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Student Profile: Mac Baler ’15

By Jessica Li on March 30, 2015


Name: Mac Baler
Class Year: 2015
Major: Computer Science and Japanese
Campus Activities: Senior Admissions Fellow, President of Masque & Triangle, Astronomy Teaching Assistant

Mac Baler is a senior Alumni Memorial Scholar and used his AMS scholars grant for a project that is both an intellectual interest and a personal passion, fostered throughout his four years at Colgate University. Mac has a love for Japan and the Japanese language, and he used his AMS grant and capstone project as an opportunity to delve more deeply into this passion.

Mac’s first time in Japan was during the fall of his Junior year on a program at a school called Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan. Although he started studying Japanese during his sophomore year, he hadn’t had any prior language experience. Mac fell in love with Japanese, which was the impetus for his decision to study abroad in Japan.

His semester abroad “was the most unbelievable experience, really.” Mac did a home-stay with a family for four months, explored various parts of the country, and was immersed in Japanese. Mac said that he believed his experience was so wonderful because “Between that family and the students and people that I met, it was so unreal how welcoming they were, not only my host family but also the students that I met, I felt like I belonged.”

Once he returned to Colgate, Mac knew that he needed to return to Japan. After a summer of brainstorming with advisors and professors in the Japanese department, he realized that his passion for the Japanese language could be the foundation for an interesting project. “I think that this is something that I realized while I was in Japan, it was fascinating to me because I had friends learning English while I was learning Japanese.”

In tandem with his professors, Mac decided to do a linguistics research project, which would be focused on youth language, or slang, in Japan. Japan has a unique culture of slang, which is highly geographically specific. “When people ask me about it I explain, in the US if you live in Boston, you say ‘wicked,’ and if you go to California people will still know what you mean. But in Japan that’s not true. So, with such massive dialectical differences the youth language is really interesting.”

Mac’s travel and research in Japan, which he conducted during winter break of 2015, was funded by his AMS grant, and afford him the opportunity to investigate the current state of youth language in Japan. Ultimately, Mac hopes to help other students interested in learning Japanese on their language journey. “I think that as someone who is learning Japanese as a foreign language, and as someone who was really excited to go to Japan, and didn’t have any language prep, there was no way that I would be prepared for youth slang or dialect and how that would change. I thought if I could provide a guide for students interested in learning Japanese that would be a valuable resource. I think it is vital to be able to speak with youth, especially if you’re going to be going to a school there.”

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