Coffee with culture

Maureen Nagg

Graduate student Kathy Siena, French major, enjoys coffee and French refreshments during yesterday’s French coffee hour in Satterfield Hall. The coffee hours are programs sponsored by the Modern and Classical Language Department and are held weekly for di

Credit: Maureen Nagg

“Erust ist das leben, heiter ist die kunst,” Jeff Duden, senior guest, said while sipping a cup of coffee.

Translated from German into English this means: “Life is serious, and culture is more fun.”

Culture is exactly what can be found during the coffee hours the Modern and Classical Language Studies Department hosts in Satterfield Hall every week.

Each of the six coffee hours is in a different language. Students can choose from French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish.

The MCLS coffee hours offer something most coffee places don’t, Duden said.

“It’s not like if you go to Arabica,” he said. “People don’t look at you funny because you’re speaking a different language.”

The coffee hours provide an opportunity for people with a common interest to meet and help each other learn, Duden said.

“It’s like a family get-together,” said Pete Scrocca, a native Italian and senior business management major. “The older speakers help the younger ones, and at the same time, it feels like a party.”

Language help isn’t the only thing available while drinking coffee. Knowledge of different cultures is also a big part of these get-togethers.

“It’s about another culture, and another way of thinking,” said Hildegard Rossoll, associate professor of German and coordinator of the German coffee hour.

Each coffee hour has its own cultural flair and atmosphere including food and music.

During the German coffee hour, attendees snacked on ethnic pastries, chocolates and cookies.

Coffee-drinkers at the Italian get-together ate pizza, olives, cheese and prosciutto, an authentic Italian specialty ham.

“It’s all about food here,” said Rosa Commisso, Italian lecturer and coffee hour coordinator.

Faculty, students, people from the community and all levels of speakers are welcome, Rossoll said.

The skill level varies from person to person, but having native speakers, like Scrocca, helps the learning process of those less fluent in the language, said Francesco Vitus, senior guest and Italian coffee hour attendee.

“The less you hear it, the less you will be able to speak it,” Vitus said.

The opportunity to hear each language being used in conversation is an element that draws many students to each coffee hour.

“You would be surprised at how much you can learn from just listening to people talk,” said Mary Young, senior English and psychology major, at the German coffee hour. “Plus, there’s coffee.”

It’s a complement to the learning process, Rossoll said.

However, improving their speaking skills isn’t the only reason students attend the coffee hours.

Some come just to interact with other people from the culture or people interested in it.

“I came because I wanted to talk to other Germans,” said Axel Horsch, a German citizen in town visiting his girlfriend, a student.

Other students come just to brush up on language skills they haven’t used in a while.

“I haven’t taken Italian for two years, and I needed help freshening up,” said Annemarie DeAngelis, senior nursing and psychology major.

For a schedule of the weekly coffee hours, visit the MCLS department in room 109 Satterfield Hall.

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Maureen Nagg at [email protected].