The Modern Linguist

Jan Term Reflections

Dra. Ángeles González-Aller

The Cathedral of Sevilla at golden hour.For Jan Term 2019, a group of Spanish majors and minors traveled to Spain with me to immerse themselves in the culture and language of Sevilla, capital of Andalucía. In Sevilla students lived with host families, where they experienced firsthand the customs and routines of life in Andalucía. Having to communicate with host families in Spanish 100 percent of the time allowed students to expand their fluency and vocabulary, and it encouraged them to find creative ways to communicate when something wasn’t clear. Students have shared with me that the homestay experience was one of the highlights of the entire experience. During the week, students attended class for three and a half hours each day where they engaged in a variety of communicative activities around topics related to Spanish society and culture and current events in Spain. These activities promoted students’ fluency and accuracy in the language. Most importantly, however, because of the entire experience, students have reported increased confidence both in the language and in their ability navigate another culture more independently in the future.

We arrived in Sevilla during the Spanish Christmas season, so students were able to experience the Three Kings Day festivities and witness how Spaniards celebrate this important day with their families. Other activities in Sevilla included visiting historical sites such as the Cathedral (the largest gothic cathedral in the world) and the Giralda Tower (minaret of the original mosque), the Real Alcazar de Sevilla and the Museo de Bellas Artes, which features the works of Sevilla-born painters such as Bartolomé Esteban Murillo and Diego Velázquez. Students also learned to dance Sevillanas, learned about Flamenco and took in a Flamenco show. In between all of these activities, students enjoyed time with host families, had free time to explore the city and enjoyed tasting a wide range of Spanish tapas.

To promote a better understanding of Andalucía’s history, the group also traveled to a number of nearby sites and cities near Sevilla:

  • The ancient Roman city of Italica.
  • The Mosque of Cordoba – now a Christian temple that at one time simultaneously housed Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths.
  • Ronda – one of the many white towns of Andalucía.
  • Cádiz – oldest city in Spain founded by Phoenicians in 1104 and now one of the most important ports in the country.

The final three days were spent in Madrid, where we visited the Museo del Prado to view the works of Velazquez, Goya and Zurbarán, enjoyed viewing Picasso’s Guernica at the Reina Sofia, and spent time at a nonprofit called Fundación Raíces, learning about issues of immigration, particularly as it relates to their work with unaccompanied minors in danger of deportation.

A panorama view of a costal town in Portugal.An immersion experience is crucial to gain a true sense of the culture and society of another country. It also provides opportunities for students to “test” themselves linguistically and gain confidence as they interact with host families and other locals – all of these experiences, combined with students’ willingness to try new things and keep an open mind – contributed to a wonderful learning experience for everyone.

Richie Hochrein

Richie poses with a group of friends at a soccer game.

This past Jan Term, I had the privilege of being able to study abroad in Sevilla, Spain. While there, I took a conversational Spanish class with fellow Whitworth students. We started every weekday morning in Spanish class and then had our afternoons open for exploration, what we later called “vagando” (wandering). After class, we rarely spent any time in our homes; the exception was during meals where we took the opportunity to get to know our lovely host families. I remember the first day we decided to wander to the tallest and - according to the locals - ugliest tower in Sevilla, La Torre de Sevilla. This was a long trek from the city center, but we managed to make it. We did not stay long because as soon as we arrived, we noticed that the tower was a prestigious hotel. We weren’t allowed much farther than the main lobby as you needed guest access to travel past the lobby. Since we couldn’t do much at La Torre, we returned to the city center at the “golden hour.” This was the time of day when the sun began to set and gave the Cathedral of Sevilla a golden glow. We concluded our first day, and consequentially every other day, with gelato from a local ice cream parlor called Abuela (grandmother).

Richie poses with his host family.

This first day was the definition of perfect; at the end of the day and looking forward to the time ahead in Sevilla, I believed that it would be difficult to have another day even close to that first day. Fortunately, I was very wrong. My classmates and I did take the opportunity to see all the sights of Sevilla and travel together during our days that we had class, but we also had two free days. On our first free day, some classmates and I booked a day trip to Faro, Portugal. It had long been on my bucket list to visit Portugal, and it lived up to the paradise that I expected it to be. We spent the majority of the day wandering around the historical city center and the Cathedral of Faro. This was a very tiny, coastal city but was very rich in culture. One of the most interesting things about this historic city was that the majority of its residents either did not speak Spanish or refused to speak Spanish, regardless of the fact that it was only a forty-five-minute car ride from the border of Spain. However, we noticed that when someone spoke to us in Portuguese, it was surprisingly easy to understand what they were saying; but if something got lost in translation, most everyone spoke English. This was due to a complicated history between Portugal and England as well as numerous English vacationers soaking up the Mediterranean sun in Portugal. My favorite part about visiting Portugal was meeting the people. Everyone in the U.S. talks about the nice people of Spain and Italy, but the people of Portugal tend to never get this praise. The Portuguese people were easily some of the nicest people that I have ever talked to. I would highly recommend traveling to Portugal; the people are incredibly inviting and welcoming. When traveling in Portugal, it is easy to always feel at home, thanks to their Mediterranean hospitality.

Eye on Alumni

Jessica Langdon

Jessica poses with a group of children in Nicaragua.In April 2018, I returned to Whitworth after studying abroad in Guatemala and Nicaragua as a part of the Central America Study and Service Program. In Nicaragua, I interned with a feminist organization in their education and fight against violence departments. In this position abroad, I helped facilitate educational workshops for women from rural communities surrounding León, Nicaragua. In these workshops, women met to discuss social, political and cultural issues as they relate to gender. During my experience, I was able to interact with female victims of domestic violence and witness how these workshops empowered women to push for change in their communities.

Upon return to the U.S. and graduating a month later, I jumped headfirst into the post-grad, frantic job-search. Many big questions narrated this whole affair: How could I take what I experienced abroad and incorporate it into my first job? How can I make a change in my community at home? How could I continue to be exposed to Latin American culture when confined to a job in the United States?

Jessica poses with her diploma after walking at commencement.

Various job search engines and one keyword — “Spanish” — led me to my current position as a client assistant at a non-profit family law center in the heart of Los Angeles. Our office provides free legal services to low-income individuals in LA County who need help with divorce, custody, visitation and domestic violence restraining orders. In my role at the center, I help screen and schedule clients, translate attorney-client correspondence and assist in family law classes at the women’s jail. Since around 1/3 of our clients are monolingual Spanish-speakers, I am able to serve as a communicative bridge between attorneys and Spanish-speaking clients to inform clients about resources that may have been inaccessible in the past due to language barriers. Whether it’s providing domestic violence emergency shelter referrals or connecting clients to immigration attorneys, I am grateful I am able to continue working with Spanish-speakers and put what I learned at Whitworth into practice.

A View From Abroad

Hannah smiles while standing near the ocean.This fall I had the opportunity to study at a public university called Aix-Marseille Université in Aix-en-Provence, France. Almost nobody has ever heard of Aix-en-Provence, so I typically just describe it as "looking just like Mamma Mia." Once I explain it like that, everybody understands. I took one language course, one literature survey course, one autobiographical writing course and a public speaking course--all in French! This sounds slightly intimidating when it is written down on paper, but you have to remember that one truly lovely thing about the French is that they really don't believe in homework. I also got to take a private cooking class taught by a local chef. Even though I didn't get college credit for it, that cooking class has thus far been the highlight of my life. I am an incompetent cook, but my instructor was very kind and let me do things like pour liquids into containers and mash up the potatoes and (my personal favorite!) use the rolling pin.

A view down a small canal. The water is lined by colorful buildings and boats.Due to the blessed lack of homework, I got to travel on weekends and on breaks. I visited Antibes one weekend with a group of Americans. Antibes is a beautiful little beach town right on the Mediterranean. Another weekend, I tried to hike the Calanques with a friend and got lost. We ended up in another beach town called Cassis, which was also perfectly lovely. During one infamous weekend, a friend and I visited Milan, Italy. I lost my passport that weekend and therefore made many special memories at an Italian police station. The passport was eventually retrieved! I visited Paris for an entire week. Paris is full of creative thinkers and geniuses, and I know this for a fact because they do brilliant things like serve cheese platters for dessert. After classes ended, I visited Poland and Berlin for their legendary Christmas markets. The Christmas spirit is strong at the European Christmas markets, and I personally believe that is because European Christmas markets sell things like fried pierogi and sausage toast (I'm sure there is a Polish name for "sausage toast," but I don't know it, and the phrase "sausage toast" should be universally appealing anyway). My time in France ended with a day in Disneyland, Paris. At the end of my day in Disneyland, I came to an important conclusion regarding my career: I would like to play Belle in Disneyland, Paris. When I am too old to play Belle, I would like to play either Cruella DeVille or that big ape-thing who kidnaps Mowgli for a while in The Jungle Book. My Whitworth education will be put to good use.

Hannah laughs while standing in front of a scenic overlook somewhere in France.It is very possible that the thing I enjoyed the most while I was in France was the food. I particularly miss the cheese, and the way that everything is always cooked in butter. The South of France, where I lived, is notorious for its olives and olive oil. I am an intense olive gal and found a salesman at the farmer's markets who sold GARLIC OLIVES. I purchased a half-kilogram each week because it is important to my diet that I intake an adequate amount of garlic each day. Once, the salesman's trainee looked shocked when I informed him of the quantity of olives I wanted to buy. He started to advise me against it, and then the salesman told his trainee in French not to judge me because "this girl likes her garlic olives!" Ever since that moment, "this girl likes her garlic olives!" has been my mantra. However, this mantra has become slightly outdated and irrelevant since my return to the U.S., because there simply aren't any high-quality garlic olives to be consumed here in Spokane.

Hannah leaps into the air in front of the Arc de Triomphe on a rainy day in Paris.My French improved tremendously because I had to do things like set up a bank account and purchase a phone plan. Of course I made some mistakes at first, (bought a rip-off phone plan from a tobacco shop, broke my phone, then had to buy a new flip phone from a tech store, set off an alarm and was apprehended by security) BUT all of the mistakes I made ultimately strengthened my language skills and made me into a more humble person.

I enjoyed writing my blog while in France (, which you are welcome to read it if you are interested. I have been told that it makes other people feel better about themselves, which I choose to take as a compliment. 

I am incredibly thankful for my time in France, and look forward to returning to France one day. 

Verse of the Month

1 Corinthians 13:1

English: If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

Spanish: Si hablo en lenguas humanas y angelicales, pero no tengo amor, no soy más que un metal que resuena o un platillo que hace ruido.

French: Si je parle dans la langue des hommes et des anges, mais que je n'ai pas d'amour, je suis un gong bruyant ou une cymbale retentissante

German: Wenn ich in den Zungen von Menschen und Engeln spreche, aber keine Liebe habe, dann bin ich ein lauter Gong oder ein klopfendes Becken

Chinese: 如果我用人和天使的方言说话,但没有爱,我就是吵闹的锣或叮叮当当的钹

Japanese: 私が人の言葉と天使の言葉で話すが、愛を持っていないのなら、私は騒々しいゴングか、変わったシンバルです。

Vol. 25 Issue 3 February 2019

The Modern Linguist was birthed from the desire to unite those who study in the world languages discipline at Whitworth University. The newsletter features information, news and stories applicable to those involved in the program. Let it serve you well.

World Languages & Cultures Department
Westminster Hall
Whitworth University
Phone: 509.777.4765
Department Chair and Editor-in-Chief: Jennifer Brown
Editor: Ann Penfield
For student employment information, please contact Ann Penfield, program assistant, at 509.777.4765