It has been a busy year for the Berkeley Language Center (BLC) community as we returned to campus and were finally able to join together again in person. We welcomed new faces and said goodbye to dear friends and colleagues, and resumed events previously on hold due to COVID while expanding our programming in exciting ways. Here we highlight some of these amazing events and people and we celebrate this community.
BLC Open House and Mark Kaiser’s Retirement Party
The year began with a celebration of Mark Kaiser, Associate Director Emeritus of the BLC, and the welcoming of Kimberly Vinall, the new Executive Director.
BLC Talks and Workshops
This year we have hosted talks and workshops focusing on study abroad, podcasts, critical race pedagogy, and more. We have continued to explore all of the ways that technology can be leveraged to provide opportunities for engagement through hybrid, in-person, and remote Zoom events, and we plan to continue this work in the future.
The BLC sponsored seven Berkeley Language Center Fellows this year. In the fall, Nora Melnikova, lecturer in South and Southeast Asian Studies, developed readings in modern Hindi literature for her Hindi 101A course; Raksit Lau-Preechathammarach, a graduate student in Linguistics, developed a toolkit and website for the revitalization of Meeramuni language and culture; Karen Llagas, lecturer in South and Southeast Asian Studies, explored the use of proverbs, image-making, and word play in the Filipino language classroom; and Karina Palau, lecturer in Comparative Literature, developed a Reading & Composition course that incorporates translanguaging experiments. In the spring semester, Sabrina Jaszi, a graduate student in Slavic Languages and Literatures, developed a multiliteracies-based Russian course focused on the 1960s “Thaw” period in the Soviet Union; Gabriella Licata, a graduate student in Romance Languages & Literatures, designed a course on raciolinguistics that she will teach at Cal this summer; and Zhonghua Wang, a graduate student in Italian Studies, developed a new transdisciplinary Italian history and literature course that incorporates Digital Humanities techniques.
The BLC welcomed Nataliia Goshylyk (Ukraine), Maris Saagpakk (Estonia), Hongjing Liao (China), and Elisa Repo (Finland). Each contributed to the intellectual vitality of the Berkeley Language Center by participating in the Fellows meetings, leading Reading Group meetings, and giving talks for Found in Translation.
Special Focus: The role of translation in the language/culture classroom
With the publication of two L2 Journal Special Issues and a series of talks and workshops, we explored the value of translation as a pedagogical tool in language learning and focused specifically on the implications of machine translation, such as Google Translate, in the language and culture classroom.
Check out the L2 Journal special issues:
Volume 14, Issue 2: The Future of Translation in Higher Education guest edited by Mairi McLaughlin
Volume 14, Issue 1: Machine Translation & Language Education: Implications for Theory, Research, & Practice guest edited by Emily Hellmich and Kimberly Vinall
The BLC has introduced new programming for undergraduates to highlight and support their engagement with languages and cultures on the UC Berkeley campus and beyond. We introduced our first Undergraduate Outreach Coordinator, Roxana Wang, whose energy and enthusiasm has contributed greatly to the success of this work.
Our Languages, Our Cultures
This weeklong series of student-led and organized events celebrated the multilingual and multicultural identities of UC Berkeley students through their engagement in language/culture study, applied language studies research, and the arts. The Our Languages, Our Cultures events included the screening of a Persian film, a poetry workshop, an introduction to American Sign Language (ASL), a discussion of the French Presidential elections, and various research projects from translanguaging to studying papyri and cuneiform tablets. Participants included student clubs such as Linguaphile and the Fei Tian Dancers, along with Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) apprentices.
Words in Action
The Our Languages, Our Cultures week culminated in the return of Words in Action, a multilingual student performance that celebrates the linguistic diversity of UC Berkeley students through scenes, songs, and poems. This annual performance is organized and directed by Annamaria Belleza of the Department of Italian Studies.
Exploring the Boundaries of Translation
The BLC and the Found in Translation (FIT) working group also sponsored their first ever Exploring the Boundaries of Translation Contest. Submissions included 大妈 (dama), torpe, 告白, sobremesa, and δαίμων. Click here to find out why the winners consider them untranslatable!
Berkeley World Language Project
BWLP Co-Directors Don Doehla and Nancy Salsig coordinate the design and implementation of professional learning programs that focus on enhancing teachers’ content knowledge, pedagogical skills, and leadership qualities. They recruit members for a Leadership Team composed of World and English Language teachers in Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, and Solano Counties, and run an outreach program targeted at “lower-performing” schools in those counties. They also work with East Bay schools to encourage the development of heritage language programs. Over the last two years, due to COVID, BWLP has offered its programs virtually, and they have attracted participants from across the USA and from other countries. Their programs have addressed accelerated learning, social justice, and social emotional well-being (SEL) for both students and teachers—as well as their standard programs designed to support teachers in implementing the California Standards. This past January, BWLP conducted needs assessment surveys to ascertain next steps in designing their program offerings for the next several years. Based on the results, they have targeted the following areas for the 2022-25 performance period: (1) second language pedagogical strategies consistent with the California Standards; (2) accelerated learning practices in support of multilingual learners; (3) inquiry-based instructional strategies; (4) formative and summative assessment strategies for measuring learners’ communicative performance; (5) leadership development for World Language educators; (6) social-emotional well-being; (7) global competence; and (8) social justice.
In honor of her commitment to language and culture teaching and learning, Annamaria Belleza was awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award, Berkeley’s most prestigious award for sustained excellence in teaching. In recognition of her contributions to the BLC and larger campus community, Victoria K. Williams was awarded the Chancellor’s Outstanding Staff Award, which is presented to staff who demonstrate excellence in performing their job duties.
Congratulations again, Annamaria and Victoria!
Victoria K. Williams Retirement Party
The year ended with a celebration of Victoria K. Williams and her 42 years of service to the Berkeley Language Center. For many, Victoria has been the face of the BLC, the first person they encounter as they enter the basement of Dwinelle Hall. Of the many accolades she received, what stands out the most is the comment that whereas others may say “no”, Victoria always says “it’s possible.” Thank you, Victoria, for making everything possible.
Photo courtesy of Frank Smith
Looking forward, we are already in the planning stages for next year. Of note is a special BLC panel titled “The Berkeley Language Center Taking Stock: Remembering the Past and Envisioning the Future.” So please mark your calendars for Thursday, November 3, from 12-2 pm PT.
In the meantime, we wish you all a restful and restorative summer, and look forward to seeing you in the fall!