‘Infused Cultures and Languages across Majors: Students’ Perspectives’

Image of student presenting in front of a poster.A student presents during the 2017 ‘Infused Cultures and Languages Across Majors: Students’ Perspectives” event.

Research and more on display at March 29 Language Resource Center event

On the third floor of Graff Main Hall, students converse in Spanish, Chinese, German, and French. Seated across from conversation partners, they are practicing new languages at UWL’s Language Resource Center.

But 321 Graff — the Language Resource Center — isn’t just a room to acquire and experience languages. It’s a space where students can see how language and culture are infused in every area of study — how it is a means to ultimately more deeply understand people from all over the world and their way of life.

On Thursday, March 29, this use of language will be on display at the center during an event, “Infused Cultures and Languages across Majors: Students’ Perspectives.” Students from academic disciplines from biology to history to sociology will explain how language is infused in their study abroad experience, undergraduate research, capstone or other project during poster sessions from 4-5:30 p.m. A total of 12 students will present.

The event brings together UWL students and faculty from diverse academic disciplines and builds awareness of the benefits of exploring and studying new languages and cultures, says Laurence Couturier, UWL Language Resource Center manager.

View from up high looking down on presenters and people mingling during 2017 event.

The event attracts UWL students and faculty from diverse academic disciplines.

Language and culture are deeply engrained in UWL Spanish and Sociology Major Carissa Schlafer’s ongoing sociology research on systemic racial inequality for Mexican migrants on rural Wisconsin dairy farms. While teaching English classes and interviewing workers, Schlafer has seen migrants desire to learn English. But she is also noticing how not being able to speak English excludes them from fully participating in U.S. life. She is finding a lack of effort from Americans who worked closely with migrants to learn Spanish, as well as a resulting power imbalance where more respect was paid to those who speak English.

“Most people are stuck in one way of thinking and being; they are stuck in one singular culture,” she explains. “Though this is not necessarily a bad thing, I think that gaining an appreciation for other cultures and languages is a powerful way to combat systemic inequalities by breaking down the cultural differences that separate us.”

Couturier says learning a language is a way to understand a culture more deeply — from within. That level of understanding is important to students to become global citizens and as they will encounter patients, customers, clients, friends and others from different cultural backgrounds.

“It is part of a well-rounded education to be culturally sensitive and effectively communicate in another language in order to create respect and mutual understanding in the world,” she says.

Want to be a language conversation partner?

50, upper level UWL students from diverse academic disciplines volunteer to work as conversations partners at the Language Resource Center each semester. Conversations between upper level and beginner level language students put the study of language into motion through conversation.

Any language students interested in becoming a conversation partners can contact Laurence Couturier at 608.785.8325 or lcouturier@uwlax.edu

Anyone with questions about studying Chinese, French, German, Hmong, Spanish, Russian, Arabic or Japanese can visit UWL’s Global Cultures and Languages Department website.