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Sandy LevinnLinguistics trumps engineering

Coming from a family of engineers — her father electrical, her brother computer — Classics sophomore Sandy Levinn’s interest in languages always made her the odd duck out.

“My brother makes fun of me a lot,” Sandy Levinn says, and there was no let up when she recently helped him move to Seattle to start a new job at Microsoft. The whole time he bragged about how great the life of the engineer was, how lavish his workspace would be and how much free milk he would have.

“There’s no such thing as free milk,” she told him.

For Levinn, a life spent studying linguistics is much more rewarding because “language is the most important thing. It shapes the way we think, the way we interact, the way we communicate. Without language we couldn’t have accomplished or experienced any of the amazing things we’ve done.”

Levinn knew she would devote her life to language after seeing the written words of ancient Etruscans — some of them untranslated — during a trip to the Vatican Museums just before her freshman year.

“It was kind of a hook,” she says because it made her realize that language had a long history and it was living and evolving.

Looking back at that moment, she smiles a bit at her naivete. “I didn’t realize quite why they couldn’t translate it,” she says and her voice rises into a sort of question as she breaks into a laugh, “I thought maybe I could be the one to translate it.”

While admitting that she may not realize that goal, she has fallen in love with translating other ancient texts like Greek and Latin.

“The Greek is so interesting because you can be so creative with the translation,” she says and continues with another laugh, “And there’s no one around saying, ‘actually, I’m a native speaker and that’s not right.’ It’s all sort of interpretation.”

Originally from East Nassau near Albany, Levinn chose to study Classics at Binghamton because “there are so many more opportunities in the languages that are available and groups that you can be a part of and people that you can meet,” she says. And she loves the intimacy of the department. “I feel like I have really gotten to know the professors and appreciate that we work together to tailor the courses to fit student abilities and interests and create the best possible situation for all of us.”

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Last Updated: 11/19/10