For the Birds

by |August 4, 2010

At the center of the CSSR’s mission is a desire to inspire discussion, be it through lectures, seminars, or interpersonal conversations. Therefore we talk, we write, we blog, and now we even tweet. No, we do not claim to have mastered the science of ornithology, but we have created a Twitter account, and hope that you’ll follow us as we chirp our news across the airwaves. The above link will bring you to the page, but you can also follow us one tweet at a time on our sidebar by scrolling down to the box entitled “Poo-tee-weet: Tweets from the CSSR”.

We at the CSSR have been talking a lot recently about dialogue and the importance of inciting conversations. This has become increasingly relevant to me on a personal level, as I have also been working with the ESL program of Community Impact, a nonprofit located on Columbia’s campus. When I’m not filing the paperwork necessary to keep a nonprofit afloat, I spend a good deal of time talking with and teaching adults with a varying grasp on the English language. I enjoy these interactions thoroughly because I respect that they have made the effort to learn a new language later in life, and can understand both the frequent frustration and the sheer bliss of a successful conversation from my years of learning French and less successful attempts at learning Italian. Usually I play the role of proficient in our daily interactions, but yesterday I experienced an interesting reversal of roles. I was leaving a classroom where I had been administering spoken tests to Level 1 students (these tests consisted mostly of questions like: “Where…do…you…live?” and the like) and I ran into a man from one of the Level 5 classes who I have gotten to know through conversations in the classroom and the office. We began exchanging pleasantries and talking about the conversation class that he had just come from, which he hailed as being the most useful way to learn a language. I agreed and told him that in my studies of French I have always enjoyed conversations the most. He responded quickly and with a smile, switching from English to French. We began to talk about Senegal, his native country, and parted with a warm handshake and plans to exchange emails and to talk more about the subject in the future.

I walked away in a euphoric daze. In a span of 10 minutes I had gone from being the teacher to being the student, and was reminded of the vulnerability that coincides with the latter role. It takes a good deal of bravery to dive into the idiosyncrasies and lilting meter of another language, but I’ve found that the outcome is always worth the effort. With new languages we open ourselves to new forms of discourse and diverse discussions. It is of utmost importance that we allow other voices to be heard, be they in Creole, Twi, Mandarin, or the scores of other languages that envelope the globe, in order to have a deeper understanding of the world in which we live. This broad understanding can allow us to view our own, immediate realities in a more complex light.

Somewhere within this complex global web of language, culture, and human interactions we find the internet, and within that web we find social networking and soon thereafter, Twitter. So now you can count us, the CSSR, among the multitudes who have logged in and tweeted with the simple hope of reaching other people and making connections through dialogue.

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