Tom Braslavsky: Take advantage of the GLN

Ahlan! That’s Arabic for hello. But how would I know? I didn’t have room in my schedule to take the language this year. And I don’t have the time for too much independent language study with school, work and student life.

Luckily, this semester I have been able to pursue extracurricular study in my language of choice. In case you haven’t heard, we here at GW are lucky to have an organization called the Global Language Network. Founded three years ago by then-undergrad student Andrew Brown, the nonprofit GLN provides free, non-credit classes in a number of languages.

At the close of my first semester taking a GLN class, beginning Arabic, I wholeheartedly give the experience two thumbs up.

My class is convenient because it meets for two hours every weekend at the Marvin Center and doesn’t get in the way of the busy week. However, a two-hour class period can fit a lot of information. I come back from class with pages and pages of notes that, if I get the urge, I can look over and practice – there is no official homework. This more laid-back approach means that in a GLN class, you get out of it what you put into it.

That is the best aspect of the entire program. Since GLN classes are both extracurricular and nontraditional, there are no grades. The classes really are about personal growth and not only for the students – GLN language instructors are mostly volunteer native speakers with little or no teaching experience.

“We like to give them the skills and open them up to the joy of teaching,” says GLN founder Brown. This allows students and instructors the opportunity to learn from each other, building more rapport between them. The class becomes a learning experience for everyone.

We live in a connected world, and knowing as many foreign languages as possible improves our potential at communicating with global contacts. Whether you want to go into business, politics or international affairs, you’re most likely going to deal with people from different corners of the world – and you’re going to have to know how to communicate with them. There can never be any harm in learning another language.

Yet when I tell people that I am taking Arabic through the GLN, I often get blank stares. Sadly, not enough GW students are aware of this amazing opportunity that we have right on our campus. Students who were locked out of language classes that they really wanted to take do not realize that there is an alternative, absolutely free and no-pressure way for them to study a language they are interested in. In my class, there is a clear lack of GW representation. Out of 15 students, only two of us are GW students – the rest are out of college or even grad school.

I would recommend the GLN to anyone interested in broadening their linguistic and cultural horizons in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s not too often that one gets an opportunity like that and it’s a real shame to pass it up.

The writer, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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