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Friday, May 31, 2013

World Languages Day 2013: Changes and Successes

World Languages Day (WLD) 2013 saw many new developments and changes this time around. This year WLD attracted approximately 1,000 high school students, came home to the East Bank, and featured smaller, more personal Welcoming Remarks.
WLD began gradually and humbly as energetic volunteers directed students from school buses and instructors checked in to teach their classes. For breakfast, croissants were served with beverages in the indoor courtyard of Rapson Hall.

To acquaint high school students with the University of Minnesota's vast campus, Admissions Guides took the students on a short tour the Knoll area, so they could see their classroom buildings.

Several schools attended, comprising a variety of studied languages:

  • Avalon (Spanish)

  • Apple Valley (French)

  • Augsburg Fairview Academy (Spanish)

  • Cannon Falls (Spanish)

  • Coon Rapids (French and Spanish)

  • Melrose Area High School (Spanish

  • Milaca (Chinese)

  • Park High School (ASL, French, German, Spanish)

  • Robbinsdale Cooper (French, Spanish)

  • South High School (Spanish)

  • St. Louis Park (French, German, Hebrew, Spanish)

  • St. Anthony Village High School (Spanish)

  • Washburn (English)

  • Zumbrota-Mazeppa (Chinese)

Speakers led multiple Welcoming Remarks to smaller groups of people this year in Nicholson Hall, Folwell Hall, Rapson Hall, and Jones Hall. After the introduction to WLD, informative college readiness classes began and were received with largely positive reactions.

One high school teacher noted in a comment form:

"I really enjoyed the welcoming remarks by a undergrad student this year, instead of the dean. I think my students related better to a young person telling his experiences as a college student. Our 'Preparing for College' class was also excellent in that it really showed my sophomores the financial importance of going to college; a great motivator!"

   -High school teacher on 'Preparing for College' class

The first session of language and culture classes began and the diversity of courses elicited a variety of reactions from students and teachers. Most high school students noted in comment forms that the classes were interesting and informative. Many students highlighted that the college instructors were engaging and knowledgeable of the material.

A high point in World Languages Day is inspiring young high school students to pursue language-related studies, cultural experiences, and college. One student expressed their positive and influential World Languages Day experience by commenting,

"This was the best field trip I have ever done! It gave me a bit of the campus and I really liked it since I think I might want to attend U of M."
-High school student

Another student noted the enjoyment of learning more about a language of his or her cultural heritage:

"Very fun, went home to my Italian dad & grandma and was able to show them what I learned!! Very nice teacher. I wish my high school taught Italian, and I can't wait to take it when I hopefully attend U of M!"
-High school student who took 'Introduction to Italian: Benvenuti!' class

This student commented their enjoyment and surprise:

"At first I thought it was going to be hard but after 5 minutes I liked it! I felt like I was in China!"
-High school student in 'Experiencing Chinese Language' class

At lunchtime high school students and teachers dispersed into campus and chose their own lunch locations. Staff and volunteers headed to Jones Hall to eat Mesa pizza, salad, and beverages.

The afternoon ended with students departing and loading back onto school buses, as volunteers packed up and cleaned. According to comments, many students left with positive impressions and were inspired to further pursue studying foreign languages and cultures.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

World Languages Day 2013: Merci! Kiitos! Gracias! Arigato! Grazie! Miigwech! Takk! Spasibo! Mahad! Sanid! Shukran! Danke! ...

Thank You

A big thank you to everyone who made World Languages Day 2013 possible. The event was a huge undertaking this year with a new itinerary, a return to the East Bank, a different Welcoming Remarks format, and more locations than ever before.

The event was a success because of our instructors, staff and volunteers. It is a broad group effort, and we could not pull off this event without the support of multiple colleges and units, including CLA, GPS Alliance, CCE, CEHD, CDes, Admissions, Facilities Management, Parking and Transportation and more. Instructors and volunteers include current students, instructors and staff in all classifications, and former university employees and students who came back to support an event they remembered fondly from their time at the university.

Here are some of the people who made this event possible:

The Core World Languages Day Development Team --
They worked on this event all year long

Francisco Salinas Vega, Trang Nguyen, Sara MacKenzie, Jenny Boe, Diane Rackowski, Boon Xiong

Francisco recruited most of the instructors, communicated with schools and handled the many administrative details required throughout the year ... and he did it all while completing his degree. Trang created the Welcoming Remarks PowerPoint presentation and recruited the Welcoming Remarks leaders. Sara recruited and trained all of the Admission Guides. Jenny scheduled most of the volunteers. Diane and Boon developed the website and website registration.

Our Building Captains --
The people with the walkie-talkies who managed each location

Jenny Boe, Catherine Clements, Trang Nguyen, Diane Rackowski, Francisco Salinas Vega, Stephanie Treat, Caroline Vang

Our Undergraduate Welcoming Remarks Leaders --
Each led remarks to 125 to 350 high school students

Angel Cecere, Holly Harrington, Laura Hoogeveen, Natalie Pascutoi, Brian Zarate

Our AV Techs --
Provided essential support for the Welcoming Remarks

Madison Olson-Spartz, Alyssa Ruesch, Keerthana Shankar, Hunter Slack, Henry Wahl

Our World Languages Day Instructors --
Talk about Essential! These are the folks who taught the day's classes

  • Said Ahmed: Somali Culture and Language
  • Rebecca Aylesworth: Sweden: From Viking Raids to Rap Music
  • Lydia Belatèche: Les Délices de France: Learn to Eat (and Speak) like the French
  • Nels Berge: Introduction to Italian: Benvenuti!
  • Jim Bierma: So You Want to Be A Millionaire: How Preparing for College Can Help!
  • Juliette Cherbuliez: From Atheists to Libertines: French Philosophy and the Limits of the Imagination
  • Hangtae Cho: The Korean Alphabet in 40 Minutes
  • Cristina Cocchi: Introduction to Italian: Benvenuti!
  • Drew Coveyou: U of M Admissions: The Inside Scoop
  • Rachael Cullick: How Many Ways Could a Roman Stick Out His Tongue?
  • Paulien Detailleur: It Takes Tulips to Learn Dutch
  • Narayan Dhakal: Nepal: A Nexus between Culture and the Environment
  • Kait Dougherty: Where In The World Will U Go? Study Abroad as a College Student
  • Mohammed Elmeski: Introduction to Arabic!
  • Chantal Figueroa: Introduction to Candoble: An Animist Brazilian Religion
  • Satty Flaherty-Echeverria: Portuguese for Students of Spanish
  • Nanette Hanks: Following the Milky Way: On the Road to Santiago de Compostela
  • Hanna-Ilona Härmävaara: Survival Finnish
  • Stephanie Hernandez: Dominican Republic Culture Class (for Students of Spanish)
  • Sungok Hong: Holi: Indian Spring Festival of Colors
  • Cynthia Hornbeck: Introduction to Latin: Language of Gladiators, Lawyers, Poets and Witches
  • Miguel Hurtado: Afro Cuban Music
  • Minori Inada: Introduction to Japanese
  • Rania Johnson: Big D Deaf: Deaf Culture in America
  • Bryce Johnson: The Korean Alphabet in 40 Minutes
  • Daniel Karvonen: Survival Finnish
  • Beth Kautz: Survival German & Green Germany (taught in German for students of German)
  • Keiko Kawakami: Introduction to Japanese
  • Betsy Kerr: Parlez-vous franglais? Frenglish through the Ages
  • April Knutson: Haiti: History of Mixed Cultures and Languages
  • Kiley Kost: Sweden: From Viking Raids to Rap Music
  • Qijie Li: Experiencing Chinese Language
  • Jory Nagel: U of M Admissions: The Inside Scoop
  • Rose Nguyen: Afro Cuban Music
  • Anna Olivero: Introduction to Italian: Benvenuti!
  • Jenneke Oosterhoff: It Takes Tulips to Learn Dutch
  • Russell Packard: Afro Cuban Music
  • Eva Palma Zuniga: Chile Culture Class (for Students of Spanish)
  • James Parente: Sagas of the Vikings
  • Paul Peterson: Introduction to Icelandic
  • Barbara Pierre Louis: Excursion Brazil: Language, Food and Carnival
  • Luis Ramos-Garcia: United States Latino Theater: Human and Civil Rights
  • Kathy Rider: Italian Without Words: Introduction to Italian Gesture
  • Maria Schweikert: Meet Cheburashka: Russia's Cutest Cultural Educator
  • Ryan Seaberg: Eureka! The Greek Alphabet and the (R)Evolution of Writing
  • Dan Soneson: A Virtual Walk Through Vienna
  • Gabriela Sweet: Afro Cuban Music
  • Rick Treece: Vive la Résistance! The French Resistance in World War II
  • Meagan Tripp: Survival German
  • Bee Vang: Hmong Survival Language Kit
  • Pablo Viedma: ¡España es Diferente! (taught in Spanish for students of Spanish)
  • Ishaa Vintinner: Big D Deaf: Deaf Culture in America
  • Ling Wang: Instant Chinese
  • Brian Zarate: Les Délices de France: Learn to Eat (and Speak) like the French
  • Hanna Zmijewska-Emerson: The Face of Modern Norway
  • Zhen Zou: Instant Chinese 

Our Staff and Volunteers --
Taking on the other numerous tasks not listed above

Maryan Abdi, Ahmed Abdimalik, Brandon Adams, Nada Al-Dakheelallah, Hind Aldakheelallah, Jama Ayanle, Steve Baker, Jenny Boe, Alejandra Catarino, Angel Cecere, Catherine Clements, Rachel Faynik Marbell, Ahmed Gedi, Holly Harrington, Laura Hoogeveen, Iuliia Kornilenko, Louis Janus, Kowsar Khuriye, Maxine Kobinski, Maulika Kohli, Yi-Ju Lai, Brianna Lopez, Abdulkarim Maalin, Anise McDowell, Saoirse McMahon, Madison Olson-Spartz, Susan McMillen Villar, Jade Molinier, Rose Nguyen, Trang Nguyen, Kaoru Nunn, Natalie Pascutoi, Joanne Peltonen, Diane Rackowski, Alyssa Ruesch, Francisco Salinas Vega, Dan Soneson, Sherry Scarborough, Keerthana Shankar, Hunter Slack, Ginny Steinhagen, Allison Suhan, Ian Taylor, Stephanie Treat, Caroline Vang, Henry Wahl, Soa Yang, Donming Yang, Brian Zarate, Ruth Zwick

And Thank You Participants

Finally, thank you to all the high school teachers, students, counselors and parents who took time out of their busy spring semester to come to this event. This kind of field trip is complicated to organize and execute, and we appreciate everyone's effort and good cheer on the day. We hope you enjoyed your visit to the University of Minnesota!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cold Nose, Warm Onion Rings

TandemPlus's final event for the spring semester was an Ice Cream Social held at Annie's Parlour in Dinkytown on Friday, May 3. Due to the cold, snowy weather, Tandem provided the 25+ attendees with hot appetizers like french fries and onion rings, and many participants shared malts with their friends.

Participants at the event discussed academics, student life, plus their experiences with Tandem. Student Sean Nelson, who is in a Japanese-English Tandem partnership, said: "The events put on by TandemPlus ... have opened up new connections between people who are learning the same language as me along with other people who are learning different languages. They've also contributed to my understanding of how interconnected languages can be. Speaking with the Chinese students along with students who are learning Chinese, has taught me how certain things in Japan have come to be. It has also taught me certain differences between the Chinese characters used in Japanese compared to the Chinese characters used in China."

We're thrilled that Sean and other students have gotten so much out of the events, and look forward to hosting more TandemPlus events again starting in Fall.

Monday, May 13, 2013

TandemPlus: Connecting Cultures and Communities through Communication

Anyone who's studied second language knows the difficulties. One is the discrepancy between book-learning and real-life language use; for example, the dialogues in second-language textbooks are scripted and complete, but real-life dialogues are full of false starts, interruptions, and other complications which are notoriously hard to negotiate on the fly. Also daunting are the cultural differences involved; ways of saying "How are you?" can vary one from one country to the next, even in those speaking the same language. Also, to attain true linguistic fluency, extensive and frequent conversation with native speakers of the language is required. Fortunately, a program exists at the University of Minnesota that allows participants to gain experience in all these areas, without leaving campus or even spending any money.

The TandemPlus cultural and conversation exchange program offers University of Minnesota students and community members the opportunity to use their second language skills with native speakers of the languages that they are learning. TandemPlus has different facets, including the Face-to-Face (F2F) Exchanges and the Class-to-Class (C2C) Exchanges.

The most popular facet is the F2F program, in which individual students voluntarily enroll because they want to improve their second-language skills. After registering on-line and being matched by Tandem staff based on their personal and linguistic preferences, participants meet with one another in person on or around campus on a regular basis. These partnerships often grow into strong friendships. U of M student Sean Nelson, who participated in a Japanese-English F2F exchange during the Spring 2013 semester, stated,

Tandem has helped more than I would have ever imagined. I initially didn't know what I'd gain from a Tandem partner, but it has become such an amazing experience. I have become very comfortable with speaking Japanese, my listening comprehension has improved tremendously and my cultural understanding has improved greatly.

According to Nelson, his F2F partnership has also increased his vocabulary, helped him improve his performance in class, and more:

Along with all that, I've gained an amazing friend. I've gained experiences and information I don't feel I would have ever been taught in class. It has also helped prepare me for studying abroad this summer. And finally, it has connected me to the Japanese community at the University. Without my Tandem partner, I would have never thought about signing up to join the board of the Japanese Student Association, where I am now an officer and love every second of it.


While the F2F program is individual and voluntary, the C2C program is done in conjunction with a language class at the University. In it, students are paired with a partner in a complementary language class abroad -- for example, students in a Spanish class at the U of M could be paired with students in an English class in Spain. Students communicate with each other in their first and second languages, using Skype or another on-line medium, and learn about different cultures while utilizing their language skills. Rick Treece is a French instructor at the U of M whose students have participated in C2C exchanges for several semesters. According to Treece, the program offers some great incentives for U of M students:
I liked the idea of giving my students authentic contact with native speakers their own age. The experience would be motivational from two standpoints: showing them how much they can really achieve in French already, and showing them what they need to work on in order to be more successful. The chances for cross-cultural insights (which is a big element of our French 1004 curriculum) was also attractive.
Treece pointed out that the opportunity did not come without challenges:
The mismatch of the academic calendars is a hassle. When we're putting together our Fall syllabus, the French are on vacation; they're not at work answering their emails, and even when they do reply, they don't know their enrollments or perhaps even their course assignments yet. The delay between the start of our Spring semesters is even worse, so that we end up with only about 5 weeks of course-time in common in the Spring, once you take out Spring Breaks, etc. The solution is just that we've learned to be flexible, to plan based on expectations, and then adjust in midstream.

Despite the challenges that came with the program, the benefits far outweighed the cost, according to Treece. He noted that while a "handful of students found it frustrating, even negative," the majority of his students had "pleasant and cordial" exchanges, and that some even had "life-changing experiences," such as the opportunity to visit their partner overseas.

All in all, TandemPlus is a free program that offers the potential for increased linguistic fluency, greater cultural awareness, or even a life-changing experience. The F2F program operates during all semesters of the academic year, including Summer, while the C2C program operates mainly during the academic year. Students or instructors who want to learn how to participate in these exchanges should get in touch with TandemPlus at tandem@umn.edu.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Language Center Staff Milestones

After this busy spring semester, many of the staff here at the Language Center will be engaging in some important life transitions! We want to highlight some of these milestones and accomplishments by congratulating the following staff members:

Jennifer Boe, Classroom Support and Assistant Main Office Coordinator is graduating at the end of the summer with a Master's in Teaching ESL (English as a Second Language). Jenny's research topic is on sense of belonging in first generations students at the University of Minnesota.

Kowsar Khuriye, Multimedia Lab Attendant, will be graduating at the end of this summer with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Public Health.

Meghan McFadden, Classroom Support Coordinator, is currently in the Second Languages and Cultures Masters of Education department and will be obtaining a Minnesota Teaching License for K-12 French and K-12 ESL in June.

Saoirse McMahon, Main Office Assistant and Elsie Speaks Editor, recently became a U.S. citizen. Her naturalization ceremony took place on March 25.

Francisco Salinas Vega, World Languages Day Assistant, is graduating this semester with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Economics, along with a minor in Spanish. He also recently became a U.S. citizen. His naturalization ceremony was on April 19.

Jessica Troyan, Classroom Support staff, will be studying abroad this summer for two months in Toledo, Spain. She is currently a sophomore.

Caroline Vang, Classroom Support Coordinator, will be graduating with a Master's from the Second Language Studies Department in teaching ESL. Her current paper is about the function of Japanese bilingualism for Japanese-American heritage speakers and how it relates to Japanese-American identity.

Congratulations, everyone!