Since there’s a new edition of the GPS today, that means there are new features about people involved with GLN! Read on for stories about their experiences!
“Where are you from?” “Oh, Venezuela! Chavez! ¿Hablas español?” At the sound of those two little words or any two little words I always react with enthusiasm and ask, “do you?” only to be crushed by the oh-so-common response “Así-así”. That little phrase, “así-así” is my biggest pet peeve (after looking at elbows and people that show their elbows to me.) That impossibly tiny, impossibly wrong little phrase is the reason I decided to valiantly crusade against high school Spanish teachers everywhere and teach willing DC-area residents one by one that “así así” is in fact NOT A WORD IN SPANISH!
Should you ever run into me and start with the inevitable and unanswerable “where are you from?” question, followed by the also inevitable mini-exchange in Spanish, please don’t say así-así. Say “más o menos”, which literally means “more or less” but is used like you use “so so” in English. If you don’t fully understand this or are wondering how else your Spanish could improve, you are always welcome in my class.
I have been teaching Spanish at GLN since I encouraged one “así-así” person to enroll in Spanish class, only to discover that the class was full. That was bad news for him, but it gave me hope: there is a whole world of people out there that want to learn my language. Well, maybe not a whole world, but more than 20. I have been teaching Spanish ever since the Fall of 2007. I taught through my first job in DC, all the way through grad school and now through my post-grad job and doctoral student aspirations.
I absolutely love teaching for the GLN and would happily preside over a fan club if there ever was a need for one. I love the support I get from the awesome people at the GLN, I love my language and I love teaching itself, but more than anything, I love the 20 or so brave souls that will commit to coming to GW after work to have me ask them to act out scenes from a novela, tell everyone about their lives or, occasionally, get screamed at for saying “así-así.”
Student Corner: Ellen
My name is Ellen.
Nice to meet you.
With an introduction like that, I’d be fired as a screenwriter. Nevertheless, as a budding linguaphile, I am proud to know how to how to introduce myself in French, Arabic, and Spanish, thanks in part to GLN.
My multilingual journey began unceremoniously as an academic requirement. As a (perhaps overly) confident freshman, I assumed French 101 would be pas de problème. My test scores thought otherwise; I nearly failed out. Masochistically, I decided not only to pass, but to master French. I declared it my major, spent a year in Paris, and shocked the professor who had winced at my pronunciation first semester. The tongue-twisted, corn-fed girl from Ohio had become a francophone.
Post-graduation, my language skills earned me a quick placement in Mauritania, West Africa with the Peace Corps. Though I conducted much of my work in French, I drank tea in Hassaniye, the local Arabic dialect. I became proficient in phrases such as “no, I’m not yet married,” “no, there is nothing wrong with me,” and “no, please, I couldn’t drink a ninth cup.” Amid this caffeine-induced socializing, my most used vocabulary was that of gratitude. My host families praised me linguistically, but more importantly, they embraced me culturally. Midwestern accent notwithstanding, I hope my “thank you”s always rang clear.
Once I was stateside, it was obvious: my language itch would require permanent scratching. Cue GLN. Since last Spring, I have completed a semester in Spanish and Arabic each and am currently in a second Arabic course. GLN combines fascinating and diverse students, talented and dedicated teachers, and an approach that is varied, entertaining, and oddly nostalgic. Mastering a tough Arabic pronunciation calls to memory those early, ear-grating French semesters. Similarly, learning how to tell time in Spanish taught me that punctuality is relative in both Mauritania and Colombia. Mashallah (thank God), since I’m never ever on time.
As a student of and donor to GLN, I plough through vocabulary eagerly and count days to the next enrollment, knowing I get back so much more than I give. With each semester, nostalgia gives over to new languages, new destinations, and new adventures. In other words, a limitless, real-life, genius of a screenplay.