Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Diving into a Foreign Language: The MLCS Movie Night Series

I’ve always been fascinated with languages, especially those beyond  my English-speaking comfort zone. There’s something intrinsically fascinating and frightening about foreign languages. Being exposed to a myriad of new concepts, vocabulary, and sentence structures is like jumping off of a diving board for the first time. It may seem overwhelming at first but once you dive in you can't wait for your next chance to climb right back on to that platform for your next jump. The thrill of being immersed in a new environment, whether it's water or a spoken language, can open your eyes to a whole new way of seeing experiencing the world around you. Last month my linguistic diving board wasn’t a language class or a trip abroad, instead it was a film screening hosted by the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies as part of their Movie Night film series.

Though not your quintessential resource for second language acquisition, international films can fuel your passion for another culture or language, especially if you have a case of perpetual wanderlust like me! It’s that intense desire to board a plane, see the world and be introduced to an infinite amount of new experiences that has drawn me to languages and similarly drew me to this fantastic event.

So on a Thursday evening in October, I and approximately 30 other students gathered in a Tory classroom to view the 2009 film Le Hérisson (The Hedgehog). In it, a curiously intelligent and philosophically-inclined 11-year-old girl named Paloma makes the unusual decision to commit suicide on her twelfth birthday, but after witnessing the budding relationship between her building’s concierge and a neighbour, she discovers a more optimistic, compassionate side of life that entices her to rethink her date with death. 

As I was watching the film I couldn’t help but notice that as Paloma began to connect with her community, I was silently beginning to connect with mine — whether it was the collective laughter or the rows of desks grouped close together. This was ultimately a space for students to happily express their interest in studying French or films, exposing a common denominator between like-minded peers.

In retrospect, the sense of intrigue and passion that lingered infectiously throughout the classroom had me thinking about something Lars Richter, a PhD candidate and organizer of the German film series had said to me during an interview. While explaining the premise behind the Movie Night, he mentioned that “in this globalized world it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to really stick to your national boxes,” especially because being “exposed to something that is new to you [is] always exciting.”

Based on the degree of ethnic and linguistic diversity present at this one screening alone, Richter nicely articulates the importance of experimenting with different languages, cultures and environments. Although it’s not particularly risky or adventurous, attending a foreign language film can be the first step  off of your cultural diving board and beyond your “national boxes.” 

Richer also suggested that attending these screenings may entice you “to finally take a step and go abroad and study a year in Madrid or in Paris or in Berlin or wherever.” I think it’s incredibly important to compliment your degree with an international excursion, so why not dabble in another culture by attending the next foreign film screening Pane E Tulipani on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. in Tory B 70? There will also be more opportunities to watch films in Russian, German, Spanish, French and Italian throughout the rest of the academic year so check out their events calendar and save the date! Who knows, your next step might be to Study Abroad.


About the Author

Hey! My name’s Billy – a second year arts student still scavenging through the course catalog for that perfect major. I’ve recently developed a passion for journalism, professional writing and communications and hope to grow along with the team at YouAlberta. If I’m not engrossed in the latest episode of Big Brother you’ll probably find me being too emotionally invested in The Amazing Race or laughing at inappropriate jokes on the Internet.

When not feeding my reality TV addiction or scurrying to finish my latest assigned reading, I’ll be searching our campus for the most intriguing stories about diversity, academic success and the quirks that make our university the gem that it is. As a student communicator I hope to foster a stronger sense of community and belonging by sharing sentimental and inclusive stories to tap into the shared sense of pride we all uphold – I hope you join me!


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