To get a better sense of how Obies use languages other than English, we’ve asked current students and alumni to fill out a brief survey and let us know what they’re up to, linguistically! Are you interested in participating in the project? Email us.
Obies Using Languages
Jimmy is a member of the class of 2018 and is currently undeclared, but he is hoping to create an individual major in Linguistics in addition to perhaps declaring a Religion major. He has studied Spanish for several years and has begun learning Arabic at Oberlin.
Manon Hume’s motivations for learning languages are as deep as her connection to her grandmother and as simple as her own name. French was the first non-English language that Manon started learning, and for a very simple reason. “My name is French,” she said. “That got me interested in learning it.” She started learning it in middle school and took three years of French in high school until AP. After high school, she spent three months in Grenoble, France living with a host family during a gap year. “I had few expectations going in, but [French] has ended up becoming a huge important part of my life,” she said. “That class back in high school ended up completely changing the coruse of my life. Till that point, math had been my favorite subject. I’m so glad that changed.” Manon is now fluent in French, and is active in the French-speaking community on campus. She is a resident of French house, and spends time at the French language table and at French-speaking events. [Sometimes] I catch myself slipping into French,” she said. “It’s an amazing feeling to be able to switch back and forth for whatever reason,”she said. But French isn’t Manon’s only language. Since coming to Oberlin, she has also taken Russian classes and begun learning Japanese. She is now double majoring in French and East Asian Studies. She said that reading the translators’ notes from Manga inspired her to start learning Japanese. She started taking Japanese classes at Oberlin, and is now in Japanese 202. But she said it feels like she’s been learning Japanese for longer. When she talked about learning Japanese, her eyes lit up. “French is a great language too, but with Japanese, it feels so indicative of Japanese culture and history itself,” she said. “It’s a really cool feeling.” She explained parts of Japanese grammar that she really enjoyed. She enjoyed not having to deal with gender in Japanese: it contains gender-neutral pronouns among its different registers of formality. She also talked about how much she loves particles–parts of words that mark a word’s grammatical placement. “If I were to invent a language, I’d probably use particles,” she said. In addition to those languages, Manon also is involved with American Sign Language, or ASL. “My great grandmother was deaf, and really active in the Oberlin Deaf community,” Manon said. Manon took the beginning ASL Excos and attends meet-ups with the ASL groups at Oberlin. Some of those events have included a weekly ASL table at Dascomb and a weekend-long camping trip. “It’s a small but thriving community,” Manon said. Manon says her experience learning languages at Oberlin has been really good. “The people who study languages here are very passionate about learning them,” she said. “It makes it a lot more fun and motivating. Also, faculty-wise, the departments are great.” And if she could, Manon would probably keep taking language classes at Oberlin. “I almost started doing Chinese [too],” she said, “but my advisor talked me out of it.”
Dennis is a member of the class of 2015 and is currently pursuing a major in Computer Science. At Oberlin, he has used his Russian to do extensive translations.
Elizabeth is a member of the class of 2017 and is currently pursuing a major in musical studies. While at Oberlin, she has studied Hindi.