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Language Student Interview Spotlight: Elizabeth Gonzales ’19

By ninapalisano on October 19, 2018

Monica Dimas ’19 spoke with Elizabeth Gonzales about her experience of studying Mandarin Chinese at Colgate.

Did you study languages before coming to Colgate?

No, I did not. My high school only offered Spanish, and I am a native speaker of Spanish. I didn’t have much of an opportunity to learn another language before I came to Colgate.

What language did you start learning here?

Mandarin Chinese.

What has been your favorite language class on campus?

I would say John Crespi’s “Living in Beijing” Extended Study class, because it made me more interested in learning Chinese. After taking the Extended Study and going to Beijing with Prof. Crespi, I went on his Colgate Chinese Study group, and now he is my advisor. I feel like he has been instrumental in learning the language. In the beginning I struggled a lot, but he was always there to help.

What else do you study besides languages?

My major is International Relations (I.R.).

Do you see a cross-over between the two fields?

Language study is a requirement for I.R., and most of the time people take a western language such as Spanish. You have to take a 200 and a 300 level course to complete that part of the major. I think studying Chinese has worked well for my major because I like learning about other languages and cultures.

Have you received any scholarships and/or fellowships for language study?

Yes, a few! Scholarships have been so useful for my language study. I received a Gilman Scholarship, which helped me go to China to study Mandarin, and a Lampert Summer Language Scholarship. I also received the Freeman Asia Scholarship. but I was not able to accept it.

What was your study abroad experience like and how did it contribute to your education at Colgate?

I studied abroad in China, and it was a very life-changing experience. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do before I started at Colgate. After studying abroad, I know what I want to do after I graduate. I’m more confident in myself and just a more independent individual.

Do you have any future plans that involve the language you study?

Yes! As a senior I have been applying to a lot of national fellowships and scholarships – for example, Fulbright, Boren, and Princeton Asia. I want to go back to China to keep improving on my Mandarin, and my main goal is to become fluent in the language. The Chinese culture is also something I really feel connected to and I feel like language fluency will help me make a home and career in China. After completing a national fellowship in China, I hope to attend grad school and then pursue a career in East Asia diplomacy and politics. Hopefully that will one day lead to working for the foreign services or the UN.

Lastly, what recommendations would you give someone who wanted to learn the language you study?

I would just say to not give up! Chinese is a difficult language to learn, and it can often be frustrating. Utilize all the resources Colgate has for language study. I think going abroad and immersing yourself in the language and culture is one of the most important thing when learning a language. After returning from China I felt like I was almost instantly better at my classes and more confident. If you surround yourself with people who are constantly speaking the language you’re trying to learn, then you’ll improve rapidly.

Language Student Interview Spotlight: Annie Wang ’19

By ninapalisano on October 10, 2018

Keck Center Language Ambassador Oneida Shushe ’19 interviewed Annie Wang ’19.

What languages do you speak/study?

My native language is Mandarin Chinese, I speak English, and I study Japanese. I took one semester of Italian but I can’t speak it. Right now I’m in my second semester of Japanese at Colgate. I started learning Japanese at a summer program in Tokyo, and I also studied Japanese at Middlebury College with a Lampert Summer Language Scholarship from Colgate. Middlebury was amazing and really immersive. You pledge only to speak the language that you’re studying and you meet a lot of different people.

Did you study languages before coming to Colgate?

Just English.

How has language study been different for you at Colgate than it was in high school or in other places?

I actually find it hard to fit everything into my schedule at Colgate – I’m a History major and a Writing and Rhetoric/Asian studies double minor, so I’m sometimes really busy. Luckily I’m able to do intensive study at places like Middlebury so I can come back to Colgate and jump in to higher level language classes. You have to actively organize and seek opportunities in college and planning can sometimes be challenging.

What has been your favorite language class/professor on campus?

I’m in Advanced Japanese I this fall and I love it. I feel like I can slow down and appreciate the subtleties and aesthetic of the language instead of just rushing forward to catch up and learn grammar and basic things. When you learn enough of a language, you really get the opportunity to slow down and learn in a different way.

Have you done any interesting research projects at Colgate?

The summer after my sophomore year I did a project with my friend Priya that we presented at a conference for student researchers from the NY6 liberal arts consortium. We talked about the politics of English as a second language for international students of color on NY6 campuses, particularly in relation to race, gender, nationality, and culture. A language isn’t always just a language – it can be highly political. For instance, US tourists in Japan usually feel comfortable speaking very little Japanese, but Japanese people would not feel comfortable speaking very little English in the US. English is often associated with whiteness, and for non-white and non-native English speakers linguistic performance can be affected by the microaggressions of their environment. If they feel like they’re not in a friendly environment, they might feel less comfortable speaking – and not even just speaking in English, but speaking or contributing in general.

Have you been able to study abroad? What was your experience like?

I went to Tokyo over the summer to do the Japanese program, and I also went to London with my History study group. Colgate offers so many study abroad opportunities and it’s amazing. Part of a paper that I gave that semester was a case study on black theater in Britain, about a production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest that was staged with a full black cast. It was considered a “white play” and their funding application was blocked a lot of times – the company almost broke apart trying to the produce the play, but it was important to them to push the boundaries of “white theater” and “black theater” and to grapple with the agency of what theater should be. I met with the founder of the theater company to talk about her experience, and I had the opportunity to do intense archival work.

What recommendations would you give to someone at Colgate who wants to learn the language that you study?

Go to the Table of Babel every week and speak the language out loud. Try to see the life in the language you’re studying, and see the words in their context and in real interactions instead of memorizing grammar.

What impact do you see language study having on the rest of your life?

I think empathy is a big impact for me. I want to be able to understand people coming from different places, and understand some of the many different ways to perceive and express. You can’t see the world through just one lens and there are things that can’t be explained through a single point of view. I think your motivation for learning languages is really important and can impact the effectiveness of your learning. My motivation is to get to really know others, because sometimes things don’t come across in translation.


Language Student Interview Spotlight: Melissa Verbeek ’21

By ninapalisano on October 1, 2018

Keck Center student worker and Language Ambassador Tim Mallgrave interviewed Melissa Verbeek ’21 about her experience studying languages at Colgate.

What languages do you speak?

I took French in high school but I don’t take it at Colgate – Arabic’s my primary thing I’m focusing on right now.

How has language study been different for you at Colgate than it was in high school?

I studied French for two years in middle school and then four years in high school, and we weren’t really expected to speak French the whole time in class. Language study definitely wasn’t as intense as it is at Colgate. I did one calendar year of Arabic here and then I also did a program over the summer, so I did two years’ worth of Arabic in one year. I would probably say my Arabic speaking is better than my French ever was, and I had seven years of French versus one of Arabic.

Have you done any interesting research projects at Colgate?

I’m a research assistant for my Arabic professor. He’s working on documents from the Ottoman Empire era, like the reports of a man who was doing recommendations for ways to improve the infrastructure of the Ottoman Empire. His recommendations were fantastic, but the Ottoman Empire didn’t adopt all of them and kind of crumbled. Most of the documents are in English, there’s definitely some sections in Arabic and there’s a little bit in French as well, and I’m mostly doing transcription so that we can get into the research component of the project after the materials have been transcribed. That means looking up the names of the towns that this person visited, trying to track down the people that he mentions, and things like that. It’s definitely going to be a multi-year kind of process.

What professors have you had for Arabic?

I had Professor Abdal-Ghaffar for first year Arabic, and I had him for my Morocco class which was taught in English but included an extended study to Morocco where all the instruction was in Arabic. After I went to Morocco I received the Lampert Summer Language Scholarship from Colgate, and I went to the University of Maryland and did intensive Intermediate Arabic over the summer. This year I have Amany Ahmad for Advanced Arabic. I also work a lot with Ayman, who is the Arabic Language Intern at the Keck Center, and he does a lot with the classes as well.

What was your extended study experience like? How did it contribute to your education at Colgate?

Morocco was really cool. We were kept busy, but we got to see a lot of the country on the very first day. After we landed, we travelled fourteen hours by bus to go to the Muzuka Desert, where we rode camels, saw the sunrise, and danced and sang in Arabic. We were stationed in Rabat and taking classes during the week, but we went to a few different cities – including Chaouen, which was my favorite. It’s called the “Blue City” and it’s beautiful. We went hiking in Akchour, and we went to the cities of Fez and Meknes. We also went to an Amazigh village  – the Amazigh people are the native people of Morocco, and they have their own unique language and culture. Our Arabic language class was with instructors mostly from Egypt because we’re focusing on the Egyptian dialect. There wasn’t enough time to learn the Moroccan dialect of Darija, which is very different from other Arabic dialects. But we did have Moroccan language partners, so they taught us a couple of things to say in Darija Arabic. My favorite is “ana ma diga diga” which means “I’m exhausted.” It’s fun to say and super applicable!

What else do you study besides languages?

I’m a Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and Psychological Science double major. Half of my course load is psych requirements, and the other half is Middle Eastern studies. That includes the Arabic language, CORE Middle East, and electives about Islam and regional studies and things like that.

Do you see any crossover between the two fields? Probably Arabic and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, but how about Arabic and Psychology?

I’d love to do something with mental health and refugee resettlement in the U.S., and potentially in other countries as well –  I could see myself working somewhere in the Middle East in the future. I would probably want to work with helping refugees get situated in the country – like going to doctor’s appointments, doing translation work, helping to fill out forms, or maybe even doing research. I know that the public school system can be really difficult for refugees since they don’t often speak English. I could see myself going off in that career direction and tying my majors together.

What recommendations would you give to someone who wants to learn Arabic at Colgate?

I think at first it can be scary or intimidating cause you don’t know the alphabet. Looking back, it blows my mind. “One year ago, 365 days, I had no idea what these squiggles meant!” But I stuck with it. The professors are really, really great. It’s such a close-knit department, and you’ll become really good friends with everyone in your class and also with your professors. Your professors will know the Arabic activities you’re involved in outside of class and things like that. They’re super involved and they want to see you succeed, so going to office hours and putting time into actually doing the homework every night is important. It is a lot of daily homework. The class is every day, and sometimes we had homework due Saturday nights, things like that. But the program is really well set-up and the professors are wonderful, so I would recommend to stick with it even though it’s hard and unusual and different. Stick with it and put effort into it. Use your peers – study groups are essential! – and practice the language outside of class.

What impact do you see language study having on the rest of your life?

Career opportunities for sure, but also satisfaction with my college experience. I feel like my experience at Colgate would be way different if I didn’t have my language family here. I definitely think I enjoy my classes so much at Colgate because of Arabic and the close friendships I’ve made, some of which I’m probably going to maintain for the rest of my life. Travel opportunities and future relationships with people already have a big impact on my life. When we were in Morocco, there was a really sweet guy who opened up his pizza shop early because we just needed somewhere to duck in and sit down. All the streets were empty, and he saw us and said, “Oh, I can open up early!” in Arabic. We were like “Oh, you don’t have to,” but as soon as he found out that we spoke a bit of Arabic, he was excited to speak with us in Arabic and English and we sat in his shop and talked. It was an interaction that wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t speak the language, which was pretty cool. The people I met in Morocco were all super encouraging about speaking Arabic. I think people don’t necessarily expect a tourist to the Middle East to know the language, so they get really excited and want to talk to you when you do. Knowing Arabic has definitely opened up many new conversations and relationships.

International Poetry Day: come and read poems from any language or culture!

By Achille Zambon on March 30, 2016

InstapoetsNowadays, poetry seems to be looking for its place in mainstream culture. You see billboard poems like the ones of Robert MontgomeryInstapoets like R.M. Drake – who became famous (a retweeted-by-the-Kardashians kind of famous) and sold hundreds of thousands of books by combining lomo aesthetics, fancy typography, and relatable rhymes; you even see self-proclaimed “last poets on Earth” selling printed mugs and t-shirts quoting their own verses.

But what is the meaning of real poetry today? How do Shakespeare, Dante, Baudelaire, Bashō matter in our everyday lives? Is their art only for a few, or can anyone find something relatable about it?

In an attempt to answer this question, the Keck Center, in collaboration with the Office of International Student Services, will be hosting a casual “open mic” evening of poetry on Wednesday, April 6th at 4:30pm, in the terrace lounge of Lawrence Hall. The event is suitably titled International Poetry Day, as it will feature poems from Indonesia to Italy, from South Korea to Germany, from a variety of historical periods. Readers will comment briefly on the verses, explaining why they matter to them personally and in their cultural context.

If you want to read something from your favorite poet, in your own native language or one that you are studying – or even if you want to read your own poem! – please get in touch with any of the language interns. We will need the original text, as well as an English translation to display on the lounge TVs for the people who do not speak the language.

A dinner of Indian, Chinese and Brazilian food will be served. Don’t miss it!

Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.
Rita Dove

“Speed dating” ideas from around the world: short films at the Keck Center

By Achille Zambon on January 25, 2016

Short film is an interesting medium. Its brevity forces directors to distill thoughts and ideas to their most essential form; its status of niche product makes it a great environment for experimentation; its lower production costs allow a vast number of young creatives with fresh ideas to approach this form of art.

Keck Center Short Film Festival

Together with all the other language interns, in our role of “cultural ambassadors” at Colgate, we curated a selection of short films we will be screening in four separate events throughout the semester, the first one being this Thursday (January 28th) at 5:00PM in Lawrence 20. For each screening, we chose a broad theme and selected short films reflecting our own cultures: the first theme will be identity, in all of its shades (nationality, gender, ethnicity, profession, and so on).

The claim for this event could be speed dating ideas from around the world: in about one hour, we will confront ourselves with a variety of different takes on the notion of “identity”, watching a diverse and fast-paced series of works lasting from 2 to 15 minutes. For our first event, Russian and Italian food and snacks will be served at the end of the screening.

Here is the complete calendar of the festival (all four events will take place at 5:00PM in Lawrence 20):

1/28 Identity (food from Russia and Italy)
2/25 Memory (food from France and China)
3/24 Spirituality (food from Japan and Germany)
4/14 Conflict (food from Spain and the Middle East)

Don’t miss it!