The Year in Review, 2023-24

May 28, 2024

Dear BLC community

It has been a year of changes. The BLC launched a series of exciting initiatives focused on machine translation and generative AI in language learning, teaching, and research. It was also a year that brought profound loss with the passing of John Wuorenmaa, systems administrator who, for 28 years, supported BLC technological innovations from tape duplications to classroom technology and large-scale server technology. Throughout these changes, we have striven to support and expand existing programming and infrastructure, to celebrate important milestones, and to provide multiple points of engagement with the community and the larger profession. With this Year in Review, we provide a snapshot of some of these changes. 

BLC Initiatives 

Language and AI

The Berkeley Language Center is uniquely situated to support scholarship and exploration around how language and AI deeply impact the future of our world. To support this work, the (BLC) was awarded a FY 2023-26 US Department of Education International Research and Studies (IRS) grant for the project Translating Machine Translation for Language Education to Promote LanguageLearning, Critical Digital Literacies, and Global CitizenshipThe objectives of this project are to develop specialized instructional materials that promote student use of machine translation tools (MT) tools across beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. This May, eight partner instructors are participating in workshops to adapt these materials to the teaching of different languages (including Arabic, Dutch, German, Filipino, French, Hindi, Italian, Mandarin Chinese). When completed, all templates and instructional materials will be available as Open Educational Resources.

For Emily Hellmich (BLC Associate Director) and Kimberly Vinall (BLC Executive Director), this project represents the next stage in a multiphase research program that has explored instructor beliefs about MT and student use of MT. The larger goal of this work has been to develop critical approaches to using MT and generative AI tools to support language and culture learning and the development of digital literacy skills. In recognition of their work, their 2023 article, "Student Use and Instructor Beliefs: Machine Translation in Language Education," published in Language Learning & Technology, has been awarded this year’sDorothy Chun Award for Best Journal Article in LL&T

Conference: Language and AI: Generating Interdisciplinarity Connections and Possibilities

The Language AI Working Group, co-founded by Emily Hellmich, Kayla van Kooten, and Kimberly Vinall, organized a BLC sponsored conference in February to generate connections across the UC Berkeley community around machine learning and language/culture study. The dialogue centered an exploration of questions of language, language use, and technology from three perspectives: research, industry, theory. With an introductionby Bill Allison, Chief Technology Officer for UC Berkeley, panelists represented diverse disciplines and units on campus including but not limited to language departments, the college of engineering, the school of information, College Writing Programs, and the Berkeley Institute for Data Science. 

The recording of the conference will be available soon as a podcast on Berkeley Voices

Language and Ai conference presenters picture

L2 Journal: New co-editors

Emily Hellmich and Kimberly Vinall were selected to take the helm of L2 Journal. Housed in the Berkeley Language Center, Claire Kramsch founded the L2 Journal in 2009 and oversaw its growth as one of the first open access journals focused on world language teaching and learning. All who have contributed to and benefited from the journal’s tradition of supporting the research and practice of world languages education are grateful to Claire’s vision and dedication. We are also grateful to all those who have participated in its growth and development as managing editors, copyeditors, and reviewers. Moving forward, the journal now has a new Advisory Board and the first issue of 2024 has just been published! We invite you to check out the three journal sections (Articles, Teachers’ Forum, and Brief Reports) and consider submitting an article.

Film in the Language / Culture Curriculum

Thanks to a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, we continued to support explorations of the use of film in the world languages classroom. The 2023 BLC Summer Film Fellows cohort included Ambika Athreya (German), Myrna Douzjian (Armenian), Nathalie Khankan (Arabic), David Kyeu (Swahili), Natalya Nielsen (Swedish), and Oksana Willis (Russian). Guided by workshop leaders Mark Kaiser (BLC Associate Director, retired) and Maya Sidhu (French), they developed lesson plans using film clips in Lumière (the Berkeley Language Center Library of Film & Clips). With the additional support of Emily Hellmich, all of the materials, including Tips for Working with Film in the Classroom, Activities to Engage in the classroom, Language and Film Lesson plans, and the roundtable discussion recording are available as open educational resources here

BLC Event Series

This past year the fall BLC event series featured Dr. Joel Walsh, from Privateer Space who contributed to our understanding of machine translation functionality and Janice McGregor, from University of Arizona, whose work explores justice in study abroad. The spring semester welcomed Glynda Hull, professor in the Berkeley School of Education, and Catherine Park, who shared their work on transculturality; Professor Judit Kormos from Lancaster University who provided insights on supporting neurodiverse language learners; and Dr. Simon Coffey from King’s College London who reminded us of the importance of fostering creativity. We wish to thank all of our featured speakers for generously sharing their research. 

BLC Fellows

The BLC sponsored six Berkeley Language Center Fellows this year. These projects have focused on developing teaching materials that open new possibilities for engaging with linguistic and cultural otherness through texts, such as film and literature, as well as community engagement, translation, and creative writing. Together, they continue to push thinking about the purpose and potentials of language / culture study.

In the fall, Nataliia Goshylyk, Lecturer in Slavic Languages & Literatures, developed lesson plans to integrate contemporary Ukrainian films of various genres and lengths into the curriculum for intermediate language learners. Claire Tourmen, Lecturer in the Department of French, engaged in a multi-faceted research project designed to support the development of new and innovative professional paths for undergraduate majors. Yesenia Blanco, graduate student in Spanish & Portuguese, prepared modules to support heritage language students’ engagement with language ideologies to support the cultivation of their critical language awareness. 

In the spring, Cristina Farronato, Lecturer in Italian Studies, explored the potential of translation in the language classroom to promote the crossing of linguistic boundaries. Caroline Godard, graduate student in the Department of French, designed a course designed to deconstruct the native speaker through creative writing.  Oliver Whitmore, graduate student in Romance Languages & Literatures, French, developed activities to introduce students to the linguistic and cultural diversity of French through the minority language of Occitan. 

Congratulations to all for your work that will surely have a significant impact in language and culture classrooms at UC Berkeley and beyond!

Undergraduate Programming 

Why study languages and cultures at UC Berkeley?

Emily Hellmich together with Keith Hernandez (BLC Recording Studio Manager) produced and directed two videos, Why study language and culture at UC Berkeley? and Why study language and culture?. Both feature students and highlight what is unique about studying languages and cultures at UC Berkeley: the diversity of language courses, the dedication of instructors, and the opportunity to build personal and intellectual connections. 

Exploring the Boundaries of Translation Contest

The BLC and the Found in Translation (FIT) working group sponsored the third annual Exploring the Boundaries of Translation undergraduate contest designed to open spaces of reflection on language and its use. Winners included Julia Iwahori, whose Japanese word was 春, seishun; Brenda Ngo, whose Vietnamese word was thương; and Arya Taupier Vishin, whose Hindi word was उन्मीलन. You can read more about why they considered these words to be untranslatable here

Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program: ChatGPT Research

Three undergraduate researchers, Zara Brandt, Shuqi (Mickey) Chen, and Madelyn Sparks, together with mentors Emily Hellmich and Kimberly Vinall, began a multiyear and multiphase research project designed to explore language learners’ beliefs and perceptions of the use of generative AI in language learning. With gratitude to all instructors who took the time to forward the survey to your students, we hope that the results we will share in the fall will support your own explorations of the impacts of this technology. Find out more about these amazing undergraduate researchers here

Words in Action: 10th Performance!

This year marked the 10th performance of Words in Action (WIA), a multilingual / multicultural student performance. It has been a privilege for the BLC to participate in this momentous event for so many years. We congratulate all of the present and past student performers, instructors, and behind the scenes participants, and recognize the vision and dedication of WIA’s inspiring director and producer Annamaria Bellezza. For those on stage and in the audience, you have created joy in community through and around languages.

Words in Action award picture

Words in Action After Party

Visiting Student Researchers and Scholars

Our community has welcomed several visiting student researchers, Nazan Demirci, Minjing Yu, and Enxi Jin, and scholars, Professor Hongling Zhang, Professor and Director of the Intercultural Institute, Shanghai International Studies University. Co-coordinators Vesna Rodic and Michael Arrigo of the Found in Translation working group, hosted a talk by Professor Zhang titled Intercultural Competence in China’s Foreign Language Teaching: Exploring the Hidden Dimension, which led to a follow-up roundtable discussion moderated by Claire Kramsch and Mark Kaiser, to further explore historical, political, and cultural perspectives on the intercultural.

Berkeley World Language Project (BWLP)

Contributed by BWLP Co-Directors Nancy Salsig and Donald Doehla

What a great year! In 2023-24, we held two 5-day professional development workshop series for teachers of World Languages.  These workshops centered on critical topics including Social-Emotional Learning, Global Competence, the UN Sustainable Goals, Social Justice, and the new California World Languages Standards and Framework.

Our participants were amazing! They created communication-based lessons and units, embedding strategies for developing linguistic proficiency in supportive settings. They incorporated culturally authentic resources to promote active student engagement.

The workshops offered in 2023-24 were:
Strand A: Designing Lessons for Real World Competence
Strand C: Designing Thematic Units: "African Safari"

We also supported local schools and districts in our service area. Our workshop with the Oakland Unified School district focused on Scaffolding Reading and Writing Activities for Language Learners.

We are proud of the BWLP Team, made up of teacher-leaders who have dedicated themselves to presenting excellent workshops to meet the needs of our participants. Our Co-director, Don Doehla, received the 2024 Hal Wingard Lifetime Achievement Award for exemplary service at the CLTA conference in March.  Don is well- deserving of such recognition. We applaud his achievements and appreciate his dedication to the World Languages community.

Registration for our interactive 2024-2025 workshops is open! For more information check our website.

Other Milestones

The Korean Language Program marked its 80th anniversary of teaching Korean at UC Berkeley on Hangul Day, October 9. Nikolaus Euba and students from German 102A marked the 19th performance of the German Cabaret. 

Max the BLC mascot picture

Max, BLC mascot

And a special note of acknowledgement to the entire BLC team of Orlando, Keith, Elle, Arely, and Alexis for all of their work. Thank you!

While this year has seen many changes and milestones, next year we look forward to continuing to build on them and expand their possibilities. In preparation, this summer will bring website designing, classroom technology upgrades, and program planning for AY 2024-2025. If you have any ideas or suggestions feel free to contact us. In the meantime, thank you for being part of this remarkable community and we wish you all a restorative summer!

The BLC team