Spanish, Japanese roundtables aid UWRF students learn languages

Posted November 20, 2019

Weekly language roundtables at UW-River Falls allow students to practice Spanish and Japanese skills in an informal setting, typically led by a native-speaking student.

Discussions are held from 3-4 p.m. Tuesdays in 228 Kleinpell Fine Arts. Students are invited to stop in or stay the whole hour.

The roundtables have been held for more than 15 years. During her time as a student, Assistant Professor Daniela Goldfine was the native-speaking facilitator for the Spanish roundtable in the spring of 2005 through the following spring.

“We had a great time. There was a group of students who would attend regularly and then a few that would come and go,” said Goldfine.

Subjects range from movies, to traveling, to Japanese Halloween, according to Marina Tanaka, the native speaker for the Japanese roundtable. Tanaka prepares for each week by picking a broad topic and writing a few starter questions.

“For the week of Halloween I showed and explained about (the) yokai. It’s a Japanese monster,” said Tanaka.

In the past, there have been French and Chinese roundtables. A German roundtable will be starting in a few weeks.

“We got a student who was recommended by a German professor,” said Clio McLagan, the academic department associate in the Department of Modern Language.

Magara Maeda is the faculty advisor of the Japanese roundtable, as well as a Japanese instructor. She said the relaxed environment of the roundtable is the key to its success. She also said students often feel comfortable since it is led by a peer, instead of an instructor.

The Spanish roundtable is facilitated by Lizbeth Servin-Meza.

“It’s just like going out for coffee and talking to friends in Spanish, with somebody that’s a native speaker,” said McLagan.

Maeda said that language and culture go hand in hand.

“I think it would be great if we could do cultural activities too, like cooking or calligraphy,” said Maeda.

In the future, Tanaka said she would like to be able to incorporate a food element to the meeting, and teach more about Japanese culture.