Using Personal Connections to Motivate Language Learning

Me standing in wooden shoes at the Keukenhof, a flower park in the Netherlands, March 2015.

Learning a new language can be motivated by many factors and developed in different environments. While I have taken language courses in classroom settings, my most recent foray into a new language has been less structured, and more personal.

In April 2015, I visited the Netherlands at the end of a semester abroad in England. Much of my mother’s extended family still lives in the Netherlands, and she and I spent about five days meeting relatives and exploring areas like Amsterdam, Heerhugowaard, Volendam, and The Hague.

My relative and I took a canal boat tour in Amsterdam, March 2015.

While not universal, we were surprised by how many Dutch people spoke English, and spoke it well. Our family explained that English language is a required subject for most students, beginning at a young age. The proliferation of English media also helps them to learn not only the formal English of the classroom, but also the common phrases and expressions used in everyday conversation. My mother and I do not speak Dutch, so we relied heavily on our family when traveling, shopping, and communicating in general. The language barrier was not a significant challenge on our trip, however, as so many of the people we interacted with could speak at least some level of English, and many written texts were also available in English as well.

My relatives and I (center) in Chicago, October 2017.

In October this year, a few of these relatives had the opportunity to visit America for several weeks. They spent a weekend with my immediate family in Illinois before visiting other cousins in Indiana and then flying to Tampa, Florida, where a mini-reunion took place. My mother and I took them to Chicago for several days to see the city sights: the Shedd Aquarium, Millenium Park, Michigan Avenue, Chicago 360, and an architectural boat tour. While my mother and I still acted as guides, they could have functioned independently due to their fluency in English; they were able to read parking machines, store signs, menus, and ticket information on their own. Their language abilities afforded them comfort and agency even in a new place, and it allowed them to interact fully with their environment without needing much help outside help.

They later told me that they were not only fluent in English, but also had working knowledge in German, French, and Spanish as well. While this kind of language variety is impressive, it is not uncommon for the world at large. A European Commission report from 2012 found that 77% of people in the Netherlands have practical skills in at least two foreign languages (p. 13), and English is the foreign language most Europeans are able to speak at 38% (p. 19). In other regions of the world, such as those in Asia, Africa, India, and the Middle East, it can be common to speak or learn more than one language. These additional languages are not always taught exclusively in a classroom environment – as is common in English-speaking countries – but instead learned more organically through exposure and everyday use.

A Pew Research Center article from 2015 details that only 25% of American adults reported speaking a language other than English in a 2006 survey, and only 43% of this group said they could speak the language very well. While these numbers may be changing, and these statistics are never exact, it is clear that Americans spend less time and effort learning foreign languages. A 2015 article from The Atlantic quoted Richard Brecht, head of the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language, as saying, “It isn’t that people don’t think language education is important. It’s that they don’t think it’s possible.”

Language learning, especially later in life, is not easy. I studied Spanish in high school and Latin in undergrad, but I retain almost no functional or conversational skills in these languages. However, many online resources make language learning possible – and fun – after people have left the formal classroom environment. I am currently using Duolingo – an interactive phone app – to learn Dutch, in the hopes of one day being able to speak to my relatives in their native language.

If you are interested in learning a foreign language, there are many resources that are available to you, whether you are at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or not:

Rosetta Stone – for University of Illinois students and faculty, look under Quick Links on the Literatures and Languages Library homepage and login with your netID and password

Mango Languages – through the Urbana Free Library with your library barcode and Champaign Public Library with your library barcode. Many public libraries have Mango Languages subscriptions; check the online resources page.

Duolingo – freely available on iOS, android, and Windows devices

Ethnologue – This is not a language-learning tool, but it includes updated statistics about languages worldwide. Use a University of Illinois netID and password to log in.

Happy language learning!

Laura Rocco

Graduate Assistant | International and Area Studies Library

MSLIS Candidate | School of Information Sciences

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sources

Devlin, K. (2015, July 13). Learning a foreign language a ‘must’ in Europe, not so in America. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/13/learning-a-foreign-language-a-must-in-europe-not-so-in-america/.

Friedman, A. (2015, May 10). America’s lacking language skills. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/05/filling-americas-language-education-potholes/392876/.

TNS Opinoin & Social, European Commission. (2012). Europeans and their languages. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/commfrontoffice/publicopinion/archives/eb_special_399_380_en.htm.

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Welcome to IAS: Striving for a Global Perspective

As this academic year begins, the University of Illinois community, the nation, and the world continue to strive toward diversity, respect, and inclusivity. Recent events like the January travel ban and the discontinuation of DACA have motivated the University to reaffirm its commitment to serving a diverse population of students. The various departments across the University Library support our school’s mission to “be proactive in supporting all of our students, faculty, staff and visiting scholars, whether domestic or international” and to “build a campus culture of inclusion,” as stated in a campus-wide email from Chancellor Robert Jones on September 9.

As a student, these events and topics can sometimes feel overwhelming. With so much information and media available, how do we begin to understand these complex issues? How can we find reliable information and context on these topics? How can we celebrate and respect diverse perspectives and experiences?

In addition to participating in a variety of campus initiatives, individuals on campus can make an effort to learn about changing policies and social climates, cultural histories, national identities, and individual experiences. The commitment to value and support diversity enlightens us about people and places different from ourselves, while simultaneously creating safe, creative, and respectful environments.

Campus Resources and Support

The University of Illinois offers many resources for students wanting to learn more about these topics or who are looking for help navigating these experiences. These include, among others:

Open Illinois: http://open.illinois.edu/support-daca-students/

Illinois International: http://international.illinois.edu/students/support.html

International Student and Scholar Services: http://www.isss.illinois.edu/

Counseling Center: https://counselingcenter.illinois.edu/

International and Area Studies Library

The subject librarians and the collections at the International and Area Studies Library are fantastic resources for insight and primary sources on global topics.

The International and Area Studies Library serves the campus community by providing information about specific regions across the world. As detailed on the about page, IAS is committed to “connecting students and scholars to the knowledge crucial to developing global competencies through the study of distinct nations and regions, as well as transnational issues and global concerns.” IAS strives to increase awareness of international histories and current events through its collections, staff, and activities.

Contact IAS

Visit the International and Area Studies Library: Room 321, Main library; 1408 W. Gregory Dr.; Urbana IL, (217) 333-1501; Email: internationalref@library.illinois.edu

IAS Event Calendar – Keep an eye on the calendar; we will be adding more events, such as lectures and exhibits, as the semester continues.

International Reference Services – Contact regional librarians for research assistance. Subject librarians can provide expertise on certain topics and suggestions for research tools and materials. You can also complete the Reference Information Request Form to ask a specific question.

How to use the library – guides on the IAS homepage provide library guidance in a variety of languages.

We at the International and Area Studies Library hope to see you this year!

 

Laura Rocco

Graduate Assistant | International and Area Studies Library

MSLIS Candidate | School of Information Sciences

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Why I Think You Should Meet Elizabeth Wickes

By Matt Hendrick

If you’ve ever lost a folder or spent hours trying to find an old file, Elizabeth Wickes (who works with Heidi Imker, the Head of the Research Data Service (RDS), and her colleagues Elise Dunham, Colleen Fallaw, and Qian Zhang) can help you. Elizabeth is a Data Curation Specialist at the RDS who helps researchers and students learn how to properly organize and manage their data.

Help from Elizabeth can even be the reason you receive or do not receive federal funding. If you ever plan on applying for a federal grant, you will likely need to create a Data Management Plan (DMP). If you have no idea what a Data Management Plan is, the RDS can help you. If you do know what a DMP is, but don’t know how to create one or want some feedback on a draft, the RDS can help you.

Last semester, I had the opportunity to interview Elizabeth and ask her about the RDS, Data Management Plans, and the best practices for organizing data.

  1. What is the Research Data Service?

The Research Data Service is dedicated to helping Illinois researchers manage and steward their data throughout the research process. When I say data, I can mean whatever you are using to base your conclusions off of. People often say “I don’t have data.” You do. Everyone has data. You are basing your conclusions on something. This can be books, specimens, interviews, statistics, etc.

  1. What services does the RDS offer?

We have three core services: data management workshops and consultations, Data Management Plan creation help, and the Illinois Data Bank. Our workshops and one-on-one consultations are usually the best place to get started with data management and gives us an opportunity to discuss your specific situation and give you personalized advice on how to manage your data. You can book a personal consultation at http://go.illinois.edu/bookRDS. The RDS also holds regular workshops (in collaboration with the Scholarly Commons) covering various data management and data publishing topics. In addition, we offer customized data management talks or workshops to fit the needs of teams of all sizes and disciplines. We’ll be talking about the Illinois Data Bank and Data Management Plans later on.

  1. Who can use the RDS and attend its workshops?

Everyone is welcome to attend the RDS workshops; no I-Card is required. The RDS is designed to help research and data management from all individuals, at all stages. Undergraduates, graduates, and faculty have access to all of the RDS’s services.

  1. How should researchers handle data that is either confidential, private, or proprietary?

We help a great many researchers with sensitive data, but our advice is very dependent on the type of data and the context. For example, for scholars with sensitive humanities data the RDS recommends our institutional Box for storage. UIUC’s Box is approved for IRB storage and, when permissions are set up appropriately, it is one of the easiest ways to manage and share IRB data with a project team. When it comes to sensitive data and human subjects, the IRB is always the final word. We would not give the same recommendation to scholars with HIPAA data (health data), as that has very explicit legal requirements. Whatever issues you may have with sensitive data, we will walk you through the process and give you advice tailored to your specific situation.

  1. What are the best practices of data management?

Among the two most important data management steps an individual can take are: keeping secure backups of all their data (Box or an encrypted external hard drive) and maintaining personal computer security (see our library’s “Computer Security Tips” and the Technology Service’s information on security for more information).

Some general best practices for organizing your data include: having consistent and unique file names, avoiding special characters and spaces (use underscores instead), and including a version number and date for all your files (with consistent formatting). See the RDS’s pages on “Saving and Sharing Your Data” and “Organizing Your Data” for more detailed information. We also offer private consultations to help you develop and implement an organizational system.

  1. What is a Data Management Plan (DMP) and why would someone create one?

In 2013, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memo mandating that federally funded research programs must be open access and have a plan for data management (beginning in 2015). Today, many federal grant applications must have a Data Management Plan (DMP). So if you haven’t submitted a grant in the last couple years, this will probably be new to you.

While DMP requirements do differ from funder to funder, they are usually one or two page documents that answer the specific questions of the funder. The general purpose is to explain how you will manage, secure, acquire, and share your data. You will also have to explain what your data will be, how you’ll manage it during the project, and how you’ll store it after the project is done. The level of detail they expect varies by funder and some funders place higher levels of emphasis on the DMP. Some funders consider it a key element of the grant portfolio, while others do not. You cannot simply presume the DMP is not going to matter; an increasing number of funders who initially didn’t place a great deal of emphasis on the DMP, now do.

It is primarily faculty who are applying for these funding opportunities and are required to create a DMP, but we are seeing more grad students and post-docs needing to submit ones for fellowship project applications. Also, any graduate student who is planning to remain in academia and applies for a federal grant will have to create a Data Management Plan. Sometimes graduate assistants working for a faculty member may also be involved in this process, but every team works differently. The DMP creation plan process can also be valuable for a team as they create new projects, because it makes you ask and answer many tough questions. Pain points can be discovered early on in the process rather than during crunch times.

  1. How can RDS with the process of creating a Data Management Plan?

If you send us your proposal, the call you are responding to, and a draft of your Data Management Plan, we will take a look at all those documents and provide you with expert advice. We have an entire network of subject specialists that we bring in who know your subject and your funders. The process is entirely confidential and is as simple as sending out an email to researchdata@library.illinois.edu. We also have a short list of best practices that goes over the biggest pain points we see coming in on a regular basis.

  1. What is the difference between IDEALS (Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship) and the Illinois Data Bank?

IDEALS and the Illinois Data Bank are our institutional repositories for research and scholarship. You can think of them as sibling repositories. They are intentionally separated as it is more efficient. In short, IDEALS is primarily designed for texts (dissertation, theses, papers, presentations, manuscripts, etc.) while the Illinois Data Bank is primarily designed and optimized for data. This method of dividing our data storage allows us to maximize the metadata that is being transmitted; essentially, this makes your data more discoverable and reusable.

  1. What can scholars of the humanities deposit in these repositories?

You cannot deposit anything that is under copyright or data that is sensitive (such as protected human subject data), but this is something that we can help you navigate. You do have the ability, as an alternative, to deposit your derivative data files. For example, if you are doing topic modeling on copyrighted novels, you can’t deposit the novels, but you can deposit the topic modeling information that you have created and are basing your research on. Additionally, you can deposit any field notes that you have; you can de-identify these to whatever extent you wish (so long as you are in compliance with the IRB and your participant consent).

  1. Do you have any general advice for students regarding the RDS and our library in general?

I want to encourage all students to look at all the services the library offers outside of just the collections. The library is a lot more than simply books. In addition to the RDS, we have a many experts and services that can help with a broad range of issues related to your research. I also advise students and faculty to take advantage of our library’s consultation services; these can be a tremendous resource and they are often overlooked.

The Research Data Service is on the south side of the third floor of the Main library in the rooms of 310-312. They do not have a patron-facing area and usually use the neighboring Scholarly Commons area for their meetings. You can set up a meeting by calling their phone number (217-300-3513) or sending an email to researchdata@library.illinois.edu.

In addition to Elizabeth Wickes, the staff of the RDS includes Heidi Imker (Director), Colleen Fallaw (Research Programmer), Elise Dunham (Data Curation Specialist), and Qian Zhang (CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation with CIRSS).

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Statement regarding Executive Order barring refugees and citizens of seven countries

To echo the University of Illinois President’s statement regarding the Trump Administration’s order barring some immigrants, the International and Area Studies Library shares the University’s value of international students, scholars, exchanges, and perspectives as a central aspect of the University’s mission.  The International and Area Studies Library would like to reiterate to the campus community that it provides a safe space for students, scholars, and the community to study, research, and discuss any topic or subject, including the current policies regarding immigrant and refugee access to the United States.

In addition, the individuals at the International and Area Studies library are able to provide all students, scholars, and members of the community with access to important resources to learn about and make sense of the rapidly changing policy environment that relates directly to many regions of the world and issues of international importance.  From print and electronic resources to human expertise, the International and Area Studies Library is available to assist you.

Support for Research on the Topic and Regions Affected

If you are specifically interested in learning more about the seven countries targeted by the Trump Administration, please contact Laila Hussein, Middle East and North African Studies Librarian.  Professor Hussein has expertise in Middle East and North African Studies and Human Rights. She can also help people interested in accessing and understanding contemporary research and journalistic resources from these regions in Arabic and Persian.

Assurance of Privacy and Confidentiality

The University Library’s faculty and staff are professionally obligated and committed to maintaining patron confidentiality.  No question you ask, resource you use, or book you read will be shared without your consent (Library Privacy Policy).

Librarians can also provide advice and instruction on privacy enhancing technologies that you may wish to consider using in online research and electronic communications.  (See Library Freedom Project: https://blog.torproject.org/blog/guest-post-library-freedom-project-bringing-privacy-and-anonymity-libraries or Heritage Foundation for more information on privacy and technology issues: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2004/05/technologies-that-can-protect-privacy-as-information-is-shared-to-combat-terrorism)

Contacts

To contact an expert in Middle East Studies, get help with research on this topic, or learn more about services, resources, and advice that the Library can offer please contact:

International and Area Studies Library: Room 321, Main Library; 1408 W. Gregory Dr.; Urbana, IL, (217) 333-1501 Email: internationalref@library.illinois.edu

For specific visa advice, and counseling, please contact International Student and Scholar Services

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: International Student and Scholar Services, (217) 333-1303 (isss@illinois.edu)

Steve Witt
Associate Professor
Head, International and Area Studies Library
Director, Center for Global Studies
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, Illinois 61820 USA
Phone: 217.265.7518
Email: swwitt@illinois.edu

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