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LRC Staff Profile

LRC Staff Profile In their weekly shifts at the Language Resource Center, LRC Consultants spend their time assisting and supporting fellow language learners and faculty. A typical day at the LRC could involve various types of work, from troubleshooting on Mac and Windows computers in the lab to mentoring patrons with their multimedia projects. LRC Staff also collaborate to offer various language learning workshops and cultural language breaks throughout each semester. Here on the LRC Blog, we will occasionally be profiling one of our staff members. This month we are featuring Denise Huang, a politics major in her second semester of working at the LRC. Favorite technology/app/tech tool: Most likely a toss-up between Photoshop and Sony Vegas or Final Cut Pro. I also love a good, solid set of speakers or earphones for my music.

Favorite second language movie: I haven’t taken Swedish, but I loved Let the Right One In. It’s a gory, violent and frankly, a morbid movie about the relationship between a vampire child and human boy. Highly recommended, if you are okay with gory and audacious killings. I also enjoyed Good Bye, Lenin!. I actually watched it before taking German because as a history junkie, the premise was right up my alley. And as for Chinese movies… I grew up on silly Hong Kong comedies like Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer, so I always relive some childhood joy when I re-watch those.

What do you enjoy most about working in the LRC? I enjoy hearing so many different languages all at once and in one single space.

What have you found challenging about working in the LRC? Sometimes I can’t solve a problem quickly enough. This is problematic when I realize it’s a time pressed student who had been expecting a quick fix, but who can’t wait around for me to fiddle with possible solutions either.

What language advice would you give to a language learner? You have to be in it. When I was taking Chinese school and Korean in high school, I treated the assignments like tedious chores and came out abhorring both experiences (and languages in general!). But, when I took Spanish and German, I tried to enjoy learning and ended up retaining more than I thought I would. Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of repetitive memorization and mnemonic devices.

Why is learning languages important? I think most people would agree that languages are hard to pick up--particularly as we reach college age. Nothing seems to seep into your brain as well as it had a few years back. Why you're furiously scrambling to understand and memorize all of the grammar and vocabulary just boggles your mind. You might tell yourself a few months in--as I have done several times--there is no point learning this, that it's just some requirement for something. Maybe to study abroad, or for distribution requirements... who knows? In any case, you begrudgingly trek on with your eyes set on the last day of class. But remember: languages are a worthwhile challenge. Learning a new language forces you to think differently, to focus and to humble yourself. You might not get it the first time, the second or even the tenth. Sure, it's hard. But surely not impossible because countless others have mastered Japanese or Arabic before. When it comes down to it, you are learning a new way of communicating! It’s fundamentally human.



Faculty Profile: Professor Ombretta Frau, Italian Department

Starting out as a young teacher “frantically and randomly” buying books on language teaching to give her tips for her first class, Ombretta Frau is now a professor of Italian at Mount Holyoke College where she specializes in modern Italian literature and Italian female authors. Professor Frau describes her start to language teaching as more of a coincidence: “Like many jobs, it came to me.” She studied English and German literature for her first degree in Italy, and upon finishing her master’s degree, moved to England. At age twenty-four, she started teaching for the first time at a part-time job in a private high school. After graduate school at Harvard and many years of teaching experience later, Professor Frau is currently teaching elementary Italian and two senior seminars at Mount Holyoke College.  

In all of her classes, Professor Frau focuses on creating a creative and friendly atmosphere. She believes that the most conducive environment to successful language learning should not be intimidating. Professor Frau tries not to point fingers at students or put them on the spot, because she believes that isolation and public humiliation in the classroom will produce the opposite effect. To enhance the comfortable atmosphere, Professor Frau likes her students to sit in a circle when possible in the classroom. She describes her favorite aspect of teaching in the audio clip below:

When she is not teaching or preparing for class, the other half of Professor Frau’s work is dedicated to her research. Primarily, she focuses on women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Italy. Recently, Professor Frau has been studying the relationship between mentors and mentees in nineteenth century Italian literature, particularly the most common situation where the mentor is a very famous male figure and the mentee is a very young and unknown female author. Her specific focus has been on the relationship between the famous Italian poet Giosue Carducci and young poet and novelist Annie Vivanti. Below, Professor Frau describes what she finds fascinating about this particular area of research:

As a graduate student, Professor Frau started reading contemporary magazines and found numerous articles written by women she had never heard of. However, she found little information when researching these women. Upon the realization that an entire group of women had been completely erased from the intellectual history, she made it her work to help bring them back.

More recently, she was offered a position as a blogger for the Italian Huffington Post, where she discusses sexism and problems with education, among other issues. Much of her inspiration for her blog posts comes from her research, where she realized that many of the nineteenth century issues women had to face are still relevant today. 

Just back from her sabbatical leave, where she spent time doing a combination of writing, lecturing, and research in Scotland, Italy, France and Australia, Professor Frau is now gearing up to teach a new course at Mount Holyoke College this coming spring semester. This four-credit course titled “Sicily” and taught in English will cover nearly three thousand years of Greek and Italian Sicilian history. The most exciting part of this course, Professor Frau says, is the two-credit trip to Sicily that is being offered at the end of the semester.

Learn more about this exciting opportunity below: 

Post contributed by Emily Nichols, LRC Consultant.


Calligrammes from French Learners

Calligramme by Stephanie KishibayEnjoy these calligrammes composed in French by students in Prof. Carolyn Shread's FREN 199 course.  
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