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INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY

Language tables spark conversation

By : Sheena Lall

Senior Kris Rodulpho, 21, is a regular at the Chinese table and the Italian table. He is an Italian major and a Chinese minor, and hopes to become a diplomat one day.

“I go to the tables to improve my language speaking ability and make friends,” Rodulpho said.

Conversation tables have proven helpful to instructors of many languages. Binghamton now has tables focusing on Italian, French, Spanish and Chinese.

Professor Hong Zhang has been meeting her Chinese language students to have lunch for 12 years. Students of all proficiencies get together and practice their speaking skills. The table provides a comfortable atmosphere for students, teaching assistants and professors to communicate on a personal level.

“The benefit is we can practice Chinese in a very casual way,” Zhang said. “In a classroom, students and teachers are distant. In this surrounding, there is no distance; everyone is like friends.”

Social and academic perks come with participation.

“I didn’t know anybody coming into Chinese class, now I made a lot of friends,” said sophomore Bret Weinberg, 19.

He also goes because he can use the extra practice to prepare for study abroad. “I want to go to China this summer and possibly abroad next semester,” Weinberg said.

Like the Chinese table, the French table draws students considering study abroad. But it has an even wider audie

French Table
nce.

“Not only students come; staff, people from the community, people from other departments come to the French table,” said Dora Polachek, visiting associate professor of French. “It’s wonderful because students see that there’s a whole community that’s interested in French.”

Polachek has been running the French table since 1997.

The students find the language tables especially helpful in furthering their foreign language experience.

“Classes are two or three times a week and students need more time to practice the language,” said Carmen Swoffer- Penna, adjunct professor of French. “Many of our students go abroad to France.”

During one recent dinner, French comic books were passed around the table, conversations revolved around French current events and there was even a piano book in French that a student found at the library.

“It helps with a lot of conversational situations,” senior Danielle Wagner said, “instead of what we are used to in the classroom, analyzing texts and talking about homework.”

Wagner, 22, has been attending the French table every week since her freshman year and spent a semester in France her junior year.

“I like listening to the professors speak,” said freshman Rachel Ginsberg, 18. “It really helps with pronunciation, and the conversations are very interesting.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08