An International Perspective: Language Learning at The IC

By Joel van Bergeijk, Programs and Services Intern

Learning to speak another language can be intimidating. After learning the pronunciation, tenses, word order, and other intricacies of the language, its simplest function can often be the most challenging – conversation. I’ve always had a great interest in language, and after studying German for nearly six years I’ve had plentiful practice with reading, writing, and listening comprehension. Speaking with others, especially native speakers, however, was a rare if not impossible occurrence.
Previously, I had immersed myself in the language through film and books, but I always felt that the social aspect of language learning was absent. After all, one of the best ways to learn and gain fluency in a language is not only by lingual immersion, but also by social interaction, by meeting new people and conveying ideas. Despite my passion for German, I sometimes felt as if my effort to learn the language was in vain.

When I started my internship with Martin in Programs and Services, however, I was immediately immersed into the German language. Although I was nervous at the onset, working with Martin has given me the opportunities that I need to improve my spoken German. Chances to practice my German presented themselves immediately; on the second day of my internship Martin and I gave a tour of the Center to an exchange librarian from Cologne, Germany, going out to lunch afterwards where we conversed almost entirely in German. Since then, other occasions such as the Bollore press conference and my daily interactions with Martin have allowed me to improve my spoken German skills.

My experiences with language relate to the bigger picture of what The International Center is all about; immersion in different cultures. Working at The International Center is a truly international experience. The Center’s staff comes from a variety of backgrounds and languages, and other interns are also using their experience at the Center to immerse themselves in a language. IVLP intern Catherine Johnson speaks French and Arabic. Concentrating on Middle Eastern studies, she’ll be able to use her Arabic proficiency with an upcoming Saudi delegation. Relocation services intern Hayley Pierson speaks German, ICY intern Alyssa Ufer speaks French and Spanish, and Global Competency intern Emily Garman speaks French. Asian Learning Center Maggie Dankert speaks Korean, Japanese, and can introduce herself in Nepali. She has the opportunity to utilize her language skills while working with the University Pilot Project that creates sister university programs with Asian universities. Marketing, Communications, and Stakeholder relations intern Alejandra Salmeron speaks Spanish as a first language, and has already used her language skills in translation. Kasey Kranfill speaks Japanese and has used his language skills with his supervisor and in interview situations. With their combined language skills, the Center’s interns help to make The International Center a place of true international connection, strengthening cultural understanding abroad.