Three IPED students – Armand Aquino, Katie McCann, and Jackie Yap – spent their summer in France for an intensive French language study and cultural immersion with an Alliance Française Institution. Armand was in Toulouse; Katie was in Bordeaux; and Jackie began in Toulouse then continued on to Lyon.
Armand and Jackie were recipients of the 2016 Language Immersion Study Award (LISA) while Katie is an Arrupe Fellow who decided to use her summer grant from her fellowship to pursue French language study. French language study is part of their professional development to further their careers in international development.
Learning French at an Alliance Française Institution in France is a great opportunity because of the diversity of its students. Aside from the structured lectures, Alliance Française organizes a number of activities for its students so they can immerse themselves into the French culture. Such activities include guided tours of museums and the city, “art” hunting, and cheese (and wine) tasting (this is France, after all).
In addition, Alliance Francaise arranges homestays for the students which enables them to continue speaking in French even at home.
Armand and Katie shared that the summer experience has also been great opportunity for them to expand their network in the international development space. Both have met people working in international organizations such as the International Red Cross and World Food Programme who like them are studying French for their own professional development.
When asked for advice to students considering a language study for the summer, Jackie said that “If you are just starting out in the language, I encourage you to take advantage of the language class (audit) at Fordham. It helped me learn the basics and allowed me to be more confident in practicing the language. Also, do not be afraid to practice and make mistakes. Many, if not everyone, appreciate the fact that you are trying to learn French.”
Armand in Toulouse, France
Jackie gives a two-thumbs up to the French Cuisine even though she accidentally ordered frog legs despite the waiter’s attempt to translate what “grenouille” means.
Katie in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
Katie, Jackie, and Armand showing their IPED pride at Lourdes, France
Ryan Barthel, Language Immersion Study Award recipient, wrote late summer about his experience studying Traditional Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan:
你們好! I am in my third week learning Mandarin Chinese at Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages in Kaohsiung, Taiwan through a Language Immersion Study Award (LISA). Kaohsiung is the second largest city in Taiwan, located at the southern end of the island, and is a major port and manufacturing center. Wenzao is a university dedicated to language study, and trains students in European and Asian languages, as well as instruction of English and Chinese. I chose to study Mandarin because of the advantages it will give me in my search for a career and fellowships after IPED as well as help me to better connect with Mandarin speaking friends. Even though it is among the most widely spoken languages in the world, the US government lists it as a lesser studied language in America. Trade relationships and alliances in this region ensure it will remain important to the US.
Ryan with host family
Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages
Visiting Cijin Island, near the port of Kaohsiung
While immersion study can be exhausting, it provides nearly unlimited opportunity to practice. My fellow Mandarin learners come from every continent (including a Bronx native!), so it is often easier to converse among ourselves in Mandarin, even outside the classroom. While Mandarin is often cited as a particularly difficult language to learn by many people, the underlying grammar is much simpler than English. Learning in Taiwan has been a great experience so far. Taiwanese people are very welcoming to foreigners, though this can sometimes make true immersion more difficult (at least for someone as obviously foreign as myself) because anyone who speaks English will try and practice with you! Longstanding links with the US and Japan make cultural adjustment bit easier as well. A challenge is that Taiwan is one of only a handful of places that use traditional Chinese characters. Obviously, this is a plus if you want to learn traditional characters, but it could be a challenge if you want to live or work in China. One simple tip for any language learners: Buy things in your new language! Shopkeepers have a vested interest in understanding you that even your teachers may not share, and it’s great practice as well as a good confidence builder when a random person can pick up on what you’re saying! It also helps to remove you from the sterile ‘learning’ environment and get a better idea of how people actually speak (turns out, not everyone follows classroom dialogue scripts, unfortunately!).
Overall, this is a wonderful experience thus far. My language skills are improving quickly and the teachers are dynamic and engaging. Beyond that, Taiwan is a beautiful country with a rich history and delicious food (food being the top reason anyone I’ve ever spoken to who has been to Taiwan says to visit), though it could stand to have a cold front or two move through. 再見!