Gay marriage has been legal in Spain since 2005. China’s “gender equality ranking” is 38 — just one point below that of the United States. And contrary to stereotypes, few Australians under the age of 65 actually say “G’day.”
For the last 15 years, the university community has gleaned such fascinating facts and international insights via Willamette World News (WWN), the online and print publication produced by students in the Language Learning Center. Each month, international students, language assistants and other contributors with a global perspective submit articles on topics such as gender equity, culture shock, national icons and different countries’ attitudes towards sex.
This April, to celebrate WWN’s anniversary, the Language Learning Center distributed around campus a special print collection of some of the best articles from 2009-2015. The collection showcases the work of contributors from Russia, China, France, Austria, Egypt, Colombia, Germany, Chile, Ukraine, Australia, Spain, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.
Willamette students preparing for a study abroad session often refer to past issues of WWN to obtain useful information about their new overseas home, while the publication’s treatment of serious topics such as law and social justice has inspired research papers. The online version also attracts visitors from beyond the university, who regularly follow and comment upon articles.
“It’s nice to know that we have an audience, that we’re reaching people, and that they’re using Willamette World News not only for academic purposes but to learn about other cultures,” says Kazutoshi Koba ‘19, a member of the editorial team.
Willamette World News is just one of the ways in which the Language Learning Center brings an international perspective and atmosphere to campus. The centre’s physical space is the World Languages Studio on the first floor of Ford Hall. Miniature flags from different countries, plus several wide-eyed Cheburashka toys — an iconic cartoon creature popular in Russia and Japan — decorate the office where student staff provide a warm welcome.
The adjoining lab provides 18 Macintosh computers, 10 PC laptops and software for the languages taught at Willamette — Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, German, Russian, Latin, ancient Greek and ancient Hebrew — as well as other resources for independent language learning.
International language assistants — Fulbright Scholars from all over the world — also provide individualized tutoring, while groups and clubs often use the studio for language-based activities. A bustling hub of activity and different languages, the center lives up to its unofficial motto: “Monolingualism can be cured.”