Jihyo Ha

Credentials: Languages: Korean, English

Position title: Undergraduate Student in Chemical Engineering

Could you tell me a bit about yourself and what you do at UW-Madison? How does language intersect with your work or your studies? 

I’m a sophomore majoring in Chemical Engineering at UW-Madison. As an international student here, language takes up a huge portion in education. Although I went to an international school and spoke English professionally since then, it is still a secondary language to me and sometimes I struggle at learning concepts genuinely. My studies and language are paired that in order to actually learn something, I need to improve my language or to be comfortable with it and vice versa.

If you are a student, are you enrolled in language classes? Why or why not?

I was enrolled in Comm A, and will be enroll in Comm B in the future. Although it was the requirement for the graduation, even before coming to UW-Madison, I was reminding myself of the importance of language since English in university has to have some depth in it. Other than English, I haven’t thought about enrolling any as my core classes doesn’t allow me to spare my time to those.

How do you feel your language(s) contribute(s) to your personal identity? 

I believe the language you speak builds up the personal identity. Not only itself is a way to express the thoughts, but it also involves some personal background and culture with it. For me, I graduated from an international school in Korea with a bilingual diploma on Korean and English, proven that my English is professional. However, speaking English in Korea and in the United States are completely different although all the grammar, wordings, and sentence structures are equal. After spending my freshman year at Madison in 2020, I realized that the difference arose from the background and culture. All the small talks, regional pronunciations, sayings are based on the languages that I speak. I feel I have two identities building up within myself. In this sense, along with the culture and personal backgrounds, language is a huge factor that shaped my identity.

How do you feel your language(s) contribute(s) or add value to your work or studies? 

For studies, frankly, the more words you know, the better you are at understanding new concepts. For me, it means that you don’t have to spend your time on just finding definitions of the words and link all those into a sentence. Especially, words with several meanings or implicit meanings helped me to apply them in various situations. Also, it is valuable that I speak 2 languages because I studied everything in English, it is even better for me to explain all the concepts in Korean, my native language.

To what extent do you feel others on campus value your languages in the context of your work/studies at the University? 

I haven’t enrolled in any of the language courses except for English, but I do think people value English in the context of the study.

Have you experienced/observed linguistic prejudice or discrimination? If so, could you describe what happened? 

I haven’t.

How does linguistic diversity add to the richness of the various communities you navigate? 

The thing that I really liked about speaking more than one language, is that I could apply different sayings in the countries. Sometimes, I refer to those in the situation that I am, and it feels like not only that I know how to speak, read, and write the language, but also I have a true understanding in cultural and historical backgrounds.

In what ways do you believe the campus community can better recognize the value that linguistic diversity brings to the community? 

The organization that I am in, REACH, highlights the involvement of the international students at the campus and their interactions. The more people get to know that there are people with different background and experiences with us, the more they’ll recognize the value that linguistic diversity plays in the community.