Martha Johnson: Swahili in Many Contexts

February 20, 2019

A photo of Martha Johnson with two people she researched with in Tanzania

1st year Linguistics PhD Student

By Ana Mitchell

Languages have been a long-time passion for Martha Johnson, a Linguistics PhD student at Ohio State. Growing up, Johnson was exposed to various languages by living and traveling abroad. In kindergarten, Johnson and her family lived in Tanzania for six months, her junior year in high school she spent abroad in western France, and her junior year in college she studied in Switzerland to practice her German. Upon completing her undergraduate degree in linguistics at Pomona College, Johnson received a Fulbright Student Grant to conduct linguistics research in Iringa, Tanzania.

The Fulbright Student Grant allowed Johnson to research a language called Kihehe, which is spoken in southern Tanzania by around a million people. Despite the number of people who speak the language, there is relatively little research on it, which is where Johnson hopes to contribute. Johnson met on a weekly basis with two speakers to conduct her research. She had them translate words from Swahili into Kihehe or presented them with constructions and asked them to say the sentence in Kihehe. In addition to practicing her Swahili, Johnson found her studies in German to be of use to her research. Tanzania was formerly a German colony, and much of the old linguistic literature Johnson was using was written in German.


Brian Collins: Current Student, Future Teacher

February 13, 2019

A photo of Brian Collins teaching a high school class in Chile

Major: Spanish
Minors: Linguistics & Portuguese
Class of 2021

By Ana Mitchell

Older siblings can serve as great examples helping one learn the ins and outs of life, trying new things, and acting as a resource, especially when it comes to interests. Brian Collins’ passion for languages and teaching started at a young age when his older brother started learning Spanish in middle school. Collins became captivated by the language and wanted to understand it, as no one in his family speaks a second language. As a fourth grader at the time, Collins would go around to his classmates saying simple words such as ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in as many languages as he possibly could. “Looking back, it was from that internal motivation that I found at a young age that lead me to excitedly start taking Spanish in middle school,” described Collins.


Aliyah Jones: The Best of Both Worlds

February 6, 2019


A photo of Aliyah Jones

Majors: Romances Studies & Physics
Class of 2020

By Ana Mitchell

Ohio State offers an array of majors and minors to pick from, so why limit yourself to one study? Junior Aliyah Jones chose to follow a path that would allow her to pursue both what she excels in, physics, as well as what she is passionate about, languages.

Jones started learning French her freshman year in high school, but by the time she got to Ohio State, she was ready to try out a new language–Italian. In Italian 1102, Jones recalled truly feeling passionate about the language and wanted to pursue it further, “That course really catapulted me to learn more languages.” She was originally going to double major with Italian, until her advisor suggested exploring the Romance Studies major.

The Romance Studies major allows students to learn three romance languages by completing 41- 48 credits. The major offers combinations between French, Spanish, Latin, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian. Jones chose Italian, French, and Romanian because she wanted to build upon her knowledge of French. The major was particularly attractive because she could also pursue her new-found love, Italian. As for Romanian, Jones was initially interested in learning about legends of vampires and superstitions. However, she quickly learned in both her Italian and Romanian classes that Romanians are the largest immigrant population in Italy, so she saw use in learning the two together. Jones added, “There is a prejudice against Romanian immigrants, and as a black woman, I want to be able to speak both languages fluently to help bridge their cultures and fight against the prejudice they face.”


American-Sign Language: A Q&A with Alumni Rachel Rettger

January 29, 2019

A photo of Rachel Rettger, left, holding signs of encouragement for Girls on the Run Central Ohio

Major: Psychology
Class of 2018

By Kristin N. Wickham-Saxon, American Sign Language Program Senior Lecturer

During Spring semester 2018, Rachel Rettger was a student in the service-learning course I team-teach with Marla Berkowitz. It was a pleasure to observe Rachel’s transformation from being somewhat reserved to pushing her comfort zone by putting herself out into the Deaf community.

Why did you take the service-learning course ASL 4189S, “The Intersections of American Sign Language, Deaf Culture, and the Deaf Community?

During spring semester 2018, I enrolled in the service-learning course to immerse myself in the Deaf community. I really enjoyed all my ASL classes but found myself wanting to apply what I have been learning in the “real world.” ASL 4189S seemed like a great opportunity to use what I learned to make a difference while also gaining real world experience.

Describe your service experience with Girls on the Run at the Ohio School for the Deaf.

During my service placement with the Girls on the Run (GOTR) at the Ohio School for the Deaf (OSD) I learned so much about the Deaf community, the girls, and myself. Throughout this process I developed meaningful relationships while also improving my own communication skills. Communicating, however, was not always easy. There were times when I doubted whether or not I was even making a difference. The amazing support I received from Reva, my OSD site supervisor, and others really helped me push past my doubts and learn from them. I felt comfortable asking for help when I was stuck. The girls were extremely supportive, teaching me new signs and patiently working with me; this really showed me how incredibly exceptional they are. One of my favorite parts of the week was going to OSD and being greeted with excitement and a hug from some of the girls. No matter how my day had been going, the girls never failed to cheer me up.


Kylie Scott: Taking the Leap

January 23, 2019

A picture of Kylie Scott standing in front of Mount Carmel's mobile medical coach for her service learning project.

Majors: Biology & Spanish
Class of 2019

By Ana Mitchell

Learning a new language requires a lot of dedication, persistence, and immersion. Those who are learning a language often participate in study abroad programs, and Ohio State is anything but short on options. Instead of traveling thousands of miles overseas to learn a language, what if we could do it right in our own backyard? And what would that look like?

Senior Kylie Scott has been practicing Spanish since the 8th grade, where she felt an immediate attraction to the language. There was no question whether or not she was going to continue with it at Ohio State, as she is currently pursuing a double major in Spanish and biology with a pre-optometry track.

On the recommendation by her academic advisor, Scott enrolled in Spanish 5689: Spanish in Ohio fall semester of 2018. The course allowed Scott to fulfill the immersion credit requirement without leaving Columbus. Spanish 5689 is far from the traditional structure of lectures; it is a language-immersion and service-learning experience. Dr. Elena Foulis, instructor and creator of the course, connects students with organizations within the community where the students can be of help while also exercising their Spanish among native speakers. “The course is tailored to us and our interests. Dr. Foulis has been awesome at providing resources specifically for what we are interested in,” Scott added.