The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Language center beneficial for eager learners

When Zsuzsanna Burger waved goodbye to her family and friends eight years ago, at Budapest Ferihegy International Airport in Hungary, she was not afraid to leave home. Her main goal for coming to the United States was to learn English, and she was determined to do just that.

As she reflects on her time in the U.S., she has accomplished many things. Graduating from CSUN with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations, Burger is on her way back to Budapest, leaving Dec. 7 with her newfound knowledge and a U.S. citizenship.

“I learned English in high school, but then took independent classes afterwards,” Burger said. “When I came to America, I knew the basics – hello, goodbye, how much? I could carry on small talk, but that was about it.”

Burger looks forward to going back home to Budapest, but now that she speaks English and has a college degree, she is more prepared for getting a job.

“Knowing English will tremendously help me get a job in Hungary,” Burger said. “Knowing a different language opens so many doors, especially when it comes to working. I can get a translation certificate if I wanted to and get a job as a translator, but I think I want to stick to PR.”

Burger is hoping to get a job in PR, but Hungary mostly communicates and/or does business with Russia and England. Burger took four years of Russian while in Hungary and she said she looks forward to learning more Russian when she goes back home.

“My mom wants to learn English now, so I will help her when I return,” Burger said.

Burger took English as a second language courses when she lived in New Jersey, so by the time she came to CSUN, she was comfortable speaking English.

“Now that I speak English, I love it,” Burger said. “I love the English language.”

Learning a different language is tough for some people, especially if their native tongue is much different from the one they are trying to learn.

“Generally the difficulties students will have with learning a new language is learning the sounds of the other language,” said Patricia Miller, director of the Barbara Ann Ward Language Center. “Sounds (that) are unable to be produced in your own native language.”

Miller was born and raised in Italy. She learned English at the age of 13.

“The ‘th’ sound in English is non-existent in Italian. For an Italian learning English the ‘th’ sound is lost,” Miller said. Miller demonstrated how the “th” sound comes out like “duh” for someone who is learning English. “That’s why it’s important for a student to listen to Native speakers,” she said.

CSUN offers ESL programs for students interested in learning English. There are courses available for students interested in learning another language as well. According to Miller, students in the ESL programs must be proficient in English before entering the main subjects of the university. The ESL students practice for an hour three to four times a week on computers in the language center.

The Barbara Ann Ward Language Center in the College of Humanities is a multimedia and computer-based facility. The language center provides audio-, video- and language-specific software in 11 languages.

The 50-station facility is fully networked and provides multimedia as well as Internet capabilities to the faculty and students in the college. The center functions as a smart classroom with a fully integrated system.

The language center is located in Jerome Richfield Hall 316 and is open Monday through Friday during different times each day.

“The language center is crucial because it’s the one place where students can find technology that can help them learn another language,” Miller said. There are audiotapes, videos, voice recognition and headphones with microphones built in for students.

The “Tell Me More” program allows students to process the language in several different ways. “It gives the students the opportunity to listen to a native speaker, visually understand the pattern of the native speaker on a bar graph. Subsequently the student will match what they said to the native speaker,” Miller said.

The headset has a microphone, so as the students listen to the voice in another language, they are then prompted to talk back. The program also gives them feedback on how well the student matched their words in the foreign language to the recording.

“The program is (a) very important function for us,” Miller said. “It allows the flexibility for a student (who is) learning a foreign language.”

Once an account is created for the program, the student can access it anywhere on their laptop, at home or while they are in another country.

In the language center there are tape recorders so students can record themselves and listen back to the tape to hear how they are pronouncing the words in another language. The tape will be erased after, but it is very good practice.

“It’s very important to hear yourself with learning the language,” Miller said.

The center has workbooks that go along with the tapes. Everything is available at the front desk in the language center. Just like in the library, students can check out the items to use as they please in the center.

Unlike other computer labs, the language center has word processing in every language that the university offers. This program allows the students to write in another language while using Microsoft Word. The language programs for Spanish and French have computer assistant examinations (S-CAPE and F-CAPE) that allow students to determine where they best place in the program.

The word processing program also has Chinese characters available so students can practice their stroke orders.

The lab offers cameras to lend out to students for coursework. There are televisions with VCRs that are sound-split, so two students can listen at the same time. The computers are also sound-split for students to collaborate at one machine.

“(Having this technology) doubles the capacity of the lab,” Miller said.

The Ronald Tseng College of Extended Learning offers an array of foreign language courses, including classes that are custom-designed to enable businesses to achieve specific goals.

Mustasem Shehadeh, research professor in the mechanical engineering department, has been in America for six years and speaks three languages fluently.

Shehadeh learned English when he was 10 years old in Jordan. His native language is Arabic and he also speaks Farsi.

“In Jordan we learned English as a second language,” Shehadeh said.

Shehadeh says that in Jordan, kids now have to learn English in the first grade.

Ioannis Theodonis, Ph.D. student and physics researcher, has been in the U.S. for two years. His native language is Greek, but he also speaks English and French fluently. Theodonis learned English when he was 10 years old and French when he was 12.

“Greece is a tourist destination, a lot of people come to Greece to visit,” Theodonis said. “(Since) a lot of businesses want us to know English, our parents send us to school to learn English.”

Learning another language is beneficial for students who plan on traveling before or after graduation. Other languages help people gain a better understanding of different cultures.

“When you learn another language you get the culture of another country. You have to understand a spirit of another language,” Theodonis said. “Any country or civilization that needs other people for trade or business, for example, they have to learn each other’s languages. America is on top right now so everyone has to learn English.”

“English is the current trade language,” Shehadeh said.

There are approximately 1,200 students enrolled as Modern and Classical Language majors, and 2,850 enrolled in courses to learn another language.

“A large number of our students are in the program to become future teachers in Spanish,” Miller said.

“T
here are various reasons for studying a foreign language,” she said. “We are a multicultural world. The more we are able to communicate with each other and with the other cultures, the better an understanding we will have.”

Miller admitted that it was not easy for her to learn English. “Despite the initial frustration, it was quite an experience.”

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