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Bearing Fruit—Even Tomatoes: MHC's Strategic Plan Yields Success

Civilization Begins with a Rose—and a Plan

Botanic Garden as Metaphor

Leadership and the Liberal Arts: The Weissman Center for Leadership

Speaking Up for Speaking, Arguing, and Writing

January Term Internships: From Monkeys to Marketing

Maps, Memories, and More with the Click of a Mouse

Sharing Meals and More in the Kosher/Halal Dining Room

Putting Tomatoes on the (Genetic) Map

Mount Holyoke Enjoys Banner Years for Applications

High-Tech Room Lets Musicians Play in Virtually Any Venue

Tallying Up the Success of the Plan

Indika Senanayake '03: Transformation Through Performance

A Work of Art on Many Levels: Mount Holyoke, the Mountain

"Greening" Mount Holyoke's Curriculum

Geologist Elizabeth "Betty" Wilson '72 Brings Energy to J-Term

Hannah Kolak '03: Her Worlds Collided

Getting Concrete about Environmental Stewardship

Everything on Track with Langhan Dee '04

Athletics Scoreboard

On the Mount Holyoke Campaign Trail

Five College Center Brings People Together Through Language

Reaping the Rewards of The Plan for Mount Holyoke 2003

Mount Holyoke College News and Events College Street Journal Vista


Plan goals: Explore the creative use of information technology in learning and teaching • Expand linkages with the Five Colleges • Build on the long-standing internationalism in the curriculum and community

  Student of the Wolof language Adriana Mirarchi '03 (left) practicces the Senegalese equivalent of "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" with "conversation partner" Safietou Sagna '03, a native speaker.
As the world becomes more globalized, and young people live and study in countries their parents learned about only in textbooks, students increasingly want to learn languages not commonly taught in American college classrooms. Utilizing technology and tapping the international student population of the Five Colleges for native speakers who serve as "conversation partners" and cultural interpreters, the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages is enabling students to study languages ranging from Bulgarian, Czech, Hindi, Hungarian, and Indonesian to Norwegian, Serbo-Croatian, Swahili, Thai, Urdu, Vietnamese, and Wolof.

Through the center, a global leader in the field of instruction in less commonly taught languages, students study independently using a combination of texts, digital audio and video software, Web-based instructional sites, and weekly conversation practice sessions led by the conversation partners. Professors accredited in the target languages give oral exams.

The center has proved of great help to Adriana Mirarchi '03, who is majoring in psychology and French West African studies and spent her junior year in Senegal, West Africa, through the College's program at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop. Fluent in French by the time she left for Senegal, she studied Wolof, the country's primary language, during the year she was there. Planning to pursue a master's degree in public health upon graduation and intending to return one day to Africa to work for a nongovernmental health-related agency, Mirarchi not only wanted to continue studying Wolof during her senior year, she needed to focus on medical vocabulary. The center provided her with a text, a manual used by Peace Corps volunteers being sent to Senegal, online resources, and a conversation partner, Senegal native Safietou Sagna '03. The two end each of their weekly sessions by performing the Senegalese equivalent of "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes," so that Mirarchi can learn the words for body parts.

"It has been great to be able to continue studying Wolof through the center," says Mirarchi, who now feels comfortable with basic conversation in the language and is learning medical terms. Sagna, who speaks seven languages, says the program is "a good way to learn. I give Adriana tips she wouldn't learn from a book."

The center was founded in the late 1980s as a research and development center for teaching foreign languages using technology. It was so popular with Five College faculty that the colleges used it as a prototype and began opening centers on their own campuses. The Five College center shifted its focus to developing and offering programs, using technology to teach less commonly taught languages.

"Since texts and accompanying materials for these languages were few and far between, and we had the technology and resources to create them, we started to do it," says center director Elizabeth Mazzocco, Five College associate professor of Italian. The center also began its program of linking students with native speakers who were studying at Five College institutions. In addition to serving as language partners, many of these students, when they return home for the summer, shoot digital videos that provide valuable exposure to the practical aspects of daily life in their native countries. The videos, which are unscripted and reflect authentic linguistic usage, including local dialects, colloquial grammar, and figures of speech, are particularly useful for students going to a country for the first time.  

Over the last five years, the center has received more than $1 million in grants from the departments of defense and education and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and has continued to expand and develop new programs. This year, a class in intensive elementary Swahili was offered for the first time, utilizing a classroom-based, multimedia language study approach to offer instruction to students at multiple campuses simultaneously. In April, the center received a $535,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to expand its offerings.

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Copyright © 2003 Mount Holyoke College. This page created by Don St. John and maintained by Office of Communications. Last modified on August 5, 2003.

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