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Hillsdale’s Inter­na­tional Club is now offering free, informal courses in six foreign lan­guages: Bul­garian, Japanese, Korean, Man­darin Chinese, Russian, and Swahili.

Each lan­guage has its own weekly session lasting 30 or 45 minutes. Hillsdale stu­dents lead the classes. Sophomore Bilyana Petkova teaches Bul­garian, junior Christine Nishinaga teaches Japanese, sophomore Katie Kor­te­peter teaches Man­darin, junior Will Gage teaches Russian, and senior Christine Nyawaga teaches Swahili. Five stu­dents, including junior Tia Han, sophomore Hee-Sang Lee, and senior Jay Lee, are teaching Korean.

Jay Lee, club pres­ident, came up with this idea. After finding stu­dents who were fluent in foreign lan­guages and willing to teach, he adver­tised the classes at the Source and started signing up inter­ested stu­dents. According to Lee and the other teachers, the classes require a minimal time com­mitment and are par­tic­u­larly for beginners.

“I also want it to be about culture just as much as it is about lan­guage. It’s important and it’s also some­thing that we don’t get here at Hillsdale,” said Kor­te­peter, vice pres­ident of the club.       Her Chinese class has already had several ses­sions.

“I also like to bring in snacks, so we’re all eating seaweed,” she said.

Stu­dents have already shown appre­ci­ation for these classes. Sophomore Rebekah Molloy was thrilled to sign up for the Chinese class. She had taken Chinese for two years overseas while her parents were in the mil­itary, but had to give it up when coming to Hillsdale.

“When I saw that [Chinese] was offered, it was just perfect,” Molloy said. She added that while she would prefer that Hillsdale had more actual foreign lan­guage depart­ments, the Inter­na­tional Club courses are a good sub­stitute option.

Lee first ini­tiated the classes hoping to help satisfy needs like Molloy’s, which he also expe­ri­enced when coming to campus.

“I came [to Hillsdale] wanting to learn a lot of lan­guages, and we have lan­guage depart­ments, and they’re great, but we don’t have a variety,” he said. “I wanted lan­guages from outside Western Europe.”

The lack of non-Western lan­guage classes at Hillsdale was a dis­ap­pointment to Kor­te­peter as well.

“We are in a bit of a bubble here at Hillsdale, and learning other lan­guages would be a great way to sort of have one foot in and also one foot out, and be looking out at what the rest of the world has to offer,” Kor­te­peter said.

At the same time, however, the club appre­ciates how the lan­guages offered at Hillsdale back up the college’s ide­ology.

“Hillsdale is strongly com­mitted to the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian her­itage that we have, and so it’s appro­priate that Hillsdale focuses on Western lan­guages,” said Carmen Wyatt-Hayes, pro­fessor of Spanish and the club’s faculty adviser. “But lan­guages are the gates to under­standing dif­ferent ways of viewing the world, so I think that it is fab­ulous for stu­dents to offer courses in their native lan­guage.”

Lee said he believes the college’s few lan­guage offerings are not so much a problem as a call to duty.

“Hillsdale is really good at being what it is, a very Western-Her­itage-focused college,” Lee said. “I can only speak from my expe­rience, but I feel like the stu­dents here are missing some­thing. College is the place where they can be exposed to other cul­tures. Since we don’t do that within the school cur­riculum, I think that’s why Inter­na­tional Club needs to be a more active orga­ni­zation on campus.”

The club will indeed be active this year, according to Lee. By offering more activ­ities such as the lan­guage classes, the members hope to better further the aims of their club.

“Hillsdale is a very America-cen­tered, America-ori­ented college,” Lee said, describing the club’s goals. “What we’re trying to do is help stu­dents realize that there’s a world — there’s some­thing outside of the U.S. that is valuable to learn about and that is inter­esting.”

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Ramona Tausz
Ramona Tausz is the arts editor of the Collegian. A junior from Chicago, IL, she studies English, German, and journalism at Hillsdale College. Her writing has been published by First Things, The Times of Israel, and Higher Things, among other publications. email: rtausz@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @rvtausz