International Coffee Hour is a monthly event on main campus, encouraging students, faculty and staff to gather for refreshments and engage in informal conversation on cultural topics. For the March 18 installment of the event at Dulany Hall, Liz Metscher, instructor of English and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program assistant, and Dr. Miranda E. Wilkerson, assistant professor of ESOL and ESOL program coordinator, decided to do something a little different. Sponsored by the ESOL program and International Student Services, this coffee hour offered four Columbia College faculty members an opportunity to share their stories of trials and successes learning English, and to offer advice to ESOL students, education majors and those who may be considering studying abroad.
Dr. Aurelien Mauxion, assistant professor of sociology, studied English while growing up in France, but had to greatly improve his proficiency after meeting the American woman he would eventually marry. He said it was a “tipping point” when he found himself dreaming in English. He noted how interesting it is to visit France now that he has become immersed in English and American culture, advising students to “bridge it, mix it, navigate it, the area between cultures, to make the best of both areas.”
Naomi Lear, associate professor of art, moved from her native Japan to the U.S. with her parents when she was 12 and had a brief introduction to English prior to the move. She recounted the difficulty of transitioning to American food and the self-consciousness of being the only one at the lunch table with a bowl of noodles every day, emphasizing to students that learning a new culture is about more than language alone.
Dr. Ahoo Tabatabai, assistant professor of sociology and whose native language is Farsi, brought flashcards of English words that have had significant impact on her learning journey. She learned the word “sarcasm” when she was 14, a word that has no direct translation in Farsi. Other words she said she has found interesting along the way include “crestfallen” and “indubitably.”
Dr. Youlong Zhuang, associate professor of business administration and management information systems, began learning English while in college in Shanghai, China. He recounted that, while his TOEFL score was high, speaking English was a struggle. Once in the U.S., listening to American radio and taking advantage of the public library helped him improve his speaking skills.
“Read more, listen more. It’s free,” was his advice to students learning English.
International Coffee Hour will resume for the fall semester with dates and times posted to CougarTrack.