Weiss Language Center Offers Students a New World
Important Renovations Happening for 2016
The Weiss Language Center has been a fixture on the Marist campus for over 10 years. In 2000, Dr. Ginette Haboucha, professor of Spanish and Dean of the Liberal Arts, proposed the idea of creating such a place in the James A. Cannavino Library. The idea was approved and the room was created a year later and developed with the help of a large FIPSE grant secured by the Department of Modern Languages.
According to Dr. Kevin Gaugler, Associate Professor of Spanish and the Director of the Weiss Language Center, the idea behind the place is that there is more to learning a language than just using a cassette tape or Rosetta Stone. “There are so many useful tools online, in phone apps, and in game that are available and can help everyone learn a language in the way that best works for them,” he explained.
That is why the Weiss Language Center has become a multimedia room for technology. It supports coursework, self-instruction, and research in Western and non-Western modern languages and cultures. A select group of students are employed there and are trained in instructional technologies and organize events to support extracurricular language learning.
Among those students are Lenni Joya and Cameron Christoffel. Joya is a freshman, double majoring in Spanish and Political Science, and a native Spanish speaker. During his first week of classes, he met with Professor Romero, the Chair of the Modern Language Department, who introduced him to Dr. Gaugler. “He thought I had a lot of potential,” Joya said. “I mentioned to him that I also spoke Italian and that I had a passion for languages.” Gaugler then hired him to be a Spanish and Italian coach for the Language Center.
Joya is planning on learning more languages and is currently practicing French and Arabic. “When I have free time in the Language Center, I always practice those languages,” he said. “It is the perfect place, because I practice with more people that also love languages.”
Christoffel is currently a senior at Marist, double majoring in International Business and Spanish. He has been learning Spanish for nine years, Portuguese for four years, and Danish for six months. Next semester, he hopes to start learning German as well. He also became involved with the Language Center through Dr. Gaugler. Christoffel had taken the Spanish pre-college program with him in high school and was offered to take part in Dr. Gaugler’s plans to reinvigorate the center upon arriving on campus. He currently serves as a language coach and the social media specialist. This entails uploading and researching information for the Center’s Facebook and Twitter pages and showing students the resources and strategies for practicing and improving upon their language learning outside of the classroom.
While the Language Center did not affect Christoffel in picking which college to attend, he feels that it has played a significant role in his entire Marist experience. “The Weiss Language Center is one of the most exhilarating, fascinating, and exciting places to be on campus,” he said. “Any given day, a passerby may hear 2-6 languages spoken by students interacting in the lab, content streamed in multiple foreign languages, and music played in pretty much every language worldwide. It offers peer-support and encouragement for language growth and expansion. It’s by far my favorite place on campus and has been the biggest part of my collegiate experience.”
The Language Center is currently undergoing major renovation. Next semester, it will have a new projector, an upgraded sound system, iPads, flat screen televisions, and PlayStation 4s. Dr. Gaugler hopes that these technologies will further increase students’ opportunities to learn or practice their desired language. This cutting-edge technology will offer applications and games in different languages to make the learning process more fun.
In addition to the new equipment and software, there will be a team of students familiar with different languages available during open hours that will host events throughout the week. These events include Skyping with people from other countries, game nights, and workshops open to everyone in the Marist community.
Opportunities like these are what make the Language Center so unique. “It focuses on collaboration and interaction among language learning, project-based learning, and lifelong learning opportunities,” Gaugler said. “The Center does this through unique programming each evening, through the creation of online databases and materials for language learning, and through the availability of language coaches and conversations partners for the most popular languages offered on campus.”
The Language Center currently employs students who tutor in Spanish, Italian, French, and German. Dr. Claire Keith, the former Director of the Language Center, explained that the idea is to first support the major languages that are broadly used on a global level. “From there, we increase the amount of less-commonly used languages to assist self- instructions by students with dedicated needs, such as preparing for a Fulbright Scholarship in a specific country, or a semester abroad in a less-common destination,” she said.
The importance of learning new languages is something that everyone at the Language Center stresses. Joya calls the Language Center “an open window to a new world.” For Christoffel, it’s about relationship building. “It’s sad but true that most of the world is adapting to English,” he said. “In my travels abroad, I would rarely be forced to use any language other than English.” As an aspiring international businessman, however, he noticed that people appreciate a foreigner who goes out of his or her way to learn another nation’s language and culture. He continued, “This has helped me create many international friendships, and hopefully in the future will help me build business relationships.”
Written by Adriana Belmonte ’17
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