Thinking Outside your Borders

Meet Rose, one of our Campus Coordinators at our new SLE Columbia campus.

Приветик, Salut, مرحبا, سلام!

Hi! My name is Rose Hinman and I am so excited to be a part of the new SLE team at Columbia University.  Here are a few quick facts about myself so you can get to know me:

  • I was born in Columbus, Georgia, but lived a little of everywhere growing up (6 U.S. states, the Czech Republic, India, and Jordan) and consider myself to be from the Northeast U.S. (specifically Washington, D.C., and New Jersey).
  • I am double-majoring in Russian Language and Culture and Linguistics at Columbia.
  • I am an avid knitter and a member of Columbia’s premiere secret knitting/pun-appreciation society: Gosh Yarn It.
  • I speak English (mother tongue), French (nine years in school), *some* Russian and Arabic (two college years of the former, four high school years of the latter), and am starting Persian this fall.

Prior to writing this, I was camping and building trails in the woods in Siberia. I learned how to use a pick-axe and my standards of personal hygiene plummeted severely.

As I was in the country to study Russian, being trapped in total isolation for an extended period of time with native speakers was a great situation for language learning. My favorite part of learning languages is directly asking native speakers, “Why do you say it like that?”— which sounds strangely specific, but stay with me. For example, on the aforementioned camping trip in the Siberian wilderness, I was with a large group of people, over half of whom were Russian.

When it rained and our tents were soaked through, this was a great time to learn the difference in meaning between the three terms in Russian that all translate to ‘moist’ in English. Later, I described 10 different situations and tried to guess whether the object in question was ‘soaking-wet-moist’, ‘not-as-wet-moist’, or ‘humid-moist’.

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(Still not sure what kind of ‘moist’ this is…)

This exchange was not one-way either. I once sat down at the table for breakfast and was immediately asked: “Yesterday you said ‘I’ve got it’. That means ‘have got’ in English, right? Why do you say ‘have got’ instead of ‘have’ or ‘got’?”

At first, the response to these kinds of questions is always some variation of, “Well, we say that because that’s what we say”. But then, it bothers you for the remainder of the day until you can come up with an explanation. Why, without thinking, did “I’ve got it” sound better?

That is exactly why the “Why do you say…” question is so important. It doesn’t only satisfy an immediate curiosity, but it also forces people to think of their own language in a way that they would not normally. However, without one-on-one contact with native speakers in a comfortable setting, this mutually beneficial kind of interaction is almost impossible.

This is just one part of why I am so excited about the SLE model. Not only does it give college students exposure to underrepresented languages and cultures, but it does so in a way that relies upon direct interaction with normal speakers rather than trained language teachers. In my experience, that kind of language learning is a more engaging and lasting means of acquisition than simple classroom drills.

In short, I am so glad to be a part of SLE Columbia, and am looking forward to a fantastic semester with our great team of coordinators, fellows, and members!

(I’ll write ‘moist’ once more for kicks. Moist.)

 


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Rose is a junior at Columbia University double-majoring in Russian Language/Culture and Linguistics. She enjoys long walks in all settings, knitting, and female rappers.