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The Thrilling Land of the Language Department

Viewed from the outside, Hauck Hall appears normal enough. Rollins’ language building, odds are that unless one has taken a language class he or she has yet to step inside Hauck. The classrooms, like the building, appear average, tiny even, as if they were constructed at the school’s founding 125 years ago.

What these classrooms fail to convey on their own, however, becomes immediately apparent when the professor enters. It is only then that the classroom becomes alive and interactive. The professors in this humble department, one of the most crucial and important departments in the whole of the college, are not content to merely lecture in front of the class like a pastor in front of a starry-eyed congregation, but insist on educating both inside and outside the classroom.

Professor Matilde Mésavage’s basic French course exemplifies this outside learning. Earlier in the semester, Mésavage took her class to the debut of the ballet Giselle at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre. As a former dance instructor herself, Mésavage provides her students with a unique insight into the world of dance, a world best viewed through the prism of language and internationality. Two of the lead performers from the ballet visited the French class of 12 students before the performance to explain the story and give some background on the types of dances performed and the ballet itself. This semester, the language department has run a weekly foreign film screening, an opportunity to get potential members to meet and discuss films with one another. This intimacy in the classroom is one of the truly remarkable things about Rollins of which we as students ought to be exceptionally proud. It is increasingly difficult to find a venue in which to have a meaningful academic discussion and at the same time learn something as complicated as a new language.

Professor Mésavage believes the only way to do this is by totally immersing her students in the French language. It is evident in speaking with her that she does not teach for the money. “I don’t need it,” she says, adding that her only motivation for teaching at all is simply to share her vast knowledge and, better yet, her love for the French language with those with an appetite to learn. It is a rare thing to find in schools today, but it is always visible in Room 101 of Hauck Hall.

This willingness to learn is largely absent from the majority of language classrooms today as fewer and fewer American students find it important to learn a second language. Too often this misguided mindset is shared by college faculty who deem the mastering of a second language as secondary to other more “important” subjects and in doing so fail to understand the necessity of language as a tool both to communicate and to understand. Some may construe this as an American problem and that needs remedying immediately if we expect to compete as students and as professionals on the global stage.

Our world, our potential, and our future all start in the tiny classroom like that on the first floor of the Hauck building. For it is there that we will rise to realize the truth—that we are but a part of the Global Community and have an obligation to extend an understanding hand to all—or fall and thus reveal our arrogance and ignorance.

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