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April Meeting - Language as an Identity Card

  • 11 Apr 2015
  • 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
  • Boston University CELOP


“We were four or five kids in our early teens, recently landed at this private school established to serve the needs of children of diplomats, business people, army brats, and the Venezuelan upper class. Except that we didn’t exactly fit that profile. We were recent refugees from Egypt who spoke French as our native language. We forged an identity around that language and did instinctively what colonized people have done for centuries--strive to become what you are not, and in the process lose track of who you are--in our case, not knowing what country we belonged to or where we were from. It seems crazy not to know where you are from. Actually, it is quite common for millions of people around the world. Not only the children of diplomats, business people and missionaries have blurred identities, but also the children of refugees and displaced people.”

So writes Maya Evans. At this meeting Maya will be pleased to share with you her different cultures, or how to be French in Venezuela, and Venezuelan in the U.S., or American in France. Some key questions to ponder: How can language shape us? How does it change who we are depending on the language we are speaking?

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, our speaker, Maya Evans, grew up in a Jewish family established in the Middle East for ten generations on her mother’s side, and in Hungary on her father’s side. She attended a French school and spoke French at home. In 1958, forced to leave Egypt during the aftermath of the Suez Canal War, the family moved to Venezuela after a brief sojourn in Italy and France. In Caracas Maya graduated from a U.S. high school, learning English before mastering Spanish, hence starting a lifetime of asking: “Where am I from?” A graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Political Economy, and a speaker of six languages with native fluency in French and Spanish, she occasionally writes poetry. One of her French poems, “Le français,” is the epilogue to Writing Out of Limbo, an anthology of essays and scholarly papers regarding Third Culture Kids. In Boston since 1970, Maya worked in higher education in several area institutions, among them Harvard and M.I.T. In all instances her knowledge of languages and cultures allowed her to reach out and connect people, institutions and programs across complex organizations. Presently she makes her home in Boston, where she consults in the field of international education and occasionally works as a translator/interpreter.

The meeting is free and open to all interested parties.
There is no preregistration process.
A certificate of attendance will be provided upon request.

Other questions? Email Marian at
To participate remotely, email Lesley at
by Thursday, April 9.

Directions: By public transportation: Take the Boston College Green Line to the St. Paul Street stop, just after the BU West stop when coming from downtown Boston. By car: Consider using an online map service or use your GPS system to find our location from where you are coming. The best option for parking is at 2-hour metered spots on the street in Brookline, such as St. Paul Street, Amory Street 1 block East, and Pleasant St. 1 block West. Metered parking on Commonwealth Avenue costs twice the rate in Brookline, and cars parked on Dummer Street by the apartment block will be towed. A parking garage is available at Agannis Arena (take Buick Street and go around to the back of the arena) assuming no arena event is scheduled for meeting day (calendar posted at


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