The Joy and Challenges of Learning English

By Mohammed Almalky, former ELP student, MS Biology graduate

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Mohammed at the International Education Symposium in 2014

My name is Mohammed Almalky. I came to the U.S in 2012 to learn English. I used to learn English in Saudi Arabia, but I was not effective because I did not use English often. I faced many challenges in learning English, yet I have found different ways to overcome these challenges. When I first came to the U.S.A, I would talk for an hour with a native speaker, and at the end of the conversation they would ask me, “What you are talking about?” As you can imagine, it was difficult to find a native speaker who was willing to spend time and talk with me. Of course, they would be more interested in talking with someone who they could have a smooth conversation with. Thus, to attract them to have a conversation with me, I invited them to parties and restaurants so they would come and enjoy the parties and meals and I would enjoy speaking with them.

The second challenge I faced was learning the meaning and the use of words. When I learned new vocabularies by translating them from English to Arabic and vice versa, I thought I got the meaning, but in fact the use of the words was different. For example, in Arabic the word “calendar” has two different meanings: dates and dental braces. So when I went to the dentist in the U.S., instead of asking for braces, I asked him for a calendar and he gave me a folder. I realized that he misunderstood me because of my English.

The third challenge and biggest challenge is learning English pronunciation. For instance, in English they have the two different sounds p and b while in Arabic we only have the sound b. One time I had an appointment with a native speaker and he called me and asked “Where are you?” I said, “I am outside.” When I arrived he asked me again, “Where have you been?” I said, “I was barking on Fifth Ave.” He said, “Why didn’t you come and bark here!” I did not understand what he meant. After three months he said, “Your English is getting better. Do you still bark?” I could then answer, “No, now I am parking”. After several semesters of studying English, my English greatly improved. I got admitted to study a Master degree in Biology. As a biology student, I now know words that many native speakers do not know, such as anastomose, decussate, osteoclasts, and lipolysis. After looking back at my experience, I can confidently conclude that you never fail until you stop trying.

Use it or lose it – the $1200 study abroad voucher!

If you are a new or returning Chatham undergraduate student, you may have heard about the study abroad voucher.  If you haven’t heard about the study abroad voucher, read on!

Chatham University values international experiential learning and offers each full-time undergraduate student a $1200 study abroad voucher to use toward any credit bearing experience abroad.  Students can use their study abroad voucher toward a short term field experience such as a May term (Maymester) or summer term faculty led program.  Last Maymester, students used their vouchers towards short term programs in Taiwan, Indonesia, Brazil, Sweden and Greece.

Some students choose to use the $1200 study abroad voucher toward a semester or summer program, or toward an internship abroad. Chatham students have used their study abroad voucher toward a semester program studying literature in London, a health science internship in Ghana and toward a summer program on environmental sustainability in Iceland.

Kayla Clem summer 2014 Costa Rica study abroad

Chatham alumna Kayla Clem (2012) used her voucher to study in Costa Rica 

Students completing an International Studies Certificate in one of five regions of the world may be eligible for an additional $1800 toward a credit bearing experience abroad.

As part of the study abroad application process, Chatham students complete and submit an application including their advisor and department chair signatures. Once the student submits the study abroad application and is approved for study abroad, the study abroad voucher will be added to the aid package for the appropriate term along with the registration in the place holder course.  The voucher will then be posted with other aid at the start of the term.

If you are a Chatham undergraduate student in good standing, you are eligible to use your voucher after completing 30 credits (15 credits of which must have been completed at Chatham before your program begins).  But, as the title suggests, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  Don’t miss out, plan your experience abroad today!

When will you study abroad?  For more information about study abroad options or the study abroad process, please contact internationalaffairs@chatham.edu or visit us at the Office of International Affairs in Falk Hall, lower level.

Talk & Travel

By Oksana Moroz, intern and instructor at the ELP

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Summer is a traveling season. Students love to go to different countries on vacation. This is also a great time to learn a language using some common strategies.

No matter where you go in the world, you’re going to meet people who don’t speak your native language. An easy way to learn a new language to visit the country and immerse yourself in that world.

Step 1

Watch television in your hotel room, preferably with the subtitles turned on. Repeat the phrases as they’re spoken and learn what they mean by reading the subtitles. It’s also helpful to watch the news, as the reporters tend to speak more slowly, as well as commercials, since they’re easier to follow than television shows and movies.

Step 2

Listen to radio broadcasts playing local music. Even if you can’t understand the meanings behind the words, it exposes you to how words and phrases sound.

Step 3

Talk to locals using the words you know. Speak clearly, and explain at the beginning of your conversation that you speak only a small amount of the language. This prevents the other person from speaking too fast.

Step 4

Keep a dictionary with you. As soon as you come across a phrase or word you don’t understand, look it up and repeat it to yourself several times.

Mount Washington and Station Square

By Sylvia Shipp, ELP Lecturer and Student Advisor

As we crossed over the Monongahela River on the Smithfield Street Bridge, I informed the students.

“This is no ordinary bridge.”

The students looked up from their conversations to gaze at the yellow steel architecture.

“Not only is it over 130 years old and a National Historical Landmark,” I continued, “but it’s also the setting for the movies Flashdance and Striking Distance, and the rap video Black and Yellow.”

Bridge

Minutes later, we parked near Station Square and quickly toured the Grand Concourse. Once a train station built in 1901 to meet passengers arriving on the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad, today people dine in this historical spot steeped in a dazzling ambience.

Grand Concourse

We cut through Station Square to get to the Monongahela Incline, which would take us to the top of Mount Washington. Our Chatham ID cards got us on for free. The incline car was hot and stuffy inside as it slowly carried us up to the top.

Grand view

Photo credit: Moe Kuromatsu

Mount Washington is the perfect place to get an idea of just how beautiful Pittsburgh is.

Group pic

Photo credit: Kanako Uchihata

And just how happy our students were to experience the breathtaking views.

Just off of Grandview Avenue, we discovered DeFiore’s Ice Cream Shop, which opened early just for us (is 10 a.m. too early for something so yummy?).

Student pic

Afterward, we walked down Shiloh Street to investigate the neighborhood. It was quaint, and came complete with cafés, taverns, an Uzbek restaurant, a floral shop, and a bakery. We were amused by so many acute angles that were used in making the brick buildings.

Soon it was time to leave Mount Washington. After joking with the jovial incline operator, we took the incline down and spent time checking out Station Square. There is no shortage of unique shops and novelty items such as hurricane booths and Segway Tour training.

After our long exploration of this part of town, lunchtime was calling us. We decided on the restaurant Houlihan’s to fill our bellies with mouthwatering grilled chicken salads, Korean chicken, and petit filet mignon.

Food

Photo credit: Moe Kuromatsu

Satisfied with the day’s explorations and events, we climbed back into our Chatham van and returned home, singing along with the radio, and talking about our next excursion.

Until our next field trip!

How to get a passport to meet the Chatham Plan graduation requirement

The Chatham Plan requires all undergraduate students to have a passport by graduation.  Many students wonder how to apply for and get a passport.

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Your first step is to visit https://travel.state.gov/ – as the requirements state, you will need to present an original document, usually your birth certificate, as evidence of U.S. citizenship (which will be returned to you after your application is processed), photo identification, and a photocopy of that identification.

You will also need to have a passport photo taken. Many pharmacies and grocery stores provide this service. You must ask specifically for a “passport photo” because it needs to meet U.S. State Department requirements.

Next you will need to fill out an application. If you have never had a passport, you will complete form DS-11, gather your identification documents, passport photo and payment and apply in person.  In Pittsburgh, a convenient location is the Allegheny County Department of Court Records at the City County Building, located at 414 Grant Street.  You don’t need an appointment and the office is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm daily, with the exception of Wednesdays, when the office stays open until 7:30 pm. It is easy to get there from Chatham with the 71B or 71D public bus.

At your appointment you will submit your application, required documents and payment to the clerk.  It will take several weeks for your application to be processed and for your passport to arrive; there is an expedited option if you’re in a hurry.

For a video tutorial on the passport process, please see https://youtu.be/SDeJqRyL3JY

Once you receive your passport, sign it and you are ready to travel! Study abroad or intern abroad and use your $1200 study abroad voucher toward your program.  Students completing an International Studies Certificate may be eligible for an additional $1800 toward study abroad.  Email internationalaffairs@chatham.edu to learn more.

Think and Think Again Before You Make a Judgement

By Saud Abdulsamad and Mohammed Lashram, ELP students

*Inspired by the “I have a dream” speech, Saud and Mohammed wrote a speech to those who are too quick to make judgements about Muslims.

Dear those who think Muslims are terrorists. Have you asked yourself what Islam means? Or why you are still alive so far even though there are more than one and a half billion Muslims (terrorists) around you? Think carefully; if all those Muslims were terrorists, they could finish up the world by throwing some stones on people.

Now, let me help you and define what the word Islam means. Islam means peace or peace in everything. Some of those people who consider Muslims to be terrorists do not know some basic information about Islam. For example, a famous politician claims that Islam was born in Saudi Arabia. Whoever said that does not have basic information, not only about Islam, but also about history. Islam started in 610 A.D. However, Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 A.D. Therefore, there is a 1322-year-gap, so this guy needs to learn some math. By the way, talking about math, a man named Al-Khwarizmi, who was one of the most famous scholars in the Islamic golden era, invented not only algebra, but also algorithm. Without algorithm, today, we would not able to have computers and anything related to computers.

People, I am not here today to illustrate to you what Muslim scholars did, but to show you something out of the box, the box that the propaganda creates. Since I came to the USA, many friendly Americans that I met have asked me one question: “Why, why does your religion treat women badly?” And they give me an example to try to convince me about their claim. The example is that women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia, and they conclude that our religion treats women badly. Now if you want to criticize the Islam religion, you have to bring an example that belongs to the religion, but this example is associated with our culture, way of life, and traditions, NOT religion.

I gave you this example to show you that before you judge Islam and Muslims, you have to read and know true information about them. We know about the Spanish Inquisition and Holocaust, but we do not consider Christianity a religion of violence because of some crazy groups of radical Christians. All in all, what I would like to say here think and think and think before you make a judgment.

What makes an effective teacher?

What makes an effective teacher?

By Linh Phung

English Language Program DirectorEnd-of-term June 2016

ELP teachers and students celebrating the success of summer 1

At the end of the first summer session, teachers in the English Language Program gathered to share their thoughts on English language teaching. One research-based finding from Alina’s presentation is that the “variable” that impacts students’ learning the most is the teacher in the classroom. Then what characteristics make an effective teacher? Does the teacher need to be a native speaker of the language that they are teaching? Marina’s presentation convincingly argues that the answer to this question is “no.” What makes teachers effective is not their nativeness. What is more important is their language expertise, professional training, and how they can create learning opportunities for students.  Rachel describes a lesson where she was in a “teaching grove.” In that lesson, her passion and energy merged with the students’ and brought them all to a state of “flow.” This is a psychological state when everyone is totally absorbed in what they are doing and greatly enjoy themselves. Brigette brings up the idea that extensive reading for pleasure may be a good way to engage students and even help them to experience “flow.” In addition, when students enjoy reading, they may seek more opportunities to do so on their own. What can be a better outcome than that? Clearly, there are certain characteristics that good teachers and good teaching should exhibit, but teaching cannot be done to a formula. Teachers need to continuously reflect on and examine their practices to understand how they affect students’ engagement and learning.

Language Learning Strategies

By Oksana Moroz, ELP Intern and Instructor

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“The more languages you know, the more times you are a person,” said a Ukrainian philosopher. However, before knowing a language, you should learn it. Learning a foreign language can be a tricky, frustrating, annoying, and time-consuming process. But it also gives you enjoyment, satisfaction, and the world of opportunities. In this post, I will elaborate on my strategies to learn a new language, and maybe some of them will be useful for you.

  1. Ask yourself why you want to learn a foreign language.

Always have a goal in mind. Is it for traveling, shopping, communicating with other people, or understanding the words of your favorite song? The purpose will make your learning meaningful.

  1. Do not learn a language alone.

Learning a language on your own is boring. Find a friend or a conversation partner that you can talk to and practice the language with. Together, you can help each other to improve.

  1. Mistakes are OK.

Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Do not let those mistakes discourage you from speaking. The more you speak, the better your language becomes. If your tongue becomes numb and you are unable to open your mouth to produce a sentence because you do not want to make mistakes, think before you speak. Speaking slowly will also help to avoid mistakes.

  1. Immerse yourself in the language.

Try to surround yourself with the language you learn as much as you can. Watch movies, videos, listen to the music, read short novels, news reports, and so on. All of these activities will contribute to your language learning.

  1. Practice, practice, practice!

Language needs to be used in order to be remembered. If you stop practicing, you’ll lose it. Practice a language you learn every day and wait for that “aha” moment when you master a foreign language.

Developing Women’s Leadership through Study Abroad!

Chatham University is very fortunate to be part of the Vira I. Heinz (VIH) Program for Women in Global Leadership.  In addition to a $5000 scholarship to be used toward study abroad during the summer after sophomore or junior year, this leadership program provides up to three Chatham undergraduate women with a comprehensive leadership development program.  Entry into the program is competitive and students must meet eligibility and application requirements. Awardees agree to participate in pre-departure and returnee retreats, as well as participate in a Community Engagement Experience in the fall semester following studying abroad.  During summer of 2016, the three Chatham VIH awardees are studying in Iceland, Scotland and Cuba.

Applications for the 2017 cohort are due on November 1. To learn more, including eligibility requirements, please see http://www.viraheinz.pitt.edu/.

Meg Scanlon summer 2016 Italy

VIH awardee (2015) and Chatham graduate (2016) Meg Scanlon in Italy

Academic Cheating: Is It That Dangerous?

In the 21st century almost every student is ill! An epidemic of students’ cheating in education throughout the world is expanding at a frantic pace.  All around the world, many children now perceive cheating as integral part of a quiz, test,  or exam. A particular form of cheating, plagiarism – using other people’s ideas without proper acknowledgement, is also very common. “Statistics shows that only 5% of students prefer writing their own original works, while the other 97% more or less often plagiarize other works” (Dr. Scott Hamilton). In the U.S., plagiarism is a serious matter. Students who commit plagiarism may get 0 for their assignment, fail a course, or even get expelled from their school.

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There are ways to avoid plagiarism. Here are some that may be useful for students, especially those who are not familiar with the U.S. education system.

  • cite, paraphrase, quote, or reference any words, phrases or sentences that  have been said by someone
  • write from your notes of the main ideas instead of copying and pasting from your readings
  • ask your instructor to understand what is acceptable
  • go to the library to learn about how to cite sources
  • go to the writing center at your university to receive feedback on your assignment

In conclusion, continued cheating will  lead to intellectual and moral degradation of individuals and even the decline of nations. If cheating and low educational standards are tolerated, the intellectual level of future educators, doctors, engineers, and other professions will decrease.

Chatham University

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