Foreign conversations, coffee increase learning

Nicole Weible

Olga Rivera (left), assistant professor in the department of modern and classical language studies, chats with (left to right) Katie Callahan, sophomore Spanish major, Joseph Bailey, Kent State graduate, and Carmen Sanchez, senior anthropology major durin

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

For some students, the combination of a foreign language and a cup of joe is more beneficial and more fun than sitting in class.

“Interacting with other people who know the language well will help me,” said Katie Callahan, sophomore Spanish and business major. “Plus, I like to drink coffee; it enlivens me for the rest of the day.”

Each week, the School of Modern and Classical Language Studies offers Coffee Hours. Each Coffee Hour is aimed at a target language, where students are able to sit with their peers and speak a foreign language.

Yesterday was Spanish day, but the program also offers Japanese, Italian and Russian Coffee Hours.

Each Coffee Hour, students can grab a cup of coffee and come up with their own topics of interests, which lead the conversations. At each session, a professor facilitates the conversations, and a translation major brings the coffee and snacks.

Spanish professor Olga Rivera said students talk about study-abroad experiences, food, music and politics.

Rivera facilitates the Spanish Coffee Hour every Thursday at 2 p.m. in room 110 of Satterfield Hall. This is her fourth semester of Spanish Coffee Hour.

“It really helps students,” she said. “Most of the time we don’t plan anything like we do in the classroom. The participants come up with their own topics.”

People from the community and both native and non-native speakers of the languages attend Coffee Hours.

“This is for everybody,” Rivera said. “Students from high schools and different countries have just walked in before.”

Rivera said more advanced speakers help beginners during the sessions. They are able to sit on the side in order to provide more individual help.

Mark Breidenbaugh is a graduate from the University of California and is currently attending Kent State in the master’s program.

Breidenbaugh said Coffee Hour is sometimes formal and sometimes informal. He also said he sometimes serves as a teacher to people with questions, but he is also there to learn.

But there is more than just conversation going on at the Coffee Hours.

Rivera said students have salsa danced and shared music and crafts from other countries. Rivera has even brought in food from her home country, Puerto Rico.

Junior Spanish and economics major Ellen Euclide has been attending Coffee Hour for four weeks.

“I like it because it is at a natural pace of conversation, and it’s very informal,” she said. “It makes us feel more comfortable. We also meet a lot of new people.”

Even with the open atmosphere of the conversations, there is one thing not allowed.

“The only thing we discourage is English,” Jeff Greer, senior guest, said. “It takes away from what we are trying to do.”

Contact international affairs reporter Nicole Weible at [email protected]