2013: New Understandings and New Faces

This semester I got to work with the amazing Brown SLE fellows as they shared six languages with other Brown students.  The first time I met the fellows was during our start-of-semester training, where I introduced myself in Portuguese. None of our fellows speak Portuguese, but we had a great discussion (in English!) about what it felt like not to understand a language and how to apply our reactions to future lesson. I worked with SLE last semester at Brown, but in a different role. This year not only was I a member of Brown’s SLE leadership team, but I also worked with the fellows and had the opportunity to hear about the projects’ weekly progress and work through the challenges that emerged.

Brown SLE added a number of new people this semester in addition to our four new language fellows. Our leadership team also grew by four, Roy and Viktoria had been involved with SLE before, but just moved to the organizational side, while Emily and Methma were brand new. Over the fall, we figured out how we could help each other and became comfortable with our roles. Together we advertised for the language projects, communicated with the national SLE team, put together next semester’s group of fellows and even planned for future team replacements for graduating seniors (like myself).

Our fellows for the semester came from all around the world and were a confident and dedicated group. Two of them were SLE veterans; Alisa and Sandra had already spent a semester sharing Thai and Kiswahili, respectively. In addition there were four new languages, Shanghainese with Daphne, Bengali with Supriya, Gaelic with Aine, and Dzonghka with Rigzom. Every week the seven of us met to talk about the ups and downs of teaching a language. What is the best way to teach a new alphabet? How can I convey tones to an English speaker? What do I do when some of the participants are falling behind the others?

Our conversations were my favorite part of SLE this semester. All the fellows got a chance to bring up their problems and their thoughts and give advice or ask questions. We got to hear the highlights as well—favorite games like charades, fun topics like food or shopping or schools and universities, and great activities that got people writing and talking.

Even though attendance in the projects could be uneven, it was impressive to find participants who were determined and showed enthusiasm for learning. Making the connections with Brown students who were just developing their interest and who would show up with passion and excitement every week was a fantastic experience for all of us. I hope that next semester is just as successful and as fun for our participants, our fellows and the whole SLE team.


Nicole is a senior history major and has also studied Spanish and Portuguese at Brown. She works with the Swearer Center for Public Service teaching English. She has been a part of Brown’s SLE team since January 2013.