Individually designed major and German minor Katherine Truitt ‘20 has been named a Fulbright ETA finalist for Germany. ETA programs place Fulbrighters in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to the local English teachers. ETAs help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the U.S.
“The start of my interest in linguistics and language learning began with my decision in my first semester of college to pursue German. While studying Latin gave me the vocabulary to discuss complex grammatical concepts, German is a living language with an active speaking and writing population. This living language sparked my exploration of languages and linguistics.”
“After a couple semesters of German, I wanted to expand my language background. However, I didn’t want to give up German. The language has a rich scientific community and many resources for language learners, and I admired Germany’s international and intercultural open-mindedness.
“Continuing with German and starting another language were not possible, since I could not complete a German major, incorporate another language, and complete all my general education requirements in time for graduation.
“My solution was to create my own major to meet these goals. During the summer of my sophomore year, I proposed an Individually Designed Major (IDM) in Language Studies. I completed a thorough plan of study for my remaining years at college so that I could expand my knowledge of languages and, through a variety of teachers and environments, expand my language learning toolkit.
“The language I chose next was Arabic, a language of a completely different language family from German and Latin. I learned not only a new language but gained a few more tools, since my Arabic professor had a different teaching style. She focused more on collaborative projects, and I practiced Arabic with video projects alongside my classmates. Seeing myself speak Arabic in these videos challenged my speaking abilities and provided me with a new tool to improve my pronunciation in not only Arabic but in other languages.
“As another method to bolster my language studies, I incorporated a full year of living abroad into my college career. During the fall semester of my junior year, I studied in Italy and learned Italian. My professor used a handmade curriculum and personal workbook with interactive activities in the city.
“My second semester abroad brought me to Germany, where I continued my German education in an immersive program. After learning in many different environments and using different approaches, I am planning to utilize some of these ideas to create a unique teaching style for my future students. Teaching a language is an excellent way to learn even more about it.”