Friday, December 14, 2012

Intermediate Spanish Students Engaged in Service-Learning

Dr. Colón's students in Intermediate Spanish I participated in service-learning activities throughout the semester. We'd like to feature for you three students' experiences from fall 2012. These students shared their service-learning projects with their classmates in a PowerPoint presentation at the end of the semester.

First is Gabby Brooks who worked at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church teaching English to adults.

Next Dominic Bisesi talks about his ESL experience.

Elisa Bulger Wolf worked with migrant farmworkers.

Lastly, Cassy Nicolay talks about her work at the Iglesia Camino Verdad y Vida where she made various contributions.

We're pleased to offer such rewarding service-learning experiences to our students. It's great when students engage wholeheartedly in their projects and not only help others but make a difference in their own lives.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Intermediate French Students Present Cultural Themes

Michael Foster, our new assistant professor of French, reports on the work of his students in Intermediate French I class.

In the Intermediate French class (FRE 211) this semester, we covered lots of cultural material dealing with food, art, music, literature, history, sports, and politics. The students have a weekly discussion lab component for the class where they discuss these items with the French language assistant. For their final project, each lab group decided on a particular theme in French culture that they wanted to research and present to the their peers. The first lab group chose to focus on local cuisine for the different regions in France. Appropriately enough, they brought croissants and citronade in for the class to enjoy. The second lab group focused on French art, architecture, and sports.  They presented on various landmarks, musuems, and sports teams in France. It was apparent that both groups learned new and interesting facts about French culture and society.
Dr. Foster's FRE 211 students

Dr. Foster's FRE 211 students

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fall 2012 French and Japanese Recital

On Thursday, November 29, 2012, the Languages Department at Jewell hosted the French and Japanese Recital. In our recital, we had advanced-level students representing both classes from four courses.

Students in FRE 315 Introduction to French Studies performed dramatic monologs based on fictional and historic characters they've studied in the history, culture, film and literature of World War II. We would like highlight Jenny Nelson, a first year French major, who chose Gabriel Péri, hero of the Resistance, for her skills in both French and interpretation.

Students in JPN 350 Advanced Japanese Language performed a skit about traveling in Japan, asking directions and visiting a temple. We'd like to highlight Paige Bolduc and Susan Peoples who perform with their instructor, Ai Namima, for their speaking skills in Japanese and their enthusiasm for the language and culture. Here's their "Trip to Kamakura."

Students in FRE 320 French Women Writers were inspired by historical women who made significant contributions to French culture throughout the ages, choosing to perform interviews, dramatic monologs or research presentations. For this class, we'd like to highlight Allie Lach for her research skills, the clarity of her French and her poise in formal presentations. Enjoy her presentation, "Aliénor d'Aquitaine, reinde de France et puis d'Angleterre."

Lastly, we have a new category at the Recital. Kristin Eaves is our first official student to add a service-learning component to her French minor in the tutorial FRE 411: Service-Learning in the Francophone Community. We'd like to highlight her achievements as well by featuring her presentation, "Apprentissage par le service communautaire francophone."

Congratulations to all our participants! Thank you for your enthusiasm, hard work and courage in presenting in a formal venue. We had a great recital!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Department of Languages Wins Learning Environments Grant for Language Lab Renovation

This fall semester, the Languages Department at William Jewell College won a grant for "Leveraging Learning Environments." Our grant proposal centered on a renovation project for the Language Lab in Jewell Hall, room 203.

The Language Lab was not effective in  fulfilling its function as a language learning center as part of the mission of the Languages Department at Jewell. We began the redesign of this learning space by reconceptualizing the role of the language lab in our language curriculum, repurposing the space to meet language learning goals, researching the computer hardware and software, as well as reorienting the physical space and considering furnishings such as chairs, tables, desks, in addition to pedagogical aids: viewing monitor, media access and marker boards, for example.

The language lab as it once was.

When the language lab was updated in the late 1990s, the lab was essentially a computer lab that focused on individual work. At this point, most students have access to the computer-assisted language learning sites through their own devices and the lab because underutilized. Additionally, the lab has become outdated, using a projector and drop down screen, older computers, and a chalkboard.

With the grant, work is underway to renovate the lab. Here's where we are now:

The language lab prepared for renovation.

 Everything is gone! The walls have been repaired and repainted, the floor will be vacuumed and shampooed. The next step is to add electrical lines for the new technology stations.

While we don't want to give the surprise of the new design away in this post, we will let you know two things. First, the purpose of the lab is to encourage collaborative learning and interpersonal communication. We've decided to make the language lab a more student-centered place with pleasing furnishings. Our primary colors are Jewell colors, black and red! Second, the language lab will now host the lab sessions led by our language assistants from Spain and France, rather than in other classrooms. The space will have computers for language learning, but there will also be a community area for conversation, so that the language lab will now have the facilities necessary for the varied activities done in these lab sessions. In order to accommodate both approaches to language learning, we've designed the lab to hold 12 students in each of the areas, the cap of the lab sessions.

We will keep you posted on our progress! We're planning to open the lab for spring semester 2013.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Service Learning for French: Kristin Eaves Reports

This semester, Kristin Eaves became the William Jewell College's first official service learning student in the French Department. To complete the requirements for her minor, Kristin volunteered at the Jewish Vocational Services, Kansas City. In this report, Kristin talks about all she learned from her experience.

    This semester I completed a service learning experience as a part of my French studies and it ended up being what I believe will be the most memorable experience of my college years. 

    For my service learning, I worked as an intern with Jewish Vocational Services, or JVS, in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. JVS is responsible for resettling refugees from all over the world on the Missouri side of Kansas City. Dr. Myers and I thought this would be an interesting way to experience French because JVS regularly resettles refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), a former French colony in central Africa which has retained French as its official language. Like many former European colonies, the CAR has been struggling with poverty, corrupt governments and lack of governmental infrastructure, as well as abuses of human rights which has led to thousands of people fleeing from their home country into refugee camps in neighboring countries. 

    I was extremely excited to begin my service learning experience at JVS. I went through a three hour orientation with other interns to learn about the organization and all of the things that they do. I thought it was going to be fun—I would improve my French, learn about how French colonization affected the CAR, and gain new insight into the plight of refugees. However, my experience turned out to go far beyond what Dr. Myers and I had expected!

    My official role at JVS was as a school liaison. I would enroll recently arrived refugee children into school. Simple enough, right? Actually, it wasn’t simple at all! I had to fill out forms, chase down signatures, find school supplies, walk children to bus stops, and even pick them up from their first day occasionally. It’s important to mention here that these were not just children from the CAR. These were families from all over the world—Burma, Bhutan, Iraq, Iran, Nepal, Cuba, several nations in Africa, and others. So not only did most of them not speak French, most of them did not even speak English. The first time I truly felt overwhelmed was the day I sat in on an orientation meeting and listened as the interpreters translated what the instructor was saying in English into about 7 different languages. I was supposed to be helping with the CAR family, but I couldn’t focus. Each language had its own sounds, rhythms, and pitches and I was fascinated…for a while. Then I got a headache from trying to learn 7 languages in 2 hours!

Kristin accompanying new friends on a trip to the zoo.
    During this experience I regularly had to try to communicate with people with whom I had no common language. Once, I sat in the apartment of an extremely large Burmese family for twenty minutes, when all I had gone there for was to drop off a few backpacks for the children. They pulled me into their home and sat me down on their couch, and to be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I was in the right apartment! They were smiling, and seemed to understand that I was from JVS, so I just went with it. Eventually, I was able to leave, but not without a hug from every member of the family (most of whom, I later learned, were due to be treated for symptoms of tuberculosis…don’t worry, I’ve been tested!). It was in moments like this that I was thrown farther out of my comfort zone than I have ever been. I’m generally a very cautious person, and so for me, a girl from a rural hometown with a population of just under 2,000 people, to be walking around neighborhoods in inner-city Kansas City, walking into what I would consider to be creepy apartment buildings and knocking on doors of people I had never met and knew I would have no way of communicating with?...How could this experience not have caused me to grow as a person? 

Happy faces on a day trip
    While I learned so much about so many cultures that I could go on for days, I suppose I should dedicate some of this blog entry to my interactions with those that allowed me to practice my French! First off, not everyone from the CAR speaks French, although most know at least a tiny bit. Speaking French means one is educated and education is not something everyone had access to in the CAR. Those that did speak French did not speak the French I was used to hearing. They have different accents and different ways of pronouncing things. One thing that threw me off in the beginning was their use of the trilled R, like in Spanish, instead of the French guttural R. Another issue I ran into was that words from other African languages are thrown into French like they belong there. I would be racking my brain to try to remember what a word meant before coming to the conclusion that it simply didn’t exist in French, which would then be confirmed by the person I was talking to. I also learned about the lives of the refugees which was often heartbreaking. I often wondered, especially when talking to CAR teenagers or people closer to my own age, how a person could suffer so much and still have such a positive outlook on life?

    This thought brings me to what were probably the most important things I learned this semester. First, America truly is a great nation and second, I have had a lifetime of blessings that I never even thought about! America is great. Seeing America through the eyes of the refugees was truly eye-opening for me. They are so grateful to be here and they love everything about America. I was told once by a Cuban woman that, “Americans do not appreciate the gift of citizenship,” and she was right! At this point, we were in the midst of election season so that statement was even more true than usual. Regardless of our political stances or who the president is we are Americans! We live in a country that these people hope and pray to be sent to. This is something I have never truly thought about. Another time, we were at the home of an Iranian family who fled Iran because they were Christians and were being persecuted. They had hung a giant American flag in their living room and I was telling the mother what a beautiful flag it was when the father looked at me and told me that the flag was the most beautiful gift he had ever been given because it meant he was free to worship God however he wished. I have been blessed to live in a country where I can worship, or not worship, however I want. I don’t live in fear of communicable diseases or dying during childbirth, and I don’t have to worry about a rebel army coming in the night and burning down my village. I worry about homework at a rather expensive private college. I live in fear of not getting into the graduate school I want to go to and I stress about what to buy my family members for Christmas. I complain about food in a cafeteria and refuse to eat it even though it’s prepared, paid for, and available. I felt ridiculous at times around the refugees, and that is another reason I am so thankful for this experience. 

Kristin accompanied a group to the zoo as part of her service learning experience.
    I really could talk all day about my semester at JVS. There are so many important things I haven’t covered, like our day at the zoo and being laughed at for not knowing how to say lion in French…it’s “lion” by the way. I could talk about the times that I got to watch kids get so excited over a backpack and a few school supplies, all of the times I gave someone a ride to the grocery store so they wouldn’t have to walk, or the few tears I shed the day I went with parents to pick their child up from his first day of school and the mother cried because she was so happy that her child was actually getting to go to a school after being born and raised to this point in a refugee camp. My semester at JVS went far, far beyond what I had envisioned. It became more than a project for my French program and ended up being something that really changed the way I thought about the world and the people in it. I am extremely grateful to the language department and Dr. Myers for allowing me to be the first Fre411 student and supporting this amazing experience!