Students create group to teach 15 different languages in the face of class shortages

Senior Andrew Brown speaks 12 different languages, and he’s bringing his passion for foreign tongues to the GW community with the foundation of a new student organization.

In September, Brown founded Global Languages, a group dedicated to holding free languages classes on campus. For more than a month, Brown and a team of language-proficient student instructors have been holding weekly classes in more than 15 languages.

“I am passionate about foreign languages and cultures. I wanted to give GW students, staff and faculty the opportunity to become interested in international languages and cultures as well,” Brown wrote in an e-mail last week.

Global Languages offers 25 basic-language courses a week, in Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic, French, Hindi, German, Farsi, Czech, Turkish, Japanese, Greek, Korean, Chinese, Swahili and Swedish. The organization also offers more advanced classes in French, Spanish and Farsi.

Brown said within the group’s first five weeks, the number of classes offered jumped five-fold. The number of students who attend each class fluctuates weekly, but Brown added that “as word continues to spread about the organization, the attendance and interest for the lessons grow increasingly by the week.”

“By offering free lessons, Global Languages will help its students see far beyond the ‘language requirement’ and put it to a practical, cultural use from which they can truly benefit,” he said.

GW language departments have had a difficult time accommodating students in a limited number of University courses. In September, Gregory Ludlow, chair of GW’s Romance, Slavic and German languages department, told The Hatchet that his department would like to expand the number of classes offered each semester but is unable to do so because of insufficient staffing.

A 2002 report from the Faculty Senate Committee on Appointment, Salary and Promotion Policies characterized almost all of GW’s language departments as suffering under “real duress” because of their heavy reliance on low-paid, part-time faculty.

Brown said the shortage of language classes offered at GW was a factor he considered when creating his organization, but was not the only reason he decided to start the group. While Global Languages courses are not accredited and do not satisfy any University requirements, members said the classes offer students a rich and gratifying experience.

“We teach people stuff they don’t teach you in class,” said junior Amir Vakili, a Global Languages Farsi instructor. “We try to provide a foreign learning environment. There is no stress or obligation on the student.”

Twenty students currently teach languages classes through the group. Brown said that he tries to recruit instructors who have no prior teaching experience.

“I want this to be a training and learning experience for (the instructors),” said Brown, who trains Global Language teachers and has been teaching foreign languages for more than three years in schools, private lessons and language institutes around the world.

“If they’ve taught before it won’t rule them out. The most important factor is that it’s their native language or they’ve lived in the country for a certain amount of time,” he said.

Weekly classes are held in a number of different locations on campus, including the Marvin Center, the Academic Center and Monroe Hall. The earliest classes begin at 11 a.m., while some evening classes do not start until 9:30 at night. Each class is one hour long.

Brown said he expects Global Languages to offer 30 courses within the next two weeks. Students can access the current class schedule on the organization’s “Global Languages” Facebook.com group page. n

-Marissa Levy contributed to this report

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