Friday, March 27, 2015

Language Dorms at Moho: What’s the vibe?

By: Hannah Rickard

As many of you may already know, there has been talk of creating designated language floors in some of the Moho dorms. Did you know that Amherst, Smith, UMASS (Amherst), and Hampshire each have language dorms? Here’s a little bit about them:

  1. Amherst College

Language floors at Amherst are part of Amherst’s student suggested “theme” houses. These language floors include a French House, a Spanish House, a Russian House, and a German House. Amherst also has cultural houses: The Charles Drew Black Cultural House, The Asian Culture House, and La Casa--the Latino Cultural House.

Here’s a snippet taken from Amherst’s website, showcasing the positive effects of language floors!:
"The French House is one of the best kept educational secrets on campus. The residents are so busy enjoying themselves, they don't always realize that they're perfecting their French." -- Paul Rockwell, Professor of French 

     2. Smith College

Smith has a French House on campus called Dawes, which was initially started in

Here’s what the Smith residential life staff has to say about Dawes:
“In Dawes, students are encouraged to speak French and all house meetings are conducted in French.The house subscribes to a variety of French magazines and newspapers. Even house flyers and signs are translated into French in keeping with the theme.”
     3. UMASS Amherst

UMASS offers six languages, one per floor, in a dorm called the Thatcher House. The six languages include Chinese, French, Italian, German, Japanese, and Spanish!

Here’s what UMASS-Amherst has to say about the Thatcher House: 
“Each of the language programs...occupies a floor which includes its own classroom/lounge. Students meet there to socialize in the language, and regularly during the week for a specially-designed two credit conversation/culture course. An experienced graduate student from the Language Department teaches the course and organizes social and cultural activities.”  

     4. Hampshire 

While Hampshire doesn’t have specifically designated language dorms, it does have some great sociocultural and religious dorms, which it calls Identity-Based Housing and Intentional Housing Communities.

Here’s some information on these living spaces:
Identity-based housing includes various group living situations with a common identity  such as race, culture, or sexual orientation. Current identity-based spaces include: International Students, Kosher, Latino/a, Queer, Students of Color, and Women of Color.”

“Intentional housing communities are living spaces in which the residents have chosen to come together around a particular area of interest that will contribute to and cultivate the campus' culture of learning. They work together with a faculty or staff advisor to educate themselves and the larger community about their area of interest. Students who elect to reside in these spaces can expect to gain meaningful relationships with one another, lasting connections with staff and faculty, access to greater campus resources, and sense of pride in their community.”

Here are some of the current Intentional Housing Communities at Hampshire right now:
“Kosher Mod, Prescott 82: A Kosher living space. All students welcome to apply, regardless of religious affiliation.

“Spiritual Womyn's Mod, Greenwich 36: A place for self-identified Womyn that promotes and heightens spirituality. A collective space to support and guide spiritual paths and encourage the mindful growth of the Hampshire community. Female and/or female self-identified continuing students welcome to apply.”

Women's Empowerment Mod Enfield 66: A safe and supportive space actively to engage with and challenge the normative expectations placed on women. Female and/or female self-identified continuing students welcome to apply.”

Would you like to see language designated floors at Mount Holyoke? We want to know your thoughts concerning this proposal! Did any of the housing options from the other five colleges strike your interest? Please take this short survey to help us to understand what you think of this proposal: Survey: Language Dorms at MHC.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Popular Language Software Review

1.) Mango Languages:
Mango Languages is an online language learning system teaching practical conversation skills for real communication. The list of languages we provide at Mount Holyoke College are below:
Mango Languages is especially good if you want to focus on conversational phrases for everyday life. It also focuses on the basics of grammar and conjugation (including tones). 


Who can use Mango Languages?

Anyone in the MHC community (that has a MHC e-mail) can use ML. That includes students, faculty, and staff. Alumni can use ML as long as they are on campus--you just have to use your old MHC e-mail.

Using Mango Languages (ML):

To access ML, you must click through the link on the LRC website (you cannot bookmark the site directly). If you're on campus, it will take you right to ML. If you're off-campus, it will go through an EZ Proxy page, where you'll need to sign in with your MHC username and password. 
Once you're on the ML page, you have the option to set up an a ML account, to keep track of your studies, or just start studying without making a ML account.


ML allows you to listen to the native speaker, then record your own voice, then compare the two. You can keep doing this until you like how similar you sound. ML also has a new program available--learning languages via movies, which is an easy way to get used to a language.
The movie program currently has movies in Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish (Latin America), but if you check back regularly, you'll find it's slowly adding more. Here's a great intro video about it:


ML feels the need to read everything out to you, so if you are a visual learner and just want to read through the flashcards and only listen to the native speaker speaking, it can be rather annoying. ML also has a "language placement" program but it doesn't seem very accurate at placing you where you belong, so I think it's best to judge for yourself.

2.) Rosetta Stone:

Rosetta Stone pioneered the use of interactive software to accelerate language learning. The list of languages we provide at Mount Holyoke College are below:
Rosetta Stone is a really varied software that will help you with speaking and recognizing words.


Who can use Rosetta Stone?

Anyone in the MHC community can use RS. That includes students, faculty, and staff. All you need is your MHC e-mail. You can access it anywhere on the internet. As of Fall 2015, we only offer the beginning level of the languages we provide.

Using Rosetta Stone (RS):

As of Fall 2015, you can create an account with RS via this link:

After using your MHC e-mail to make an account, pick the language you want to learn. You go to this page every time you want to use RS and just put in the information you put in the last time (your e-mail and the password you chose). You can change your target language this way, too, by choosing a different one than previously. 


RS is helpful if you're trying to get good at pronounciation as it forces you to speak loudly and correctly in order to let you move on. It also lets you hear native speakers and you can slow the native speaker down if you prefer. It is also a good refresher if you take a lower level of a language on RS that you've already learned higher levels of elsewhere. 


However, RS doesn't seem to explain when you don't understand something or if you're confused, it just moves on, focusing you to keep repeating yourself. It also lacks giving you vocab and meaning, so if that's what you're expecting, you won't be happy. Technically, I think RS's way of doing things is actually more helpful because instead of just giving you vocab vocab vocab, it gives you sentences that you need to know and you learn what the vocab is because of the pictures. But if you're not a visual learner, it may be hard for you. 

3.) Skritter

Skritter is an online learning system for Chinese and Japanese characters. 
It incorporates two key features for effective study: spaced repetition, so that you keep practicing characters regularly and practice those you get wrong more frequently, and physical rehearsal, so that you practice by actually writing, not just reviewing them. Skritter offers lists of characters from most major Chinese/Japanese textbooks, so you can start learning what you need to know immediately. You can also create your own custom lists.


Who can use Skritter?

Anyone in the MHC community (that has a MHC e-mail) can use Skritter. That includes students, faculty, and staff.

Using Skritter:

Anybody with e-mails ending in "" can register by clicking the login and then "Create an Account". Then you click "Alternative Payment Methods" and then "validate your school e-mail". You then will get a code that you'll have to submit on the same sign-up page on Skritter. For easy access/memory, I recommend you use your e-mail (i.e. wilki22l) for both your username and password. 
Skritter is web-based, so you can use it on any computer with an Internet connection, on or off-campus. 


If you're taking a Chinese or Japanese class, you're likely going to find your textbook already in the Skritter system. You can also access Skritter on mobile devices as there are apps available for iOS and Android (so you can practice Skritter while waiting for your class to start). 


If you do not like to be timed, you will not like this program. It also repeats itself over and over, to make sure you 100% know the characters. However, if you are a quick learner, it may become annoying. 

4.) Pimsleur

The Pimsleur Approach (audiobooks) will allow you to speak a new language so quickly that you may find yourself not only amazed and delighted at your newfound abilities, but also extremely motivated to delve more deeply into the language you've chosen to learn.
The languages Mount Holyoke College offers are: Italian, French, and German.


Who can use Pimsleur?

Anyone who can check out books from the LRC can check out the Pimsleur courses. 

Using Pimsleur:

If you want to check out one of the Pimsleur courses, you need to talk to the LRC consultant at the main desk. We have levels I, II, and III for each language, so please specify to the consultant which one you're interested in. Once you open the packet, you should find the CDs and a guide. If you have any questions, feel free to ask the consultant. 


Pimsleur is an audio-based course that presents phrases in the target language first, and then in your mother tongue for you to translate into that language. It is similar to Rosetta Stone in the way that it focuses on you listening and responding to what you hear. If you are an auditory-learner that has the primary goal to speak your target language, this may be a great option for you!


The system is almost entirely audio-based. Although there may be some reading material, it is only to be read while listening to the audio that gives instructions on how to proceed. The vast majority of what is said to you will never be written down in any form as it is trying to force you to speak the language and not read it at any time. For non-auditory-learners, this may be very difficult since you will not see the vocab you are learning.


Here are some other reviews you can read up on:

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ways to Enhance your Study Abroad

1)) Keep a scrapbook or journal. Although you may not realize during those few months, the precious times abroad, however vivid, will fade over time. Take some time out of your bsuy schedule to reflect on your day and jot down all the quriky details, whether it be the new word you learned or an observation you have! 

2) Toss out that grammar book in the back of your book, and talk to people!
Sometimes, we all get shy about talking to native speakers. However, what better opportunity to learn about a new language and culture? Not only does practicing the language give you a different perspective (as you’ll gain a level of respect),

3) Check out these apps designed especially for Study Abroad!
We live connected in this modern world, and now, you can enhance your experience using technology as well!

Need to find the nearest grocery store, mall, or bar? Where to Go? provides a very simple interface to find the resources nearest you.

Trip Journal
With this app, you’ll be able to save photos, online journal entries, and little snippets of your day onto a Google-map integrated platform, where your family and friends can visually see on Google Maps your route as well as the daily snippets you share of your travels!

Dragon Dictation
Siri, but for the dedicated traveler. Dragon Dictation allows you to speak into the the app and see your words translated into another language as well as post social media updates uor send reminders to yourself, all with your voice!  

Wi-Fi Finder
Ever wonder where the nearest wifi port is near you (both paid and free)? There is an app for that.
With these apps by your side, you'll be more preapred for your study abroad! So to end on a slightly more philosophical note, as Steve Jobs says, "You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma,“ Sometimes, during study abroad, it’s best to go with your intuition and leave the planner and maps behind. Getting to know a culture is like getting to know a person; there’s no one roadmap to how you get there. So explore, and have fun!

Finding Language in Unconventional Places

Conceptual art is a term used to describe artwork that holds the idea (or concept) in greater esteem than the media used to create the work, or its aesthetic appearance. Installations and site-specific work are conceptual, as they do not conform to traditional notions of art. Rather than the idea being represented in the art (as in the case of a painting of a pipe for instance), the idea is the art.

Joseph Beuys, Felt Suit 1970

Felt suit and wood hanger

displayed: 1660 x 660 x 260 mm

ARTIST ROOMS Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 DACS, 2009

The Conceptual Art Movement rose to prominence during the 1960s, and was championed by artists such as Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt and Lawrence Weiner. Among non-traditional materials used, like bicycle wheels and chairs, was language.

Out of the Conceptual Art Movement was born the Art & Language Movement, in 1968. Terry Atkinson, David Bainbridge, Michael Baldwin and Harold Hurrell were the founding members of the group in England. For the most part, the movement was contained within the UK and the USA in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. This group of artists gave language and text a centralised role in their artwork. 

Incorporating language into art pushes the boundaries of what it means to create art. There is less of an emphasis on artistic skill than on the realisation of an idea, sometimes using found objects and cheap material. Evidently, to fully grasp the intention of the art, comprehension of the language used is necessary. This brings to light the question of accessibility of the art among non-English speakers and those without a formalised education. Although undoubtedly conceptual art today might employ languages other than English, in its initial stages, artists in the Art & and Language Movement primarily used English in their work. Indeed, consumers who cannot comprehend the meaning of the words can appreciate the visual or aural nature of the words for their own sakes. Visual art is not the only mode of presentation of art that incorporates language. Spoken and recorded text was and is used as another effective way to convey an idea. Language is a powerful tool, which can be found and used in the most unlikely places.

John Baldessari, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art 1971
Lithograph, composition: 22 3/8 x 29 9/16" (56.8 x 75.1 cm); sheet: 22 7/16 x 30 1/16" (57 x 76.4 cm)