What languages do you speak and/or study?
I have studied Arabic and Tibetan formally during my time at Colgate, and I’ve studied Spanish since high school and now speak it fluently. I also speak a bit of French learned in high school. I learned Portuguese informally in Brazil, but my Portuguese is pretty bad – I need to be going to Table of Babel to brush up!
How has language study been different for you at Colgate than it was in high school?
I’m from Southern California, and I definitely had a lot more exposure to Spanish and Spanish speakers while I was learning that language – as opposed to Hamilton, where my use of Arabic is primarily contained to the classroom. The other main difference in language study here is that while I have a lot less actual class time than I had in high school, I’ve committed a much larger portion of my time in general to studying and speaking the languages that I’m learning.
What has been your favorite language class or professor on campus?
I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Shaemma Essa, an Arabic instructor who is sadly not teaching at Colgate any more. She is finishing up her degree at McGill and I miss her every day!
Have you done any interesting research projects at Colgate?
I have done mini research projects on chess, radio, and sustainable building methods in Peru, Mexico, and Colombia. These experiences gave me the opportunity to practice my Spanish in three different cultures and contexts. Using Spanish during those projects helped me to understand WAY more than I would have otherwise.
What else do you study besides languages? Do you see crossover between your fields of study?
My major is Peace and Conflict Studies – and absolutely! There are so many ties between language skills and peacemaking – and in being able to resolve conflicts and differences. The root of tolerance is understanding, which has to be reached by communication. I think they are connected in every way.
Have you received any scholarships or fellowships for language study?
I haven’t received any formal language scholarships from Colgate, but I received summer funding after my freshman year to travel to Amman, Jordan and practice my Arabic. I also received funding last summer to travel to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, where I picked up some Indonesian.
Have you been able to study abroad? What was your experience like, and how did it contribute to your education at Colgate?
I studied abroad in Kathmandu, Nepal – and I absolutely loved my time in Nepal. The people I met there – from the people on my program and the staff, the instructors, and my language partners – made my experience so memorable. We learned so much about Tibetan and Himalayan cultures and experiences, traveled to beautiful places, pushed ourselves past our comfort zones, and made beautiful memories together. You can read more about my study abroad experience in this series: http://blogs.colgate.edu/bentonscholars/category/tbs-abroad
What recommendations would you have for someone who wants to learn the languages that you study?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! The best way to learn a language is to lose all shame and self-consciousness, and just throw yourself into learning. If you approach it with hesitation and nervousness, you won’t actually be absorbing what you learn. Make your mistakes and laugh them off. You’ll be better off for it!
Why do you think studying languages is important?
Having the ability to connect with others – even on a basic level with “hellos” and “how are yous” – can transform your relationship with people and places. It leads to more cross-cultural understanding and tolerance and is tied inextricably to world peace. When we try to understand each other and build relationships, that’s where magic happens.
What impact do you see language study having on the rest of your life? Do you have any future plans that involve languages?
I plan to have an international career, although I’m not exactly sure of the field yet. I know that whatever I choose to do will involve language in some aspect, and it’s important for both my personal and career fulfillment to be able to communicate well. I recently received a Projects for Peace Fellowship, so I will be in Timor-Leste during the summer of 2019. I plan to improve both my Indonesian and my Portuguese while I’m there, as both languages are spoken on the island. Since my project under this fellowship is about peace and reconciliation, I think my knowledge of languages will be crucial.