Bonjour! Voulez-vous parler avec moi, ce soir?

by Beacon Staff • November 7, 2007

"Ou est le crayon de mon oncle?" "Wo ist der Bleistift von meinem Onkel?" "Where is my uncle's pencil?"

While certainly a valid question if your uncle is in dire need of a pencil, this is most likely not among the phrases useful to the average American traveling in France or Germany.,"Ou est le crayon de mon oncle?" "Wo ist der Bleistift von meinem Onkel?" "Where is my uncle's pencil?"

While certainly a valid question if your uncle is in dire need of a pencil, this is most likely not among the phrases useful to the average American traveling in France or Germany. This kind of specialized knowledge is only taught in textbooks. Emerson's Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, however, has chosen practicality over your uncle's pencil needs. It recently reinstituted its Language Immersion Program, where students build basic conversational skills in foreign languages.

The program was initially founded a few years ago, but was put on hold in 2006, with Tikesha Morgan as the new head of Multicultural Student Affairs.

This semester it is back in full force, with classes in French, which will begin Tuesday and meet every week for six weeks, and in German, which will begin Monday and meet every week, besides Veterans Day, for six weeks.

Morgan described the classes as informal, not structured around standard lessons, but focused on useful phrases.

Morgan drafted Emerson students fluent in the two languages to help the unilingual through the process of learning to speak in the native tongues of Paris and Berlin.

Melissa Gillot, a sophomore marketing communication major, will instruct the French classes. Gillot is a native of Saint-Denis, Reacute;union, a French island off the coast of Madagascar.

"It's not so much about teaching as about sharing the culture," Gillot said.

She said the classes will use immersion teaching-no English will be spoken-but will also include a cultural introduction, through books and films.

This aspect of the courses is a necessary component, Gillot said. Students need a full understanding of their destination countries that must to be accomplished in a very short period.

"There's only so much you can do in five or six weeks," Morgan explained. "But it would be great if they extend past that."

Julia Mews, a native of Gera, Germany and a graduate writing, literature and publishing student, will be teaching German. She agreed that most students will not become fluent, but said that wouldn't be a problem.

"I hope that through this program they get a jumpstart in learning the language and it gives them the confidence to learn it," Mews said.

Morgan and the student teachers hope that the relaxed atmosphere of the Cultural Center and the fact that the teachers are fellow students will help make the experience more effective.

"The barrier will be much lower for people to start speaking," Mews explained. She said the hardest part of learning a language is getting over the shyness many people face, and hopes that the comfortable setting will help with that.

"I hope they see us more as friends and peers," Gillot said.

The program has proven popular among students, who said the immersion classes are more useful than traditional language courses taught in the classrooms at Emerson.

Sarah Cadorette, a student in the French class, said the lack of available high-level language courses at Emerson led her to Gillot's sessions, but she is looking forward to the social aspect that the class offers.

"I'm also looking forward to making friends with people who enjoy French culture as much as I do," said the freshman writing, literature and publishing major in an e-mail to The Beacon.

Only 10 people are allowed in each class, so as not to overwhelm the teachers. Morgan said she would probably not be able to add more classes; both because of her own busy schedule and the busy schedule of the Campus Center.

The classes filled up within one day of being posted on the E-Campus Web site, Morgan said, but interested students who did not make the cut should not lose heart.

Two new languages will be offered next semester, and potentially for many semesters to come. The classes are on a first come, first serve basis.

Due to the high demand for sections of the courses, there is also a need for more teachers.

Morgan encourages students who are fluent in another language to send a resumeacute; showing past teaching or tutoring experience to the Cultural Center.

Dana Filek-Gibson, a sophomore writing, literature and publishing major, is participating in the French class.

"I really wanted to continue French when I came to Emerson," Filek-Gibson said in an e-mail to The Beacon. "But the classes weren't worth it, so when I found out about the immersion program, I signed up ASAP."

The language immersion classes meet in the Cultural Center, on the lower level of the the Campus Center in Piano Row.

For more information, visit the Multicultural Student Affairs Web site.