Celebrating diversity: Why Pride Month matters

Celebrating diversity: Why Pride Month matters

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated June 28, 2023

It’s June and celebrations for international LGBTQIA+ Pride Month are in full swing around the world – at Lingoda too! This Pride Month 2023, we find joy in our differences and celebrate how diversity improves our lives and our work. This month is also the perfect time to reflect on the importance of inclusion and how we integrate it into our Lingoda language courses. This Pride Month, we are excited to share why Pride matters to us.

The power of connection

Every Pride Month, conversations at Lingoda revolve around one word: community. As an organization devoted to language learning, the power of connection is clear to us. It’s even in our mission statement:

We believe that learning languages can build bridges between different cultures and communities, fostering a world of inclusion and acting as a first step in helping to address humanity’s challenges. 

Teaching languages is what we do and building bridges is what we care about. 

Differences in language, culture and religion have a long history of dividing people. When people can speak the same language – when people form a connection – something wonderful happens. They find common ground. They connect on a human level through linguistic understanding. 

That’s why diversity, inclusion and connecting people from different backgrounds is in our DNA. 

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace

During Pride Month, Lingoda pays extra attention to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Diversity is the quality of having people from different backgrounds on staff and in classroom settings. Inclusion is creating environments where those individuals feel respected, supported and valued. This allows people to show up as their authentic selves so they can focus on doing their work or learning. 

At the Lingoda head office in Berlin, initiatives led by our LGBTQIA+ members bring not only Pride Month to life but consistently raise awareness on the topic. Some recurring and upcoming examples of those are:

  1. A book and cinema club featuring LGBTQIA+ stories with group discussion.
  2. A private LGBTQIA+ slack group for community members to connect.
  3. A company-wide weekly quiz focused on Pride month trivia.
  4. A staff workshop on July 19th to focus on DEIB education.

Although the rainbow pride flag on the Lingoda website and social media will be taken down in July, these important conversations won’t end after Pride Month. Inclusion should happen every day, beyond the office and in every class. 

Let’s look at where Lingoda is now and talk about a few changes the company has made over the years to be inclusive.

Gender-inclusive language

Conversations about diversity and inclusion during Pride Month truly inform how Lingoda does business. Lingoda has made improvements to meet the needs of a more diverse audience. Currently, Lingoda offers courses in German, English, French and Spanish. To be inclusive, we’re rolling out gender-inclusive language across all our learning materials.

Why is gender-inclusive language so important? Because Lingoda believes in teaching real-life language for real-world communication. And diversity is a fact of the modern world. So at Lingoda, we ensure that what we teach not only reflects a diverse reality but also promotes it positively. 

Diversity in the learning materials

In a drive to improve representation in our learning materials, Lingoda has introduced more gender-inclusive and gender-balanced language into our learning materials.

For example, here’s a concept called the “generic masculine”.

  • todos (everybody; masculine) – in Spanish, the masculine form traditionally superseded the need to reference feminine people, even if the group is 99 women and one man)
  • todos y todas (everybody; masculine and everybody; feminine) – more inclusive

The generic masculine, common in multiple languages, has fallen out of favor in both academic and professional circles. This reflects societal shifts in how language is used. 

Learning to recognize and apply gender-inclusive language is increasingly expected in professional and personal communication. To prepare learners for success, Lingoda is phasing out the generic masculine and continues to update materials according to evolving norms. Wherever possible, we are also opting for gender-neutral forms. In English, this means opting for terms such as ‘police officer’ instead of gendered terms like ‘policeman’ or ‘policewomen’, and in German, we use non-gendered terms like die Lehrkraft (gender-neutral teacher) instead of der Lehrer (teacher, masculine) or die Lehrerin (teacher, feminine).

LGBTQIA+ specific measures

Teachers and learners have expressed that specific LGBTQIA+ measures help them to be authentic during class. As Lingoda has worked to broaden the representation of different ethnicities, sexualities, gender identities and family structures in learning materials, both teachers and learners have given positive feedback.

In order to express yourself in a new language, you need the right vocabulary and grammar to describe your real life. Lingoda’s role plays, scenarios and texts accurately mirror the diversity of modern society and the people living in it. Gender-inclusive language and diversity of dialogue characters are there for a simple reason: because it reflects reality. 

Diversity in our Lingoda content

As a writer on the Lingoda team, I am proud to bring authenticity to language learning environments. I am part of the LGBTQIA+ community myself. I know the experience of being in a language class and outing myself by talking about my home life. I know what it’s like to insist that I didn’t make a mistake when I spoke about my non-male partner. In the gay community, we can all relate to the experience of constantly coming out to new people. Language class is a primary place where this happens for me and plenty of others.

Thankfully, Lingoda creates safe spaces for language students like myself to be open and honest. Formal linguistics studies also give me the background to speak about these issues in the field of language acquisition. I’ve been pleased to write about descriptive grammar and the evolution of LGBTQ+ slang for the Lingoda audience. Here are a few posts (from me and others) that you can browse this Pride Month to see how Lingoda lets diversity shine.

Lingoda’s vision for the future

During Pride Month, it’s normal to reflect on the past and consider the future. We acknowledge how far we’ve come and envision where we want to go next. 

Research: In order to understand the next steps, Lingoda invests resources into studying the current reality. Last year Lingoda published an in-house study on inclusive language after surveying over 1,300 students. The results speak to how language can shape power dynamics in society. The study also gives the company a data-based approach to future decision-making about inclusion.

Review: Lingoda pledges to continuously review materials, learning experiences, interactions, and terminology to push for genuinely inclusive and accessible courses. The ultimate goal is to foresee and avoid exclusion so that all Lingoda learners can participate fully.

Reinvent: In terms of the LGBTQIA+ community, but also other marginalized communities, Lingoda remains focused on asking the hard questions. How can the company improve awareness of the kinds of barriers to access that learners might face? How might the company support teachers to conduct live lessons in a more inclusive way? 

Constant evolution

Inclusion, much like language, is a concept in constant evolution. Asking questions is the conversation starter. Knowing that there is always room for improvement, Lingoda welcomes conversations that further center diversity and inclusion within the company. Having these discussions during Pride Month is just one way of finding solutions that go well beyond the month of June. What never changes, though, is the belief in teaching real-life language for real-world communication. This way we share with our students the tools to come out to the world as they are: fearless, ready to connect and with the understanding that diversity – linguistic or otherwise – is our superpower.

Learn languages at your pace

Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Turkish. Her consulting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

Alison Maciejewski Cortez

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