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On Accents and Speaking a Foreign Language

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Have you ever felt frustrated when nobody understood you or slightly annoyed when someone made fun of you because of your accent? I have seen that frustration among my international friends. Sometimes I experience it with refugee clients of mine in my current social work internship. And yes, I have been there myself as a foreign student. Not only are we asked to adapt to a different culture and academic system, we have to master our conversing in a foreign language in a way that people understand us. My self-consciousness about my accent and way of speaking got me to the point that I would fear doing presentations in front of the class.

How did I overcome that anxiety? For one, I often asked myself why there should be a subtle emphasis on conforming to one unique way of pronouncing and speaking in a foreign language. Wouldn't it actually be boring if we as international students all spoke the same way in a foreign language? Instead we should embrace our way of speaking because our accent and culture make us who we are. Why should we deny something that is part of us and makes us unique?
To give you a personal example, it was a running gag among my best American friends for some time I that I couldn't pronounce the word squirrel. My friends helped me realize that I shouldn't take the pronunciation matter so seriously and instead take it with a sense of humor. Eventually, I laughed with my friends whenever they were amused about my accent because my pronunciation mishaps made them happy. After all, I was there to learn a new language and making mistakes during the learning process is normal. Moreover, learning and speaking a foreign language should be fun and never a chore.

I also realized that in the end I shouldn't focus so much on my accent, but on the overall message I want to get across in my communication. This important point is best summarized in an essay by Chinua Achebe about African authors writing in a foreign language: "So my answer to the question: Can an African ever learn English well enough to be able to use it effectively in creative writing? is certainly yes. If on the other hand you ask: Can he ever learn to use it like a native speaker? I should say, I hope not. It is neither necessary nor desirable for him to do so. The price a world language must be prepared to pay is submission to many different kinds of use. The African writer should aim to use English in a way that brings out his message best without altering the language to the extent that its value as medium of international exchange will be lost. He should aim at fashioning out an English which is at once universal and able to carry his peculiar experience." Consequently, always keep in mind that there is diversity in the English language of how you can communicate and express yourself.

Now I am not saying that we as international students shouldn't improve our English proficiency or if we want to work on our public speaking skills, by all means, we should all go ahead and seek out opportunities to do so. I remember an important lesson from a French teacher at my German high school that one of the key parts about learning a new language successfully is the courage to speak and practice it with others in public. We have a great German saying for that: "Uebung macht den Meister (A master arrives where he is at through exercise)."

But if you are still in doubt about yourself and your way of speaking, then please stop for a moment and give yourself a pat on the back. We all need to remind ourselves that we are making an effort in speaking another person's language in order to communicate with them. It says a lot about us that we are putting a lot of work into learning other people's languages and cultures, it reveals that we care deeply about communicating with the people in the host country and that we respect their language and culture. So...never forget this.

This is all from me today. Embrace the opportunity to learn and converse in a new language, make it a fun experience and laugh about your mistakes because they make you human. Also, please do me a favor and check out the following clip, you may or may not have walked in this guy's shoes before. Bis demnaechst und haltet die Ohren steif, my friends.

Dedicated to Dr. J., all of my international friends and all international students

What Do We Do?

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Do you really know what people can do at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese http://spanport.umn.edu? An easy way to demonstrate how hard we work here is by showing you the different ideas that we have in this department; I will introduce you some students. Their ideas/researches are noteworthy and unusual. That's what they became attractive to me.

And they wrote:


Hi! I'm a grad student and Spanish Instructor at the Spanish and Portuguese Department. I'm in my second year of the M.A in Hispanic Cultures and Literatures. I have a personal interest in post dictatorship literature in Latin America, specifically the south cone. During dictatorships in the 70-80', many voices were silenced, rights were violated and all forms of cultural expressions were limited or even prohibited. Traditional patriarchal values were stressed and many men disappeared, leaving women with no other option than taking charge of their families. Fear and repression were the inspiration of new ideals that were externalized through literature. Literary works during and after dictatorships expressed a tone of protest, the fight for surviving, and most importantly, became an instance for women to encounter their identity as individuals. How did feminine literature benefit from dictatorship? When was feminine literature acknowledged as such? Did women use literature to fight against patriarchal principles and domination, or just against the authoritarian regime? This master program and its interdisciplinary approaches have been extremely helpful in providing me with superior knowledge to answer those and other questions in this field that I really enjoy working in!

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Meghann Peace
Ph.D. Candidate
Hispanic Linguistics

As a student of Hispanic linguistics, I have been able to study nearly all aspects of the Spanish language- morphosyntax, phonology, prosody and pragmatics, native and non-native speech, and the methods and techniques used in teaching Spanish to students of different native languages. My main interests, however, focus on two areas in particular - Spanish in the United States and second language acquisition. My work on Spanish in the United States has examined whether Spanish syntax has been affected by its extended contact with English. Do native speakers of Spanish who live in the United States change their way of speaking after years of being bilingual? Within the field of second language acquisition, I have conducted various studies examining how non-native speakers of Spanish acquire the appropriate intonation, syntax, and morphology as used by native speakers. I am currently researching how learners of Spanish acquire and use referential communication in appropriate manners. Namely, do they use grammatical structures that are situationally appropriate and effective in communication?
How is their speech influenced by their desire to be understood? What are their assumptions of their listeners, and how do these assumptions guide the sort of speech that is produced? This particular project examines non-native Spanish from beginning to near-native levels, in order to see if there is an order in which acquisition occurs and which factors influence said order. Given this, there may be implications for improvements in language teaching, to better help students understand and produce native-like Spanish.


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Hey Everyone! My name is Amy Hill and I'm a second-year masters student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies at the University of Minnesota. My research focuses on the themes of human rights and censorship in Argentine and Mexican literature and popular culture. In particular, I am interested in investigating the sociopolitical influence of entertainment mass media, including films and telenovelas. So, yes, I do get to perform research by watching countless hours of Mexican soap operas, and yes, I do believe there is meaning behind seemingly outrageous melodramatic slaps.
Also here is a link to one of the telenovelas that I am currently analyzing. An excellent Mexican remake called Teresa. http://televisa.esmas.com/entretenimiento/telenovelas/teresa/


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I'll tell you about me next time. One tip: I love Caribbean studies. One of my favorite authors is Junot Diaz. You can find interesting links of Junot on this website: https://www.rebelmouse.com/AngelaCastro/


Enjoy y hasta la próxima!!!

Howdy loyal blog readers! As most of you might know, I am a grad student ambassador majoring in Architecture. Although I am passionate about architecture, I also have tons of interest in product design and especially toys! Personally I am a huge fan of high-end action figures (most toy enthusiasts will know what that means lol!) and have a large collection of toys at home, ranging from fixed pose action figures to plastic model kits. Ooops, sorry I got carried away... I like to blabber on and on when it comes to toys :)

So back to the main point. Knowing that I had a huge interest in toys, I was deeply intrigued by this product design class offered in Spring 2012. It was the Toy Product Design class offered by the College of Design under PDES 3711/5711. So without hesitation I registered for that class and boy I did not regret it.

If you are in the College of Design or College of Science and Engineering and you are interested in hands on experience with real clients and prototyping then I would definitely recommend this course. But wait! Other students from different majors can join as well, just as long as you can show your interest in this class to the instructor.

In this class you will be working in teams to create an innovative toy that you will present in the end of the semester not only in front of your clients, but also to kids and families who are the prospective buyers. We call this final presentation as Playsentations because this type of presentation incorporates play and fun! Click here to see videos of this years Playsentations.


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Through this class I managed to learn a LOT of things. Not only were the lectures fun and informative, but during lab hours you will have the chance to use all of the cool machines at the W.L. Hall Workshop and DigiFab Lab. So if you're that type of person that would like to have a dynamic and interesting class different from your everyday boring lectures, then you might find enjoying this class as much as I do! Oh and if you do decide to register for this class next Spring then it is likely that I will see you at class because I am going to be one of the lab instructors! Hopefully I will see you there!

How To Keep Healthy And Calm At The U of M

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Being calm and healthy while living Grad Student's life can be really tough just to think about it. If I see myself I can tell you that I haven't been at the Gym three months ago. But I think I found the formula to be healthy and calm at the U of M. There is no magical theory. For me there are just three different activities and actions that you can follow and your life would be more enjoyable. Of course if you feel that you don't need any of this advices just keep siting in your desk, writing, reading and calculating. For those how forgot about these fours things, just keep reading:

1. Schedule time, weekly, being active: you can go to the Rec Center at the U of M. It is FREE, unless you want to pay for classes such as Yoga and personal training and so on. Here's the link http://www.recsports.umn.edu/. Don't make excuses; you can go at least once per week.

2. Eat well and not too much junk: There are so many temptations to eat food that we find delicious. I know we have McDonalds close to Minneapolis campus and we also have Starbucks at Coffman. However, I can give you some tips. Have you thought of bringing or getting fruits, yogurt and oatmeal, at these places? Turn your eyes and you'll be able to see other options in the same menu. Do you know there is a website where you can get a lot of information on healthy food at the U of M? You should use it sometimes; it might help you to find interesting resources http://www.hfhl.umn.edu/

And now... how to keep calm. You might think I'm crazy and probably you don't see the link between being healthy and calm at the same time. However, whenever you have an extra time, try to use it smartly:

3. Balance your studies and social life: You definitely need time for your body. It also has to do with the happiness of your mind/body. I will recommend you to go to dance with your friends, (I can tell for the aspect of my colleagues friends if they go to dance or not); get some friends if you don't have any, I wont tell you how (that would be cover in another 'entretenido' blog). Try to communicate with people outside of your department because your mind and body will get a remarkable rest by talking about different aspects that are not related you're your academic field.

Here's a video that somebody special made for you:



Credits: Danny Dietl and http://advice.lovedetour.com

Volunteer group

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Hi all,
I am a member of the University's Medical Reserve corps, that held a pharmaceutical repackaging drill for it's new and old members during the last week. The drill was to train volunteers on how to package and dispense drugs to the public in situations of health emergencies.
The University of Minnesota's Medical Reserve Corps is a volunteer group of students, staff and faculty of the Academic health center at the University of Minnesota. The group is responsible for training volunteers to respond to local, state and national emergencies. As a student, it's also an opportunity for networking, to meet other healthcare and public health professionals and share ideas. I think it's a great opportunity for students coming into any health-related field.

You can check out their site for more details: http://www.health.umn.edu/facultystaff/oer/mrc/index.htm
I'm sure it's a group you'll find very exciting and they are always ready to welcome new members.

College is not always about attending lectures, sitting in class, doing your homework or assignments and getting good grades. College is the time when you can do other neat and cool stuff like join student groups, participate in projects and join competitions which is what I am doing now. At the end of last spring my classmate asked if I wanted to join a student group called Tesla Works and without hesitation I said yes.

Tesla Works is a project based student group and is a diverse group of people from different educational backgrounds: physics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, architecture, aerospace engineering, design, chemical engineering and a lot more. This group of diverse students work on different projects that stimulates creativity and innovation.

I am currently working on a project called the Barbershop Quartet, which is a four animatronic bust figure of President Kaler that sings like a quartet. I chose to join this project because I would like to learn more about how animatronics work and get involved in sculpting the busts (which is fun for me since I am into arts and craft). Projects such as this, where interactions and convergence of different disciplines is what I am interested in and is always a good place to learn more about other things aside from you major and get hands on experience.

Personally, I think getting involved in activities such as this is really important if you are an international student. One of my purpose of studying here is to get to know more American students and learn how to socialize with them. If you are studying in abroad you might as well dive in to the culture and mingle with the locals. This way it will broaden your mind and will definitely change your perspective of the American stereotype. So for you new international students out there, I encourage you to get involved in student groups and other form of campus organizations as soon as possible! Arya out!

My favorite place

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Boynton health service at the U of M east bank, or "East Bank Clinic" becomes one favorite place these days! My good friend/colleague and I just recently discover this gem on campus. Not only Boynton is the place where we have an access to improve our health but also it is almost free of cost for anyone who carries some kind of Student Health Benefits!

As a Graduate Assistant, the U of M provides a Graduate Assistant health plan that covers the primary clinic, eye exam, and dental check. For me, working as a school's pianist involves with a long period of piano playing and sitting at the piano bench---how long I play the piano a day?; about five to eight hours a day. This routine easily leads to repetitive use of muscle. I later realized I got a serious health issue regarding a muscle tension and body alignment which easily effects my mood when coaching or losing focus when playing piano.

It started with making an appointment with the Primary Care to see a doctor to examine your health situation. The doctor has prescribed me a weekly consultation with a physical therapy. I am happy and more optimistic now that I have the access to consult about how to improve the using my body. Until my physical therapists see a sign that my health is improved.

The other thing I recently took advantage from this health plan is the eye clinic for an eye examination. I recently had an eye exam which they cover 100% for the glasses exam. Though there is a cost for the contact lens fitting. In addition, I also have a schedule with the dental clinic after the spring break. Let's see how much I will collect the cavity!


The Boynton Health Service
is located on the east bank near the Coffman student union with many health facilities in one building.

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Massage Therapy
Mental Health Services
Nicotine Dependence Counseling
Nursing Mothers' Room
Nutrition Services
Pharmacy
Physical Therapy
Primary Care
Urgent Care
Women's Clinic
Yoga, Tai Chi, and Pilates
Alcohol Services
Biometric Health Screening
CPR and First Aid Classes
Dental Clinic
Eye Clinic
Financial Counseling
Face-to-Face Health Coaching
Gopher Quick Clinic
HIV Testing and Counseling
Immunization Clinic
International Travel Clinic
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Whenever you do not feel well while studying at the U of M, I really encourage you not to hesitate ---not like me before--- but to start making an appointment with the Boynton. Let's start getting healthy at the U of M!


By the way, no picture today...

See you soon,
::Banchinda::

What I did not know about MN before coming here..

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Here are the top 10 things I did not know about Minnesota before coming here!

10 - Minnesota's capital is not Minneapolis, but Saint Paul
9 - Bob Dylan was born in Duluth - I did my undergraduate studies in Duluth!
8 - Phở = best soup ever!
7 - Bubble tea = best fun tea ever!
6 - The weather ... Let's be honest... oh, and driving in the snow!
5 - The variety of foods and vibrant cultures in the Twin Cities
4 - Our mascot, Goldy, is not a squirrel nor a beaver... but a gopher
3 - Football and FUTBOL, ehem, are not the same sports...
2 - People have a hard time understanding that I am from Argentina.... hmmm... looks may be deceiving here....
1- In MN and all other states, when you have a "STOP" sign, you actually have to stop. Looking both sides of the street while driving through a STOP sign and blinking your lights may not be the smartest idea (thanks Dad.....^.^)

The recipe to succeed...at the U!

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Many students have asked what are some of the secrets to succeed at the University. And although there are some general recipes our there, this is my own personal one that I will share with you. I have used it for my undergraduate studies and have found that it has worked very well!


In order to concoct a recipe to succeed at the UofM, you will need:

1 cup of "Study Hard" mixed with "Pick a Major you Love" and "Be and Active Part of Your Education"
1 cup of "Rest" and "Take care of yourself" (blend well)
1 cup of "Be Proud of Who You Are"
2 cups of "Academic" and "Personal" growth - let rise at room temperature
Don't forget to add some "Healthy Eating (you can include your favorite foods from home here!)" and "Healthy Exercise"

Mix all of these together and add:
1/2 cup of "Be Nice to everybody even if you have a bad day", "But if you have a very bad day, talk to someone" and "If you don't feel like talking to someone, surround yourself with things you love"
1 tbsp of "Humility", "Leadership" and "Stand up for yourself"
3/4 tbsp of "Don't be afraid to ask for help" and "Get involved (sometimes outside your comfort zone" and "Make some new Friends"
A dash of "Organizational Skills" and "Effective use of resources on campus"

Sprinkle some "Fun" on it, and don't forget to add some "Don't be afraid to try new things" and "Go make your own adventures"

Let sit for 24 hours and cover with a whole pack of assorted flavor "Friends" and voila!
You have concocted my own special recipe to succeed at the University of Minnesota. Don't forget to add "Being part of an Awesome Group just like the International Student Ambassadors"

Don't be afraid to try it many times, and try new recipes as well! Why don't you share some of your tips?

This Fall semester is ending, so take care of yourself and hope you all do well in your finals! Winter break is almost here!

My Eyes Bugged Out for the University of Minnesota Insect Musem

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One of the fun things I did at the university in the last week was visit the University of Minnesota Insect Museum. There they study the bugs of the world, collect them and preserve them. It is a very fun place! I learned about this museum from my friend, Kit Martin, who is a master student in the international development program and a PHD student in the Department of Entomology, a pretty difficult word to me which I think means the study of bugs!

University of Minnesota always has something interesting for you to explore. As we normally find at the university of Minnesota, when you look inside one of our departments, you find something completely unexpected. This museum, tucked down a dark hallway is a collection of 3 million insects from all over the world.

The scientists there study how all the insects in the world are related, by looking at their common characteristics, even looking at the hairs on their little legs and counting them. For instacne, the picture of the water bug in the picture below is a girl. (Thats what they said, I don't know how). The room is a big room full of metal boxes, and in each one is a drawer full of insects. They study them all the time. Very NICE PEOPLE. You should visit them sometime.

It is actually very interesting to learn something outside your world, explore something new, and even pay attention to some tiny creatures that you might dislike and never think about them. We are living in a same world. Slow down your pace and you might find beauty and have a new look on these cute creatures. The following pictures are taken by kit Martin~~

Corixidae-------Is it like a cute Alien?

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An unknown flower Beatle!

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And my favorite "heart" one, which is an atta!

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The Museum is on the St. Paul campus by the the Borlaug building, if you want to see the collection yourself contact Paul Tinerel, the curator at ptinerel@umn.edu.

The people working there can provide you a tour and show you around their cool collections. Welcome to send them an email anytime ~You can see their website at: http://www.entomology.umn.edu/museum/

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