LANGUAGE PARTNER REFLECTS ON IMMERSION PROGRAMS

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Language Partner and Language House Resident Samantha Suplee

Samantha Suplee, a junior studying Spanish and Latin American history, shares about the Language House and Language Partner Program.

When asked for her take on the Language Partner Program (LPP), participant Samantha Suplee says, “I tell many of my friends I’ve learned more from the LPP in one semester than I have in my entire course of grammar and literature classes thus far at Maryland.” Suplee, a junior double-majoring in Spanish and Latin American history, is both a resident of the Language House and a language partner. This is the second semester in which she has participated in the program. She made an interesting choice with the LPP this semester, though: instead of partnering with a Spanish-speaking international partner like she did last semester, Suplee elected to try her hand at Portuguese.

The Language Partner Program fosters fluency in foreign languages by pairing students with international, native speakers of the languages they are learning. Suplee decided that because she partnered in Spanish last semester, she would try Portuguese this semester, as the two languages are similar and she was already in the process of learning Portuguese. Through the program, she hopes to attain a higher proficiency in the language, but more important, to “see my words provoke an emotional, human response in my language partner.” Suplee especially wishes for this genuine interaction because she feels the authentic aspect of language is often lost in translation in essays written for class. This is yet another reason for which she loves the LPP—it adds a new dimension to learning a foreign language that cannot be found in a classroom setting and enables one to “become more natural or understandable” with his or her speech.

As a resident of the Language House, Suplee lives in the Spanish cluster. Although she regards the living and learning program as another opportunity to extend one’s foreign language capabilities, she said that there are challenges inherent to the program. Since students living in the Language House must speak their target languages 100% of the time, difficulties arise. As Suplee puts it, “You get up in the morning and you haven’t even had your coffee yet, and you have to have a full conversation with somebody else in a foreign language. So it gets really challenging in that way.”

She also enjoys the sense of community that is fostered by the immersion program, specifically, in the Spanish cluster. Suplee attributes this partially to the language mentor for the cluster, Lina Morales-Chacana, as well as the weekly cluster meetings.

Not only is Suplee a resident of the Language House, but she is also a member of the Toastmasters Club therein, and has participated in many of the Language House’s various events, including the recent Around the World Film Festival.

When asked why she chose to pursue a Spanish major, Suplee replied, “I guess things always begin and end with my mom. She thought I was really good at Spanish in middle school and high school.” She explains that she considered other majors at first, such as “business or computer science or something with numbers.” Upon realizing that these fields were not for her, however, Suplee reverted to her proficiency in Spanish language, discovering that she enjoyed it a great deal more than when she was in high school. She hopes that the skills she acquires through double-majoring in Spanish and Latin American history will enable her to work abroad after graduation.

Yet aside from her plans to go abroad, there is another underlying reason why Suplee is so interested in foreign language and culture studies. She says, just as for any other nationality, “It is important for us to try [to counter] and get that stereotype out about Americans.” For Suplee, her studies are about breaking down the boundaries that separate cultures, and she feels that the immersion programs at UMD are a great starting point.

 

 

Tim Meehan ('15 Germanic Studies)
SLLC Public Rleations Intern
tmeehan221@gmail.com

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