Credentials: Languages: Marathi, English, and Hindi
Position title: Undergraduate Student in Computer Sciences
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 am an international student (junior) studying at UW Madison. I am currently pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and one thing that has proven to be useful to me here is the knowledge of English of course. I am originally from India where I interacted with my family in Marathi (my beautiful mother tongue). I completed my high school in English while I learnt the most widely spoken language in India which is Hindi. Being multilingual has proven to be very advantageous to me because I can interact with people here in the US in their language without which it would have been very difficult to live here. I work in the Math Learning Center as a peer mentor and as a part of my job, I have to address difficulties faced by students who speak English for the majority. It is crucial to help people understand in the way they feel comfortable and language is highly integrated in the process of understanding something. Apart from the obvious benefit of knowing the region’s language where I am staying, being multilingual has helped shaped my perspective, the way I think about any particular problem, my approach and the way it needs to be communicated. Sometimes, when I have a hard time remembering some concepts, I try to visualize it in Marathi and create a mnemonic to better understand it. There are countless such instances where language has helped me out here.
If you are a student, are you enrolled in language classes? Why or why not?
I am not enrolled in a specific language course but I have taken a linguistics course. I have always been attracted to language studies and the concepts of phonology, morphology and phonetics, something which I was a novice in, helped me understand the fundamentals of language.
How do you feel your language(s) contribute(s) to your personal identity?
I feel that language has helped shape my identity. It is true that a person thinks in a particular way which is highly correlated to the language he/she speaks. Identity is a very nuanced concept and there are many factors that affect it including language. As I speak Marathi, English and Hindi, I feel more confident in the way I interact with other people.
How do you feel your language(s) contribute(s) or add value to your work or studies?
Language has helped me throughout my academic career so far. Almost everything related to studies/college is either in written/spoken format and without adequate knowledge of the language, it is impossible to answer questions, ask questions or understand what’s going on. Adequate language skills integrated with good communication skills enhances clarity and expedites the process of understanding making work/studies so much more interesting and intelligible.
To what extent do you feel others on campus value your languages in the context of your work/studies at the University?
I have experienced a very supportive environment around campus and I believe that in general the people here value language and linguistics. I see so many people pursuing this as a career option and some of them are fascinated when they know that I can speak three languages fluently. While working in the Department of Mathematics as a Peer Mentor, my knowledge of English is helpful for students to communicate with me and ask questions in the way they feel comfortable.
Have you experienced/observed linguistic prejudice or discrimination? If so, could you describe what happened?
Fortunately, I haven’t ever experienced linguistic prejudice and discrimination but I know that some people experience this and are afraid to speak their languages, which should not happen as language has a huge imprint on your personality.
How does linguistic diversity add to the richness of the various communities you navigate?
Linguistic diversity is something we – all the International Students Services Reach team – value and work on. We often get requests from people/schools/organizations that involve ambassadors making a presentation on cultural topics, doing some reading with kids or any fun activity in general. Most of these are about cultures and language interaction from different parts of the world. Linguistic diversity is very helpful in this case as that’s pretty much what we use to communicate and promote different languages and cultures.
In what ways do you believe the campus community can better recognize the value that linguistic diversity brings to the community?
I think we should promote different cultures and languages by organizing more events – like a language fest – and inviting people to discover languages from different parts of the world. I feel this would be a great way for people to appreciate languages.
Is there anything else you would like to add or questions you have?
One thing I would like to add, as a concluding statement, is that people should try and learn at least one other language other than their mother tongue. It really helps shape your identity and personality by making you more open to new ideas. People should really give it a try.