Obies Using Language: Claire Coleman ’17

Claire Coleman is a member of the class of 2017 who is pursuing a major in Russian & Eastern European Studies as well as Economics. She is familiar with Russian, Spanish, English, and Slovak.

Russian is the first language that I have learned in a more “traditional” classroom setting. Before it, I went to a Spanish immersion elementary school where I learned to read in write in Spanish first, and only used English in the classroom beginning in 3rd grade. I learned Slovak simply by being in the country for a year and learning through full immersion. It seemed scary at first, but full language immersion is a fun and quick way to learn a new language.

When I came to Oberlin and started learning Russian, it was virtually the first time that I had learned a new language from scratch in a traditional way. Even so, the language departments at Oberlin are so focused on immersion and language practice that I spent several days a week at Russian table or Russian House events. Despite my expectation that learning in a classroom and using textbooks would be less fun and a slower process, I have loved learning Russian and improved exponentially.

I spent last summer at Middlebury’s Davis School of Russian, where I took a language pledge to speak only Russian for two months, and now I really feel that I’m beginning to grasp the language after just over a year and a half of studying Russian. Oberlin has so many ways to practice and maintain languages such as teaching and tutoring, living in language houses and/or eating at language tables in Stevie, and attending department events. It’s a great place to learn.


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