additional authors: 

Kristina Escondo, Ph.D.