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5.7.2021 - Mayra writes about Aji peppers

Ecuadorian food

Aji is a red/yellow chilli pepper commonly used in Latin America. It is a very popular condiment in Ecuador where it is used in the form of a salsa. Its recipe varies by region, but it typically is made with tomate de arbol (tree tomato) and is eaten with a typical Ecuadorian dish that consists of roast pig accompanied by llapingacho (potato patty) and mote (hominy). Its color and consistency is usually orange and is considered to be not as spicy as other spicy condiments. This is because when it is being made into the form of a salsa, the seeds are removed from the chilli pepper. The chilli pepper itself can be conserved for up to three months and can even be consumed in its dry form. Aside from its savory taste, it is known to have nutritional value since it has calcium. Fun fact: “Uchu” means aji in Quechua, an indigenous language found in many parts of the Andes including Ecuador.

Learn more here (video in Spanish).

–Mayra

5.7.2021 - Mayra reviews the Spanish film In Family I Trust

In Family I Trust on Netflix

In the film, In Family I Trust (Gente que viene y bah, 2019), a Spanish film directed by Patricia Font, the most interesting part is an important realization the protagonist undergoes towards the end of the film. Bea is a young Spanish architect from Barcelona who, in addition to attempting to get her projects promoted, aspires to build things that hold sentimental value to her, including a childhood treehouse. This later becomes the key focus since it is then seen how such values affect the decisions she makes at the end of the film. From the beginning, it is seen how Bea dedicates a lot of her time and effort into her work, despite little recognition from her bosses. It’s obvious that Bea is not fully content, but she seems happy with her fiance Victor.

However, things get worse for Bea when she finds out that Victor is having an affair. Not only is her romantic life falling apart, she is also fired from her job after causing a scene in front of her boss when confronting Victor. Here, she realizes she needs some time off to figure out what to do next and decides to leave Barcelona to be with her family. Something to note here is that, the film shows how when Bea is in distress her hair begins to fall out, this is seen to occur again towards the end of the film.

As Bea tries to push aside the heartbreak she is undergoing, her mom reveals that she is sick. A majority part of the film is then focused on Bea and her siblings trying to deal with their regular lives while also spending as much time as possible with their mother. It is during this time that there is a shift in Bea’s life when she decides to become a tree-house architect. There’s also a turn in her romantic life when she meets Diego, the owner of the town’s biomass company. Clearly, Bea is undergoing a significant amount of stress but despite this, she is the one to try to keep the family together and strong, something that didn’t seem like one of her strengths in the beginning of the movie.

This film is a romantic comedy with an emotional aspect to it. The plot of this film revolves around the life events Bea undergoes beginning with Victor’s affair, but it also shifts to her personal and professional transformation, as she begins to find her true passions and aspirations that she once sought to fulfill as a kid in wanting to become an architect. When she meets Diego whom she develops a romantic relationship with, she learns that her goals are challenging but she believes she can accomplish them. She starts to feel content again despite the current situation her family is undergoing.

This film has a lot of events, and can feel like a “rollercoaster ride” but it also includes a happy ending where the protagonist demonstrates a lot of growth and change that can also be interpreted as defying the norm which she does by leaving Victor and working on personal projects. There is a strong message that sometimes it is necessary to go out of one’s own comfort zone in order to explore other opportunities. Overall, I think this film offers a very heartwarming story, one that is filled with a lot of lessons the audience can interpret in various ways and learn from as well.

–Mayra

5.4.2021 - Lainey on the dialects of the world!

White Chevy truck with flag of Mexico in the truck bed

In my high school Spanish classes in small town Illinois, we worked a lot on memorizing nouns. We learned how to say different foods, clothing items, animals, utensils, and so on. Oftentimes, when our teacher would introduce us to a new noun, students who were native speakers would disagree with her on the translation of the word. When she told us that the word for ‘lunch’ is ‘almuerzo,’ they replied that it was ‘lonche.’ They also did this for words like ‘truck,’ saying ‘troca’ instead of ‘camión’ and using ‘el fil’ instead of ‘el campo’ to talk about a field. Our teacher explained to us that there can be more than one way to say things and that this is due to the existence of dialects.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘dialect’ as a particular form of a language which is specific to a certain region or social group. Almost all languages have dialects, which may affect the accent a person has when speaking, give a new meaning to some of the words they use, or ignore traditional grammar rules. The general rule of thumb is that if two people can understand each other with little to no confusion, they are speaking the same language but perhaps in different dialects. However, if two people from the same area cannot understand each other, they are more than likely speaking a different language. 

There are exceptions to this rule, though. In Italy, the 34 regional dialects are actually different languages, so some Italians, for example, might speak both Sicilian and the standardized Italian. Someone else who is learning Italian would be able to understand when a native speaks Italian but not when they speak Sicilian. With Spanish, there is much variation. Like Italian, the Spanish language has influence over many indigeneous dialects, but these languages are not interchangeable with Spanish. Furthermore, Spanish also has an assortment of dialects, including but not limited to European Spanish, Carribean Spanish, and Mexican Spanish, which can all be broken down into smaller, more distinct groups as well. The diversities in these dialects can consist of the use of loanwords, the omitting of prepositions, differences in how verbs are conjugated, or how pronouns are used. 

In comparison, the United States has dialects like the General American dialect, the Cajun dialect, AAVE (African American Vernacular English), and so on. These are all the same language and people who speak these dialects can understand English speakers of other dialects easily. That being said, some people will hold certain dialects above others or claim that certain dialects are more accurate and proper. This phenomenon is known as prescriptive linguistics. 

Prescriptive linguistics attempts to lay down norms defining preferred or “correct” use of language, but the fact is that native speakers of a language cannot speak that language “incorrectly.” Of course, grammar rules like spelling must still be used, but if a word or grammar structure is used widely within a language by groups who speak that language, then nobody can say it is wrong or that it does not exist. Furthermore, just because a word is not in the dictionary, does not mean it is a false word. Prescriptive linguistics are taught in schools and used by those in power to set themselves apart from poor people and minorities, but the cycle can be stopped.

Unlike prescriptive linguistics, descriptive linguistics strives to understand how language is formed and how it evolves while also describing how language is used by different groups of people. Descriptive linguistics realizes that variation and the mixing of language is not only normal but to be expected and that the way a person speaks is not necessarily a matter of intelligence but of a combination of factors involving age, gender, nationality, race, geographic location, and social class.

Next time you want to be the grammar police and correct someone’s speaking, consider whether their way of speaking is actually incorrect or if it is just different than yours.

–Lainey

5.4.2021 - Alex's language tips for the summer!

Overhead view of post-it note reading

While your German lectures may be over for this semester, you can still continue practicing and studying German! Here are some fun and different ways to study, some of which I will be doing this summer.

1. Place little sticky notes around your living space that have the German translation of things in that area. For example, put a sticky note on the wall by your bed with “das Bett” (the bed), das Kissen (the pillow), die Decke (the blanket). When you get into your bed, say the words out loud. This will help you memorize the words and keep them fresh in your mind. This is something I will be doing this summer to help me memorize the articles of words.

2. Review homework you have done over the semester. If you got something wrong try and figure out why it is wrong and correct it. For things that you got right, explain to yourself why it is right. This will help you understand how grammar and vocabulary work.

3. At the end of each week write a sentence, or up to a paragraph about what you did that week. This will help you practice writing and reflect on your week.

4. Listen to podcasts, Youtube videos, Twitch streams in German. There are podcasts and Youtube channels dedicated to people who are learning German. For beginners, a great podcast to listen to is Coffee Break German. They have a wide range of topics, speak slowly, and explain words that may not be known by the listener. For intermediates, the podcast Slow German is great because they speak clear and loud but still have interesting topics. For advanced learners, I recommend watching game shows like Quizduell. They provide a wide array of topics, people from various places in Germany so you can get used to various accents, and are fairly fast-paced. You can find various game shows on Youtube. I plan on watching a lot of game shows this summer, in addition to the last two seasons of Dark on Netflix.

5. If you are an advanced German language student, set your phone or computer’s language as German. Before you do switch, make sure you know how to turn it back to the language you have your phone in currently. This is another thing I plan on doing.

6. Listen to German music. There are many German artists who sing in all kinds of styles. Find the music you enjoy. My favorite German bands are Bilderbuch and AnnenMayKantereit!

Just because it is summer does not mean practicing a language needs to end. Studying a bit every week will keep your mind fresh for when classes resume in the fall. If you want to study this summer, I hope my tips offer some insight to you.

–Alex

4.30.2021 - Mautise reviews the horror film The Binding

Movie poster for The Binding

I must begin by saying I am a horror movie fanatic. At one point, I thought I had watched all the horror movies that were on Netflix. However, that is not true, I only watched all the “good” ones.

Peer tutoring professional development has allowed me to keep doing what I love while incorporating the language I love into it. When I do not have a student, I simply watch a horror movie in French. This is something that I am going to take with me beyond peer tutoring. I watch films and series all the time but I spend little to no time developing my French skills outside of class. Since I watch films/series so often, it only makes sense that I watch a film or a series in  French  every so often; as it will help me improve on my French skills and I’ll still be able to watch what I want. WIN WIN!!

The latest horror movie I’ve watched is called “The Binding.”

It’s an Italian Horror movie on Netflix. This is a movie that I normally would not watch, simply because the description was not very appealing to me, however, my friend chose the film and I promised her I would watch it, so I did.

The film is offered in English, French, German, Spanish, and of course Italian. I watched “The Binding” in French with English subtitles so that I could practice my French listening skills and if there were words or phrases that I did not understand, then I had the subtitles to translate.

The film circles around newly wed couple, Francesco and Emma, with their daughter, Sophia, who goes to visit the husband’s mother, Teresa. Teresa lives in a house that is practically in the middle of nowhere. Emma is very suspicious of Teresa and feels like something just is not right. Her suspicions are soon confirmed as after the first night, strange things start happening to Sophia, after she was bitten by a spider. Throughout their stay, Sophia’s comes down with a mysterious illness. Sophia had difficulty breathing, uncontrollable itching, and a high fever. Sophia’s illness was believed to be caused by the spider’s bite but after a visit to the doctor, it became apparent that was not the case. As Sophia’s condition grows dire it becomes apparent that  a malevolent force was at work. Terasa realizes that a curse has been placed on Sophia but by who? And why? Emma refuses to believe Terasa. She decides to take Sophia and leaves but that too proved to be a mistake. As Emma wakes up having been in a car accident with  Sophia nowhere to be found. Can Emma find her daughter and save her life before it is too late?

Watch the movie and you shall find out!!

Have you seen “The Binding?” If not I would recommend watching it, especially if you love jump scares. If you have seen the film, I would love to discuss the film and hear your opinion on it.

–Mautise

4.30.2021 - Daisy on her language learning experience

Graphic of people on a globe saying

Growing up, the only language that I was familiar with was Spanish, which is my first language. I didn’t start to learn English until the second grade, when I was placed in a bilingual classroom because at the school I attended before I was only taking a Spanish-speaking classroom only. I remember that one of the first books I was able to read in English was called “Junie B. Jones” by Barbara Parks, and after I read that book, I started to read all of her books in 2nd and 3rd grade. Furthermore, I read many of Barbara’s books because of the stories of Junie B. Jones was a young girl who attended school and was an impulsive person. Most of her stories are told from her point of view and how she spends time in school.

Being taught in English as my second language was very difficult because at first I didn’t know what I was being taught in class, but there were vocabulary words that were easy to understand such as car, pizza, goodnight, stop, etc. I learned those by reading books and articles that were easy to understand. I remember I used to watch cartoons in English when growing up, so I would add the subtitles to understand the words better.

I think that one of the easiest things to acquire in this language was the vocabulary rather than grammar because having to change a sentence from present to future tense was sometimes difficult at first. Moreover, the way my teachers would explain to me what I was to do for the assignments was confusing, making it difficult to answer the questions. But I kept trying, and finally I got it with the help of a tutor who stayed after school to help me out.

As I was growing up and kept being taught in both languages in school, I noticed that when I would have to write essays in English, my grammar and vocabulary wasn’t very good yet. Also, when I would have to read out loud, I would notice that I had an accent and would feel embarrassed because now at that point most of my peers would know the language at a higher level than me.

I believe that it wasn’t until I was in high school that I knew that I had acquired enough grammar knowledge in order to comprehend the language, and I was able to write essays at a level that was understandable. Now that I am a college student, I can say that I’ve improved so much in the language, and I am able to speak, read and write in English, but I know that there is so much more to learn because I’m still not at the proficiency level that I want to be at. Knowing that I am able to use a different language now makes me feel proud and happy because now I’m able to help my parents translate for them, watch TV in both languages, and talk both languages with my friends and coworkers.

In my opinion, I think that it’s a beautiful thing to learn more than one language because of the benefits of knowing how to communicate with others, learning more about different cultures, etc. Although it might be a difficult challenge to acquire a new language, if you are determined to learn it, then you will succeed in it. Reading in the language you’re trying to learn is the best way to acquire the language and if we ever need help, we shouldn’t doubt to look for resources that can help us understand.

This is why I decided to become an LCLC Spanish Peer Tutor: I know the difficulties of learning a new language, and since I know the struggles, I’m able to help students better understand the words and suggest ways to learn more about the language they’re learning in class.

–Daisy

4.30.2021 - Lars on Learning French

Lars with friends at Château de Chenonceau

I started learning French my first year of high school. I didn’t really even want to learn French at first, but there was a scheduling conflict that caused me to go with my second language choice. That first year was very nearly my last year. I had such a difficult time with it. It was really frustrating because I worked really hard and still always felt like I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I am so glad now, five years later, that I stuck with it. I very quickly began to enjoy French music, food, and wanted to grow to be able to read French philosophy in its original transcription. I would watch esports casted in French, listen to music podcasts in French (at half speed), and change Netflix audio or subtitles to be in French. I tried to incorporate French into anything I was already interested in: music, TV, video games, film, etc. Immersion into the language as much as possible is helpful to pick it up more fluently.

I developed a favorite French-speaking musician (Lous and the Yakuza) and even changed my phone’s language to French to make learning the language a bit easier but, if there is one thing I have learned in my time as a French student, it’s that learning a language is not supposed to be easy, and that’s okay. Learning takes time and patience but it is so worth it. The friends I have made along the way in my classes and French clubs, the satisfaction of learning something new, and having a new skill under my belt make it clear that I made the right choice to stick with language learning.

Even still I find myself struggling sometimes, I always get through it a better, more fluent French speaker. Things like making flashcards and Quizlets helped me to remember vocabulary and conjugations but more than anything, trying my best and managing my language learning anxiety was the key to my success. Language learning anxiety is a real thing, and it can be difficult to deal with. Dealing with those nerves has taught me a very important lesson that you always know more than you think you do. Sometimes it can be very overwhelming but I have found that the professors at UIC are very understanding and approachable.

If you are worried about a concept or just feel lost, reach out to your professors. They don’t expect you to be a perfect fluent speaker. They just want you to try your hardest. Peer tutors are also available to give helpful tips and try to explain things. So my advice to new and old language learners is to not give up: take it from someone who almost did.

–Lars

4.28.2021 - Susy reviews Sentinelle (2021)

Film poster for Sentinelle

Have you heard of the Netflix original film, Sentinelle?  This action drama was directed by Julien Leclercq and released in early March 2021. It is originally in French but you can change it to the language of your preference (English, German, Italian, Spanish), and you can add English subtitles as well.

If you’re into movies that break gender norms, then I definitely recommend Sentinelle. In addition, the main character, Klara (Olga Kurrylenko) shows off her amazing fighting skills, which is refreshing to see in a film.

The movie follows Klara, a sergeant and translator in the “Operation Sentinelle” seeking to avenge her younger sister, Tania -portrayed by Marilyn Lima- who was raped, beaten, and left in a coma.

Sentinelle’s somber lighting and suspenseful music will keep you on edge throughout the film, especially after the first scene; a bomb attack during a mission in Syria. The slow-motion shots in this scene parallel the build-up of Klara’s rage in the film, triggered by her PTSD. The disorder eventually mixes with anger and creates an emotionally distressed soldier, one who takes extreme and dangerous measures to punish her sister’s abuser. In the film, Klara smashes society’s expectations by taking it upon herself to do an investigation of her own. Through fast-paced action scenes we get to see Klara in action, which highlights her courage. At one point, Klara is outpowered by four men, but to no one’s surprise, she is able to escape, leaving a few broken noses behind. There are a few scenes of violence, but nothing too explicit, except towards the end of the film. Be careful with the last 15 minutes- it gets a little gory!

Overall, this is a film about women empowerment, one where sister’s look out for each other in unimaginable ways. Tania and Klara’s relationship demonstrate their unbreakable bond, but it’s also a symbol of justice and struggle. Maybe this is a stretch, but in a way, this movie makes you reflect on our society’s flaws because it emphasizes how much women suffer in order to gain justice for sexual abuse. – I’d give it a solid 8. 🙂

–Susy

4.26.2021 - Nate reviews the movie La Habanera (1937)

Film poster for La Habanera

Detlef Sierck’s (aka Douglas Sirk) film La Habanera (1937) was a film produced by the Nazis and is considered a propaganda film, thus it must be approached with a critical eye. Sierck was a German director who worked for the Nazis, but fled shortly after this film was released. In 1937, war had not yet broken out in the European Theatre, but the Nazi Party was attempting to utilize each and every potential media medium to bring the nation to its cause in. Being that film was a newer potential weapon, the minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbells, saw film as the future of propaganda.

In La Habanera, we see two notable actors, Zarah Leander and Ferdinand Marian. Zarah (a Swedish actress), plays our protagonist, Astree. Astree was once a girl living in Stockholm with her aunt and was soon to be married to a successful businessman. However, while on a trip to Puerto Rico, she was lured by the music of La Habanera and fell in love with the exotic and seemingly mysterious Don Pedro da Avila (Ferdinand Marian). Note that both these actors would go on to work heavily in the German film industry, while Sierck fled to the United States in 1938 and became Douglas Sirk.

After Astree decides to stay in Puerto Rico, to her aunt’s dismay, she has a son named Juan and we see a jump of eight years. By this point, “Puerto Rico Fever” is beginning to take hold of the island once again. The disease appears to be yellow fever and in order to stop it, two doctors are sent in. One doctor comes from Sweden and another from Brazil. Dr. Nagel comes from Sweden and he is a former lover of Astree, adding to the growing storyline. Naturally by the end of the film, the Swedish doctor finds an antidote but when Don Pedro, Astree’s husband and the leader of the town, falls ill, he is unable to save him because the Don (Don Pedro) had all the antidotes destroyed. The Don destroys all of the antidotes to attempt to show Puerto Rico’s prowess and as a result he, the villain of our story, ultimately perishes due to the fever. However, Astree then takes Juan, who looks in no way whatsoever Puerto Rican, back to Sweden with the Doctor, where they presumably fall in love.

Readers may be wondering exactly what this all means. Why does it matter? Well the larger idea behind this film is the furthering of the idea of Aryan superiority. Naturally according to the Nazi ideology, the blue-eyed, blonde- haired Swedes will save the day in the “backwater, exotic” Puerto Rico. And of course the Puerto Ricans appear too ignorant to do anything about their current plight. We know as viewers that this is not the case, but the objective of the film was to get people thinking like this. The film also plays on the old colonial ideas of “civilized vs. natural” people. Here the Swedes, who are representing the Germans as they share a Nordic ethnicity, are the civilized ones. We see briefly the modern medicine they have, the larger cities, and the better music. The Puerto Ricans are seen as natural folk, as they are allegedly closer to the Earth. We see bull fights and people crowding around each other, making it appear that the Puerto Ricans are more related to their livestock than other humans. We also see an influx of plants nearly everywhere a Puerto Rican person goes. In fact, in one of the last scenes, there are so many palms that it is difficult to actually see the characters!

The most interesting aspect of the film to me is the culture clash at the end of the film. When Astree, played by Zarah Leander, sings her final song by La Habanera, the artist who was singing when she initially was enchanted by Don Pedro several years before, she appears to be dressed in both Puerto Rican and Swedish elements. She is wearing a Puerto Rican dress and has a small hair curl, reminiscent of Puerto Rican women. However, she is wearing the much more visible Swedish style braids. She is representing the inner cultural conflict she is having. She appears trapped and depressed but soon after this, Don Pedro dies of the Puerto Rico Fever. She then is able to be freed and return to Sweden with the Doctor, representing her cultural victory. In a way, Sierck and Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister, are trying to show that no matter the scenario, Aryan people will be able to emerge victorious against the so called uncivilized people of the world.

This film was one of Sierck’s last in Germany, as he saw the way the state was beginning to completely control the creative medium of film. Rather than stay with this, he fled to the United States and went on to direct many successful films, also changing his name to Douglas Sirk. However, other German directors remained in Germany, notably Leni Riefenstahl, and throughout the course of the war went on to direct numerous other propaganda films, which like this one, attempted to truly change the way people thought and achieve a brainwash of the population. Propaganda films are usually filled with stereotypes and political incorrectness, but they are greatly informative in telling historians and researchers what the goals of a regime may have been, as well as cluing us in to how ordinary citizens may have felt living during this period, through the reactions of those who witnessed these films firsthand upon release. Given that Goebbells was in charge of the propaganda industry, the film was approved by him. Douglas Sirk made mention that the film went down well, even though Goebbells had initially doubted the star power of Zarah Leander in the role of Astree (Bonnell, 216).

Bonnell, Andrew G. “Melodrama for the Master Race: Two Films by Detlef Sierck (Douglas Sirk). Film History, vol. 10, no. 2, 1998, pp. 208-218. https://www-jstor-org.proxy.cc.uic.edu/stable/3815282

4.22.2021 - Alex's review of "Sarajevo"

Sarajevo film poster

Do you like period pieces? Do you enjoy learning about history? Have you ever wondered about how the death of one man caused the start of World War One? Then Sarajevo (2014) is a movie for you. Sarajevo’s main plot revolves around the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary while he was in Sarajevo, Serbia on the 28th of June 1914. The film was directed by Andreas Prochaska and the film is in German and Serbo-Croatian (English subtitles are available). Sarajevo was filmed in the Czech Republic and Austria. The film was created in collaboration with German TV channel ZDF and Austrian TV channel ORF as a commission for a project about the 100th anniversary of World War One.

The film follows Leo Pfeffer, an Austrian magistrate, who is tasked with finding who killed the Archduke. He found who committed the assassination, a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip. Austrian government leaders consider the assassination as an act of violence from Serbia. As Pfeffer conducts his investigation he finds many inconsistencies about the murder. These inconsistencies are dismissed by Austrian government leaders, who are focused on wanting to go to war on Serbia.

The film reveals some ulterior motives of the war. Austrian politicians want a weak Serbia so they can finish the Berlin-Baghdad railway that goes through Serbia. These politicians would profit largely off of the completed railway. Scholars argue to what degree the war was started because of the railroad. Scholars directly after the war find that the railway was the leading factor of the war starting, while scholars today find it as one of the many factors why the war started.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie a lot. I typically am not drawn to period pieces or history, but Sarajevo makes the story very digestible for everyone. The costumes are very nice, and I believe the casting is fantastic. The film is available on Netflix in German and English.

A warning to viewers: there is violence and anti-semitism in the film.

–Alex

4.21.2021 - Valeria writes about Zacatecas

Pictures of Zacatecas: Catedral Basilica de Zacatecas, Ruins of Chicomostoc

Zacatecas: My Home State is Internationally Recognized

I have so many happy memories of traveling all over Zacatecas, Mexico, my home state, with my family. Growing up my family and I would constantly visit the Ruins of Chicomostoc, an archeological site located in the municipality of La Quemada where it is believed the Mexica people made a temporary stop on their journey to Tenochtitlán. We would climb the ruins of the main pyramid there. Just two years ago, on our trip to Mexico we decided to visit the site again. We had completely forgotten about how exhausting of an exercise walking around and climbing the ruins was, so with our terrible physical condition we ended up extremely tired. This summer we are hoping to travel again, and number one in our list of places to visit is for sure, the Ruins of Chicomostoc.

As a native to the state of Zacatecas, nothing makes me more proud than to see my beloved state and its cultural heritage and history be recognized at an international level. So I was really happy to hear that it was named American Capital of Culture 2021.The American Capital of Culture is a non-governmental organization recognized by the International Bureau of Cultural Capitals and whose purpose is to bring to light the immense diversity of cultures and people’s customs throughout the American continent.

Founded in 1588, Zacatecas still preserves its Baroque and Churrigueresque – a style similar to Baroque that incorporates architectural ornaments – infrastructure from Colonial times. Many of Zacatecas’s monuments are internationally recognized for these particular styles of architecture. Among them is its main Cathedral: Catedral Basílica de Zacatecas, voted by citizens as the first Treasure of the Cultural Heritage of Zacatecas.

Upon receiving the recognition, the state of Zacatecas has been putting great effort in the promotion of their cultural festivals and ceremonies as well as their most recognized tourist attractions. Among the most recognized festivals are the Zacatecas Festival of International Folklore, celebrated between July and August, that attracts tourists,international dancers and cultural ambassadors from all over the world.

You can read more about Zacatecas (in Spanish) here.

–Valeria

4.19.2021 - Laurie on Louis de Funès and Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez

Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez images and film poster

When I was growing up my family and I would sometimes watch films from a French actor named Louis de Funès. Although I didn’t like these old, black and white (most of the time) movies back then, I recently rediscovered them and found myself laughing like my parents did when I was a little girl. In 2007, a film titled On a tous grandi avec Louis de Funès (We all grew up with Louis de Funès) came out as an homage to the late legend. I too grew up with Louis de Funès, he is part of my childhood and I would like to share a short biography of him and a summary of one of his movies with you.

Louis Germain David de Funès de Galarza was a French actor and comedian born in 1914 from Spanish parents. De Funès spoke French, English and Spanish. He played many roles (about 150 roles in films and 100 on stage) and was considered to be France’s favorite actor since 1968. Louis de Funès, also called Fufu by those close to him, got married twice and had three children. His second wife Jeanne Barthelémy de Maupassant was the descendant of the famous writer and journalist Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893). He and his family resided in a château that his wife herited, the Château de Clermont. He was one of the best and most famous french actors. He was and is still known and famous internationally (in French-speaking countries and non French-speaking countries). De Funès achieved great prosperity and success in his life and died at the age of 68 in 1983.

Funes’ films were usually slapstick comedy, with a lot of physical humor. One of his films is titled Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez (The Policeman from Saint-Tropez) and Louis played the role of a sergeant named Ludovic Cruchot who has been reassigned to Saint-Tropez. He moved there with his teenage daughter. Throughout the movie he and his colleagues are trying to arrest a group of nudists but they fail many times. In addition to that, he has to watch and protect his daughter who tries everything to be like the teenagers of her age in the commune of Saint-Tropez, she runs away, hangs out with a group of ¨bad¨ teenagers who have a bad influence on her, dresses indecently and does illegal things with her new friends like stealing a car and lying to the police. Ludovis Cruchot (played by Louis de Funès) does everything to correct the mistakes of his precious daughter in a funny way of course! Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez was the first in a series of films where de Funès played the role of a gendarme and it was the most popular film at the French box office in 1964 until Dany Boon´s Les Ch´tis film.

Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez (free on youtube)

Learn more about Louis de Funès on Wikipedia.

–Laurie

4.19.20 - Emma on Spezi

hand holding a can of Spezi and two bottles of Fanta

With the weather getting warmer and the summer just right around the corner, it’s hard not to think about what plans we’re all going to start making. Maybe it’s enjoying a picnic in the park, hiking outdoors with family, or maybe it’s the staple beach visit. But everyone knows that there’s nothing like having a refreshing cold drink after enjoying the outdoors all day, right? One drink that I’ve come to know and love from Germany is Spezi. I originally learned about this drink through one of my German friends and man does it hit the spot! Spezi is a cola-based drink that has a hint of orange, it sounds simple I know but something about it is just so good! Unfortunately there aren’t many articles on the history of Spezi but one thing for sure is that the drink was originally trademarked in 1956 in Augsburg, Germany. Since then, it has also been made into countless variants, such as the Mezzo Mix from Coca Cola and Paulaner Spezi, which is brewed in Munich.

Fanta is a well known brand in the US that is renowned for having a bunch of fun and unique flavors such as grape, pineapple, and strawberry. But the original orange flavored Fanta was the main ingredient for Spezi, which was created by Max Keith at the Coca Cola Deutschland plant during the 1940s. Because there was no trade between the United States and Germany during World War II and the plant was short on the cola syrup, Max Keith was inspired to create this flavor. Considering Max Keith needed to keep the plant up and running, he began making Fanta from left over apple fiber and whey. During the war, because the war affected the ingredients available to the manufacturing plant, the color and the flavor of Fanta ranged.

For Germans, Fanta is the staple ingredient to creating that perfect Spezi taste and a renowned invention from their country. Other countries across Europe also have their own versions of “Fanta” and use different ingredients in order to make that orange taste such as Shokata from Romania which uses Elderflower. Since, then Fanta has gone global and although it has countless flavors, orange reigns supreme!

You can create a mock Spezi just about anywhere by mixing orange Fanta and Cola together, but nothing truly matches up to the distinct flavor of the real Spezi! (I’ve only had the off brand Spezi by mixing it at the soda fountain but the idea is there!)

If you want to have some idea as to what the true Spezi tastes like, you can buy Paulaner Spezi in some supermarkets, such as World Market. There are also countless articles on the internet about what the best ratio of Cola to Fanta should be, but honestly, drink it with whatever ratio you find best!

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/fanta-soda-origins-nazi-germany

https://www.spezi.com/spezi-original

https://www.fanta.com/products

–Emma

4.15.2021 - Sofiya's First Trip to Italy

Rome's Colosseum

In the summer of 2017, I decided to go on vacation with my cousin and friend to Italy for the first time. We chose Italy because it was on our bucket list and plus I had been studying Italian for a while then. I was excited to see and experience all the nature and cities. I love to travel but you can’t take away the stress you get making sure everything is the way you wanted. We visited Venice, Rome, how can you leave out the capital of Italy, and a couple more European countries before that.

In Rome, we visited the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and of course the Vatican. You just stand there and look at all those enormous buildings, monuments and can’t believe your eyes at how old they are and how people used to build small looking statues on top of Basilica di San Pietro (Saint Peter’s Basilica), but actually they are not that small if you can see them hundreds of meters away. Personally, I would not want to live in Rome, very hot, so many tourists, but based on these sites listed above I would recommend to come and see this ancient city for a couple of days.

My favorite city was Venice and still is. It is the most beautiful city in the whole world, situated on a group of one hundred and eighteen small islands which are separated by canals and connected by four hundred bridges. We visited the Palazzo di San Marco, the Basilica di San Marco, the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge, we rode a gondola and walked a lot. The best part is walking through the little canals, bridges, wherever your feet take you.

We tried to travel with as minimal resources as possible, so we slept in the cheaper hostels or hotels with two or three stars. Luckily breakfast was included and we ate delicious Italian food. We went to many restaurants but my favorite was Ristorante Carlo Mente. It is a small restaurant with traditional Italian cuisine. When you enter, you can smell all the fresh vegetables.

Gelato– Italian ice cream– is the second best part of the trip, especially lemon ice cream. It was pretty cheap and available every couple of feet. I hope that everyone can experience an Italian summer at least once, and see all the beautiful sights of Venice.

–Sofiya

4.13.2021 Leah's Review of Les Adieux à la Reine

Les Adieux à la Reine (2012)

Do you like period films? Want to practice your French by watching French movies? You might like Les Adieux à la Reine (2012), directed by Benoît Jacquot. Based on the novel of the same name by Chantal Thomas, Les Adieux à la Reine is a story told from the perspective of Sidonie Labourde (played by Léa Seydoux), reader for Marie Antoinette (played by Diane Kruger). It explores the tensions on the eve of the French Revolution and gives a fictionalized account of Marie Antoinette’s last days in power.

As the queen’s reader, Sidonie’s job allows her to be close to the queen, selecting books for her and reading passages from plays and magazines aloud. However, the fact that she is still a servant enables her to move through the halls of Versailles and gather information that she might not have had otherwise. This allows the film to show both Marie Antoinette’s reactions to the unrest leading up to her execution and the reactions of everyone else in the castle as they make their own preparations for an uncertain future. Sidonie weaves between the queen’s private world and the world of the servants’ quarters, providing the audience with both perspectives.

Sidonie’s relationship with the queen is one of intense devotion, and this loyalty leads to the film’s unexpected ending. Amidst the swirling gossip and rapidly changing plans, Sidonie is given a test of her loyalty that changes everything for her. As film critic Roger Ebert wrote, the film’s ending “is certainly surprising and has the kind of neatness that comes through poetic justice.” I won’t spoil it, but I highly recommend watching – you might be just as surprised as I was!

One of the things I loved the most about this film was how gorgeous it was. The costumes are lavish and beautiful, and overall it’s just a very visually appealing movie. I also really appreciated the attention paid to more historically-based costuming – for example, Sidonie is a servant and so wears the same clothing for most of the movie. While I cannot vouch for the historical accuracy of the story itself, there was clearly attention paid to period details, which I very much enjoyed.

Interested in watching? You can rent it here: ‎Farewell, My Queen on iTunes (apple.com)
Full film review: Farewell, My Queen movie review (2012) | Roger Ebert

–Leah

4.09.2021 - Lars on laïcité

laïcité illustration

While visiting France a few years ago, I was informed by a tour guide about a few of the differences between politics in France and America such as France’s multi-party system and their unique brand of secularism. It was very interesting to me to hear about different political structures. What piqued my interest most, was the idea of laïcité and its complexities. Most French citizens will tell you that laïcité is a backbone to not only French politics, but society as well– but what is laïcité? Laïcité is a type of secularism. The concept of secularism in America is very different from the laïcité that France knows. Laïcité has its roots in the Enlightenment period as it was a time that emphasized the importance of individual thinking and freedom as well as equality. It began with a push to keep religion, specifically the Catholic Church, out of state affairs after the French Revolution. However, laïcité was not signed into law until 1905. The law itself states that France “ensures freedom of conscience” but also “does not recognize, compensate, or subsidize any religion”.

Because of this legislation, religion is completely separate from public spaces and public servants are to remain neutral on all matters involving religion. Everyone from elected officials to public school teachers to public transport workers are prohibited from expressing their religious beliefs. Symbols and religious affiliated accessories such as crosses, yarmulkes, and religious head scarfs/wraps (i.e. hijabs, niqabs, burqas, and turbans) were banned from public schools in 2004 and in 2010 the controversial “Burqa Ban” banned full face coverings such as burqas and niqabs from public in France. Despite America’s official language that ensures a separation between church and state, laïcité is a far step away from America’s secularism. American politicians wear their religion like a badge of honor– being sworn in on holy books, citing their religion as reasons to vote/not vote for certain legislation, and even praying in Congress. These displays would not occur in France today because of laïcité.

The strength and ramifications of laïcité in France today are a topic of debate in the country. Many are pressing the government to strengthen laïcité in hopes of cracking down on terrorism. Others feel that there is a double standard as many French bank holidays actually fall on Christian holidays. To some, the restrictions in the name of laïcité do little else but oppress Muslim citizens despite its goal of neutrality and “freedom of religion”. No matter your stance on laïcité one thing is certain: the citizens of France fit a different, more diverse profile than they did in 1905– making the issue more complex than ever. For more information on the topic, I suggest watching this video: https://www.france24.com/en/tv-shows/french-connections/20210226-understanding-la%C3%AFcit%C3%A9-france-s-special-brand-of-state-secularism.

Read more about the law here.

–Lars

3.17.2021 - Lainey on Latin-American Punk Rock

Latino punk rockers sporting mohawk hairstyles

My first semester at UIC, I took a class called LALS 109: Introduction to Latino Cultures. The course examined the cultural and artistic productions of U.S. Latinos and Latin Americans through historical processes of mainstreaming, transculturation, and hybridity (the mixing of cultures). The course also taught me about the many subcultures of Latin American people, which I found increasingly interesting, one of those subcultures being punk rock. Punk music originated in the United Kingdom in the 1970s and was a symbol of antiestablishmentarianism. Antiestablishmentarianism is a policy or attitude that views a nation’s power structure and social norms as corrupt, repressive, exploitive, etc. Using short, fast-paced songs and hard-edged singing styles or shouting, punk was popular among angsty teens because it gave them a voice which allowed them to speak out about injustices in the world. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, punk exploded across Latin America, most notably in Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, and especially Peru. Latino Punk songs often featured lyrics that described the political issues facing Latin Americans. These issues included the rise of dictatorship in certain Latin American countries, poverty, political oppression, discrimination, immigration, and the abuse of immigrant workers.

In the mid-1960s, Latin American rock started showing characteristics of punk music, most notably with the Peruvian band Los Saicos. Los Saicos pioneered Latino Punk, and by the late 1970s, Mexico and Argentina also had their own popular punk bands well-established. By the 80s, punk was widespread throughout multiple nations of Latin America. While in Argentina, teenagers used punk as a way to rebel against the military regime of the time, this genre of music was very popular amongst the working class in Mexico. In Colombia, punk rock emerged amid a national unrest in which there was a major war between drug traffickers and Colombian government. Punk was a form of resistance among the Latin American youth, and it was potentially incredibly politically powerful, because they were using it to speak out against authoritarian governments who saw the punk subculture as an opposing, rebellious power. Today, the Latino Punk movement only continues to grow, with bands like Los Intoxicados and Todos Tus Muertos, both based in Argentina.

–Lainey

3.15.2021 - Lainey on the "Corridos" music genre!

Group of Corridos Tumbados singers, digitally drawn

Norteño, Tejano, Banda. These are all popular genres of music originating in Mexico. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved being introduced to new genres of music, especially in different languages. Another popular musical form from Mexico that I find so unique is the corrido. Corridos are long ballads that narrate the political issues of the time and celebrate great, heroic deeds by the story’s protagonist, often a cowboy or an outlaw who is relatable to the audience. As music has evolved into different styles over time, so have the themes of corridos. These most recent corridos, called narcocorridos, focus on Mexican life across the U.S. border as well as immigrant issues, prison, and drug trafficking. This specific type of corrido was popularized by bands like Los Tigres del Norte, who drew inspiration from American artists like Johnny Cash.

Now, in the 2020s, trap corridos, or corridos tumbados, combine the classical corrido elements with new-wave trap and hip-hop music, or reggaeton. Popular corridos tumbados artists include Natanael Cano and Ovi, with songs like “Amor Tumbado”, “El Drip”, and “Pacas Verdes.” The songs sing about love, money, and alcohol, and are meant to appeal to younger audiences while traditional corridos are generally enjoyed by older generations (although they can be enjoyed by all!) You can stream music by Natanael and Ovi on Youtube, Spotify, and Apple Music. Listen to the song “Camelia La Tejana: by Los Tigres here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0mqyzOPNEM

–Lainey

3.12.2021 - Mautise on Beginning French Peer Tutoring

Mautise, French Peer Tutor

Today is my second day as a French Peer tutor. I still have not had any students come into my tutoring session yet. I got to say I am a little nervous about what will happen when a student does come in, I know this is just in my mind, but I just want to be a good tutor and I do not want to disappoint. On the other hand, I cannot wait to have my first student and my first tutoring experience.

My worries dissipate once I remember why I’m a French Tutor. It started because I had forgotten my native language, Haitian Creole and I wanted to reconnect with Haitian roots but I ended up staying in French because I love the French language, how beautiful it sounds, and I have had such an enjoyable time learning French. I’m not a tutor because I want to learn French because I forgot Haitian Creole, I’m a tutor because I love French and want others to love it too. Once I have my first student I hope to immerse them in French so they in a sense fall in love with learning the language as much as I do.

–Mautise

3.11.2021: Make Vegan Milchreis with Alex!

Milchreis topped with cinnamon and sugar, bowl of berries in background

My favorite German dessert is Milchreis, which directly translates to “milk rice.” I would compare it to a rice pudding, however, it is much better than rice pudding. So I was really disappointed when I developed a dairy allergy a couple years ago and could not enjoy Milchreis anymore. That put me on a quest to create a vegan recipe for Milchreis! This recipe was originally my German grandfather’s recipe for Milchreis, but I have changed it to suit my needs.

Ingredients:

  • 190 grams of round-grain rice/medium grain rice (190 grams= 1 cup)
  • .75 liter of vegan milk of your choice (it does affect the flavor, see below)
  • A pinch of salt
  1. Heat the milk in a pan to almost boiling (be careful, vegan milk can burn)
  2. Add in the rice and salt. Keep it at high heat for a minute and stir
  3. Change it to low heat and let it cook for 20-25 minutes with the lid on. Make sure to stir occasionally because the rice can burn.
  4. Once it is finished, it should have a relatively thick consistency, almost like pudding. You can enjoy it warm or cold

The vegan milk of your choice is important to the taste of the Milchreis. I find that coconut milk makes the Milchreis have a strong coconut taste. If you like coconut, I do recommend it. I like to use almond milk. I have found that it tends to be the most neutral tasting milk. It makes the Milchreis taste like the real thing; this has been verified by my dairy-eating sister. I have also tried it with soy and oat milk. They both work well but if you want a more authentic taste I recommend almond milk.

Milchreis is normally topped with various toppings. In summer and fall when fresh fruit is available, you can put cherries, raspberries, pears, and apples on top (but maybe not all of them at once). It is customary to put a little bit of cinnamon and sugar on top of your Milchreis. Some people put Cardamom on top, it gives it a nice refreshing taste. I prefer cinnamon and sugar with some jam. Also, you can add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract when you add the rice in.

Vegan food is becoming more common in Germany. I haven’t been to a German grocery store in years, but I would not be surprised if I could find vegan Milchreis today. I hope German food and vegan food continue to evolve, so I can eat all the delicious sausages that are popular in Germany but vegan.

–Alex

3.9.2021 - Laurie on Monuments and fortresses in Haiti

Laurie at various fortresses in Haiti

I lived in Haiti, a small country in the Caribbean, for sixteen years before coming back to the U.S where I was born. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to visit many Haitian historical monuments and places. During a recent trip back to Haiti, I visited the Citadelle Laferrière and the Sans-Soucis palace, which are both located in the Nord Department of Haiti, six hours away from the capital of the country, Port-Au-Prince.  During this trip, I was able to learn more about my country’s history and my heritage and I would love to share some of the places I visited in The Land of High mountains, Haiti.

Haiti is divided into ten departments; these are like states. Although the country is very small, each département is unique. The people living in each of them have different lifestyles, food specialties, and even their accents can sometimes be different. Before my trip, I had only been to six of the départements, so my family and I decided to visit the Nord department to learn more about my ancestors who came from that area and attend my cousin’s wedding at the Sans-Soucis Palace.

The Citadelle Laferrière, also known as the Citadelle Henri Christophe, is one of the largest fortresses in the Americas (pictures 1-4, 9-11) . It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as is the Sans-Souci Palace (pictures 7 & 8). This icon of Haiti was built by Henri Christophe, a leader during the war for Haitian independence (1791–1804), and many other former slaves right after Haiti gained its independence from France on January 1st, 1804 and became the world’s first Black-led republic and the first independent Caribbean country. They built this fortress in order to protect themselves against a possible incursion from French colonizers and/or other foreign invasions.

The fortress is located on top of a very high mountain and in order to get there, you have to walk for hours or ride a horse; we chose to walk. On my way up the mountain, I encountered a group of men singing and playing different instruments such as different tanbous (a type of drum), banbous (rudimentary single-note trumpets found in Haiti ), marímbula (plays the role of a bass guitar), and marakas ( hand percussion instrument). Everybody gathered around them and we all danced and sang before going up the mountain. The view of the landscape from the top is absolutely stunning. Inside of the citadel, there is a history museum, dungeons, canons, bullets, and many open windows and doors that allowed me to feel the fresh air. Also, there is a tour guide who speaks many languages including English who is able to tell the history of the fortress and the palace.

For more information about the fortress and the palace:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citadelle_Laferri%C3%A8re

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sans-Souci_Palace

–Laurie

3.1.2021 - Megan recommends the film Adú

Adú film poster

French and Spanish students, check out Adú on Netflix: the dialogue is in both Spanish and French! Directed by Salvador Calvo (Spain, 2020), and inspired by real life events, the film tells the story of a 6-year-old boy named Adú who eventually has to end up emigrating from Cameroon to Spain, and two other intertwined stories of an animal activist and his daughter from Spain, as well as an immigration officer. This movie explores real life issues of refugees and what they have to go through, through the lens of Adú.

Adú, originally from Cameroon, eventually ends up emigrating to Spain with the help of his friend Massar. They choose Spain because Adú needed to get to where his father was since his mother was murdered by poachers. They experience some really traumatic and dangerous moments to survive and get to Spain. Adú, originally with his sister who later died, snuck at the bottom of an unsafe area of the plane to get to Spain, and even at one point with Massar, swam in the dark at night with only a car tire and rope for a raft to get to Spain from Morocco.

I remember during those moments, being shocked at how easily these children can take on these traumatic and dangerous journeys like it was nothing, but I realized that was their only shot at life and their only option was to keep on moving forward. A lot of the film brought up certain viewpoints, touched on the brutality that immigration officers can inflict on refugees, and on the privilege that many tourists unknowingly have.

Adú is a much-needed film about the trauma many African refugees have to experience to get to Spain or just a better home in general. This movie was hard to watch at some points, but I felt it was necessary to watch it, because knowing about what problems there are around the world helps to broaden our world perspective. The story makes viewers more aware of issues that are going on around the world, and allows us to put our own life into perspective, compared to those who are not as privileged as we are. It’s important to know there are things bigger than ourselves, and I think this movie is good for that.

I hope some French and Spanish students will check it out!

–Megan

2.23.2021 - Valeria on a fun, cultural performance

Two Mexican folkloric dancers perform during an International Celebration

Growing up in a Mexican household in Zacatecas, Mexico, I was always surrounded by all sorts of music, particularly the very varied styles of folk music from all around Mexico. My municipality and even the state, would hold multiple cultural events throughout the year in which different folklore dance groups would showcase their dances from all regions of the country, along with their corresponding traditional attire. I grew up attending a lot of these showcases and I always thought of how fun it would be to dress up in beautiful colorful dresses and wear such amazing makeup and cool hairstyles with ribbons and flowers.

Upon moving to Chicago, I never thought I’d see these types of performances and showcases again. Through Zaira, my friend from school, I learned that there were groups and organizations that performed these dances in various community events and that she was part of one. I was quite shy and hesitant to join at first, and in fact, because of personal reasons, never did. However, on one occasion, our high school district held an International Celebration that celebrated the diversity in our schools. Members of cultural clubs like the one we belonged to (Hispanic Club) were asked to provide a “taste” of that culture to the community. Our club decided to perform a traditional dance from Sinaloa, Mexico. However, only my friend and I were willing to participate in the dance and had to do it from scratch. We only had two weeks to choreograph it and practice before the performance day. We practiced every single day. I’ve always liked dancing, but it was a completely new and different experience (and may I also say quite hard) to finally get to participate in a traditional Mexican dance performance, just like I had always wanted to. The day finally came to perform in front of many of the members of our community: neighbors, peers, friends and families. When it was our turn to perform, I was beyond nervous being that we had so little time to prepare. Our club sponsor told us not to worry, as having fun and representing our culture and our roots should be the number one priority.

Here is a video of how our performance went that day.

“El niño perdido y el toro mambo” Zaira and Valeria dancing during the International Celebration.  

P.S. As you can see, the dance wasn’t quite polished but we had so much fun!

–Valeria

2.22.2021 - Nate reviews a German film, Der Ölprinz (1965)

Der Ölprinz Film Poster

Advanced German speakers looking for a real classic film, “Ein Film mit Herz und Humor” and quite a bit of action–here’s one for you! Der Ölprinz (Germany, 1965, directed by German director H. Philipp) is a film full of heart, humor, and its fair share of cowboy action as the critics say. The film stars British actor Stewart Granger as the hero Old Surehand, and French actor Pierre Brice as his faithful Native American assistant, Winnetou. We see German actor Harald Leipnitz shine as our villain, the Oil Prince himself. The film is based on a book with the same name, written by popular German Western tale author Karl May in 1894.

The film begins with an intense opening scene in which the Oil Prince is burning the oil fields of his rival in old Arizona in the 1860’s. He and his assistant are able to sneak away and then force the owner to sell his fields at an extremely low price, allowing the Prince to grow closer to holding a monopoly on the area’s oil. The Oil Prince and his assistant venture into a nearby town and attempt to con a group of settlers and a tribe of Native Americans into selling their land where oil is supposedly located. However, the game changes when Old Surehand and Winnetou arrive on the scene. This dynamic duo is able to help the Native Americans and settlers retain their homes and to put the Oil Prince behind bars.

Overall, I found this film to be very interesting and fun to watch. There was a very nice mix of dialogue and suspense, with some very nicely filmed action sequences sprinkled in along the way. If you enjoy older western films with actors like John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, you will enjoy this film very much!

I would recommend this film for advanced German speakers, since it’s only available without English subtitles. Happy viewing!

–Nate

2.19.2021 - Nikki on Naperville's Paris Bistro

Paris Bistro interior and various French dishes

Surprise! Another blog about French food! However, this time I am paying others to do the baking. Last Friday happened to be payday in addition to the commencement of Valentine’s weekend. Therefore it was my civil duty to try all the desserts and spend my entire paycheck (for research) at Paris Bistro, a little French restaurant tucked away in Naperville. I called early Friday morning to make a reservation for later that night. Masks of course are required for entry and when you are not eating or drinking.

The restaurant itself is small and intimate with low lighting in the evening that’s perfect for a date night or a girls’ night out (see image #1). I would recommend going in the evening after sunset when the atmosphere feels more authentically French as opposed to during daylight when it just feels like you’re in a Naperville-esque restaurant. A large selection of French appetizers (les entrées), entrées/main courses (les plats principaux) and desserts (les desserts) grace the menu including some of my favorites like steak-frites (steak and french fries) and the croque madame (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with an egg). However, prices are a little steep for a student like moi so I had some French onion soup and a hearty selection of drinks and desserts.

I started with a chocolate martini (because why not? image #2) and was not disappointed, however I’m a little biased towards anything and everything chocolate. Anyways-starting with dessert is a way of life, a religion if you will, and I am devout. After the chocolate martinis, we inhaled the French onion soup topped with melted cheesy goodness and picked a white wine to try (I am aware that the order in which we ate was completely illogical). The waitress then handed me the desserts menu (mistake) and I just about ordered everything (note to self: pay day is a dangerous day): lava cake with vanilla bean gelato (image #4), heart-shaped strawberry gelato (image #5), heart-shaped macarons (towards the back of image #4), and espresso shots. The lava cake was good, but the GELATO! The vanilla gelato alone was worth the trip and the bill (notice how it’s pulled closest to my side of the table because I became territorial). Also, I’m sad to say that these macarons were better than the ones I made last semester. The shells were perfect- crunchy on the outside and smooth and slightly chewy on the inside with just the right amount of filling. The espresso was nice and smooth, though it was not a good idea at 9pm.

Overall, I loved the ambience of Paris Bistro and I am quite literally in love with the vanilla gelato. Will be returning this week to buy a sleeve of macarons- and while I’m there, I might as well sit down for some dessert (it’d be the morally right thing to do).

–Nikki

02.17.2021 - Samie recommends Como Caído del Cielo

Como Caído del Cielo movie poster

Como Caído del Cielo (As If Fallen From Heaven) is a Netflix movie that is in Spanish (but don’t worry there are English subtitles) and it is a comedy that follows one of Mexico’s biggest celebrities, Pedro Infante, after he has died. If you don’t know who Pedro Infante is, then two important things to know before watching is that Pedro Infante is one of Mexico’s biggest musical legends! Infante died at only 39 years old in 1957, but his music has never lost its popularity and can still be heard at weddings. Oh, and he was also known to be a huge womanizer, constantly cheating on his wife.

This movie focuses on those two aspects of his life as the movie begins with Pedro Infante stuck between heaven and hell. He is approached by two men that tell him that his music has brought so much happiness to others, but his mistreatment of women is holding him back from entering heaven. To attempt to make amends, Pedro Infante is switched into Pedro Guadalupe Ramos’ body, a man who is in a coma after running into trouble in Tijuana. Pedro Ramos has caused the women in his life a lot of pain and Infante’s task is to make things right or he will be rejected from heaven. The film follows Pedro as he tries to make amends with the people that Ramos has hurt and the viewers watch as Infante begins to grow as a person.

I watched this film with my father, who is a huge fan of Pedro Infante, and since the film featured some of Infante’s songs, my dad was hit with lots of nostalgia! My dad reminisced about all the mornings that he had woken up to the sound of Pedro Infante’s voice as his mother listened to the radio while preparing breakfast. This was a special experience for the both of us and we shared a few laughs as this movie does have its comedic moments. The dialogue can be a little corny sometimes, but the overall movie is very sweet and I definitely recommend it to others. It’s a good movie to watch with family members who may be familiar with the legend that is Pedro Infante and if you’re not familiar with him, then this is your chance to be enchanted by the voice that is still loved by millions.

This 2019 film was directed by Jose Pepe Bojorquez and features Omar Chaparro, who plays Pedro Infante! Various Infante songs are played throughout the film and this includes “De Qué Me Sirve El Cielo”, which I highly recommend!

–Samie

02.09.2021 - Laurie recommends Case Départ movie

Case Départ

Case Départ is a comedy/fantasy about sibling rivalry and slavery. That doesn’t sound very funny, but it really is! In this 2011 French film, Régis (Fabrice Eboué) is métisse (mixed race), has a wife and kids and he has a stable job in a bourgeois town in France. Joël (Thomas Ngijol) on the other hand is black and is facing many challenges in his life. He just got out of prison, lives with his daughter at his mother’s house, and doesn’t have a job. These half-brothers see each other for the first time in a while at the airport after receiving the news that their father, who fathered many children in his life, is on his deathbed in the Caribbean.

When they arrive, their father has already died, and all they inherited is something they think is useless, un acte d’affranchissement (an act of emancipation) that freed their slave ancestors. They tear it apart because they were hoping to get something with more value such as money or maybe properties. Their aunt who sees them destroying this important document casts a spell on them and sends them back to the 18th century, where they are sold as slaves and treated like their ancestors were treated. To get back to the present, they have to work on plantations, survive in this past century, and most importantly they have to earn back the act of emancipation. It is a funny movie that I recommend to all of you!

Link to watch the movie for free: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Qpg7H3Vrl0

–Laurie

2.8.2021 - Samie talks about the history and significance of piñatas

7-point star piñata

Piñatas are a staple item at Latin American, especially Mexican, birthday parties and during Las Posadas, a nine day reenactment of Jesus and Mary searching for an open room in any of Bethlehem’s inns. They come in a variety of colorful shapes and you have most likely seen at least one Peppa Pig piñata in your life, but did you know that the original piñatas were probably from China? China is thought to have created the first piñatas as Marco Polo (in the 13th century) wrote about civilians breaking open colorful figures of cows with sticks to reveal the seeds that were hidden inside to celebrate the New Year. Spain caught onto this tradition during the 14thcentury and used similar figures to celebrate the first Sunday of Lent.

You may have thought that piñatas were brought to Mexico by the Spanish conquistadors as a way to convert the Aztecs to Catholicism, but the conquistadors were met with a big surprise when they arrived. The Aztecs already had their own version of the piñata, which was used to celebrate the birthdays of their gods! The Aztec version was made with a small clay pot that was decorated with colorful feathers and filled with treats.  The decorated pot would then be placed on a pole and it would be broken with a stick. Sound familiar at all?

Of course, the Spanish conquistadors added their Catholic flair to the Aztec piñata and the small clay pot was transformed into a star with seven points! Each point represents a mortal sin and the actual piñata represents Satan. The treats found inside represent all of Satan’s temptations and the blindfold also has a special meaning! It is meant to represent the blind faith in God and the stick that is used to break the piñata is the only thing that can defeat Satan, which is virtue.

Things have definitely changed since the 13th century when Marco Polo first saw the original piñatas, and now you can buy them in the form of Dora the Explorer and unicorns! This 700-year-old tradition can even be found here in Chicago. Mexican-Americans are still participating in this tradition and if you have ever passed by a Dulcelandia store while walking through the streets of Chicago, then you have most likely seen their collection of piñatas. They even sell a wide variety of candies that you can use to fill your piñata! If you want to add a special element to your next birthday party, then a piñata could be the perfect addition to spice up your party!

References:

http://www.cincy-cinco.com/history-of-the-pinata/

https://www.mexconnect.com/articles/459-history-of-the-pinata/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piñata

–Samie

2.4.2021 - Samie recommends “Street Food: Latin America - Oaxaca” and also memelas…

This is the promotional poster for Netflix's TV Series

If you’re like me and consider yourself a foodie, then you should definitely check out “Street Food”! It’s an amazing series on Netflix that visits several different Latin American countries, including Argentina and Bolivia. I chose Oaxaca, Mexico because I have visited this city myself and I really enjoyed tasting all the different types of street food that can’t be found in the northern cities of Mexico. Also, watching this reminded me of my grandmother who is from Mexico! When I was younger, I used to beg my grandma for a small ball of masa so that I could play around with it and while she started prepping the food for dinner that night. I used to be so obsessed with masa that my parents bought me a mini tortilla maker so that I could at least make some tortillas while my grandma was cooking!

Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s most famous southern cities that is known for its large indigenous population, and this episode introduces viewers to different vendors, who are masters at their craft. Two vendors really caught my attention!

First, Doña Vale, the owner of the street stall named Memelas Doña Vale, is introduced and one of her employees can be heard describing her strong character as clips of her making her famous memelas are shown.

Oaxaca has many different street foods, but memelas are one of the most common ones that you’ll see being sold by street vendors as you explore the historical streets of Oaxaca. A memela is a thicker than usual tortilla. It’s made out of corn masa and it can have any filling/topping possible, but the most traditional memela just has fresh Oaxacan cheese.

As Doña Vale prepares all the masa that will be used for the day, she tells us about how she would help her mother cook for all her siblings and how she used to play with the soft masa while making memelas. You can really tell that she looks back at those memories and treasures them. It also seems like it’s the root of her passion for cooking since she recalls how much fun she used to have making memelas with her mother.

The next food that made my mouth water were the empanadas de amarillo (empanadas with yellow mole) Sandra, the owner of Empanadas del Carmen, is famous for these special empanadas, and she tells the story of how her great grandmother, Carmen, founded the business in the 1960s.

Sandra has been in charge of the restaurant for 20 years and has made sure to continue its good reputation. As she is serving customers, she describes how she used to help her grandmother make the yellow mole, which is the most important part of her empanadas. It’s made out of a yellow costeño chile that gives the sauce such a recognizable color. Sandra still uses the recipe that her great grandmother used so that the tradition of making empanadas filled with chicken and yellow mole is kept.

This episode introduces more people with amazing stories and of course, their delicious traditional Oaxacan dishes are shown–like piedrazos and tlayudas. It is an episode that will definitely make your mouth water and you may find yourself trying to book a flight to Oaxaca just so you can try Doña Vale’s cheesy memelas!

I highly recommend Street Food: Latin America (Netflix) to everyone, because you get to see the variety of street foods that are offered in each country and you meet cooks that have built their business from the ground up. Each episode is simply amazing and it really makes you want to book some flights just to taste all the different foods. The next time you’re thinking about traveling to a new place and you’re not sure where to try, “Street Food: Latin America” just might inspire your next trip!

–Samie

1.27.2021 - Susy discusses trilingualism

French Immersion Preschool

Today I woke up and realized that I speak three different languages in any one day, that’s crazy! I am a Teaching of French major, so naturally I speak French in my classes. Then, my first language is Spanish, and I am currently in Mexico, so I speak Spanish almost all day. However, I also have some education classes that are in English, so then I speak that.

I feel really blessed to be able to speak these languages, because speaking a language is simply the beginning of understanding and delving into another culture. My time in Mexico, as well the material that I’ve engaged with in my classes at UIC, makes me appreciate my roots to a greater extent, to the point where I now wish to teach Spanish as well as French.

Story Time: Un acte de foi: How I ended up working at a French Immersion Preschool

My name is Susy, and I am a new French peer tutor. I wanted to share the story of how I got a job as an assistant teacher at a French Immersion Preschool last year, to motivate my fellow peers to apply for their dream jobs too. Please bear with me, as it was quite a ride. In the end, I hope this petite anecdote encourages you to take risks!

In February of 2019, I, like any typical college student, had a little meltdown while in school. At the time, I was attending Loyola University, and I was having second thoughts about staying in school. After giving it some thought, I finally decided to take a break, and I withdrew for a semester. Of course, this meant that I had to apply for a job, since unfortunately, we cannot get by without an income, although it would be nice. I had no motivation to apply for jobs, but luckily I have wonderful friends that encouraged me to submit job applications.

I remember looking for jobs on Indeed, an online job search webpage, under the “French” category because this was my major. As I was scrolling, I came across a “Teaching Assistant” position at the French Immersion Preschool and Kindergarten of the North Shore in the suburb of Winnetka. I wasn’t going to apply because I was clearly underqualified; they asked for a fluent French speaker with a preferred Bachelor’s degree, and several years of experience working with children. At the time, I was a “junior” in college, and had been taking French for about six years, but I didn’t think I was fluent. I also had an Associate’s of Arts Degree, but no Bachelor’s. Finally, I had some experience babysitting children and taking two semesters of “preschool lab” in high school. Even though I did not meet the requirements for the job, my friends did what they do best yet again, and forced me to apply because, “you never know what can happen.”

Later that day, I received an email from the Director of the French School asking me to submit a cover letter. At that moment, I remember being really confused because that meant that I was an actual candidate for the job. After my friends told me “I told you so,” and my shock wore off a bit, I created my cover letter and sent it. Again, to my surprise, the Director emailed me back to set up a phone interview, and I was awestruck once again. I set up the interview for the following day, but that’s where the fun ended, or so I thought. The director, Ashlee, and I, spoke in French for about twenty minutes, and my French was extremely choppy. My nerves took over and I blanked. In the end, I managed to save myself from embarrassment and told the director, in English, that I was very passionate about French and that even though I was a bit rusty, I would try my best and I’d be honored to have such an amazing job. I think the desperation in my voice probably convinced her, because I went in for an in-person interview the following day.

The day of the interview, Ashlee and the French School administrator, Heather, greeted me with smiles, and the entretien was off to a good start. We conversed informally about my experience with the French language, travel, and my taste in French music. Then, the real test began. First, they asked if I knew any children’s songs in French, and I said no. Then, they asked about my experience working with children. I reminded them that I was in a program in high school where I taught children under my teacher’s supervision, but it wasn’t anything huge. I also showed them my high school portfolio, and I thought that my high school lesson plan as an intern for French 1 would impress them. Unfortunately, the director flipped through it and showed no real interest, and I knew there was no hope.

Next, they gave me a tour of the school, and took me upstairs. It was here that I had to leave my negative thoughts aside, since they asked me to read them a story as if we were in class with the children. I smiled warmly, sat up straight, and read Le Loup (The Wolf) with enthusiasm. Once I finished, my stomach dropped a little after I saw the sympathetic look on the director’s faces. They told me that you’re not supposed to pronounce the “p” in loup. Fortunately, the directors weren’t too worried about this small mistake, and they told me that I did an excellent job overall. Although, for some reason, I still kept telling myself I wasn’t going to get hired.

Once we were back in the reception area, Ashlee looked at Heather and asked, “So, what do you think?” and Heather replied with an “I think she’s great.” The next thing I knew, I was filling out paperwork and signing contracts. I shook their hands, and I said au revoir and merci as I walked to the car to meet my friend; I was very puzzled. I still couldn’t believe the words that came out of my mouth as I said, “I got the job.”

In the end, I realized that it didn’t matter if my French wasn’t perfect, I at least put in my best effort and I simply needed a small dose of confidence. I was honest about my level of French and it was enough to convince them. Regardless, I ended up learning new French words and phrases by interacting with my students and my native- speaking French coworkers.
My time at the French School was incredibly beneficial, so much so that I came to UIC with more knowledge of the French language and culture. I’ll tell you just how much I learned another time. For now, I leave you with this; take a risk (I’m glad I did), have a little faith in your abilities, and apply for that job! You never know, you might just be the candidate that someone is looking for, and in the end, ça vaut le coup [it’s worth trying]! 🙂

–Susy

12.4.2020 - Juan Reflects on Working as a Spanish Tutor

Juan, Spanish peer tutor

My time here working as a Spanish tutor for the Language and Cultural Learning Center (LCLC) has been an unforgettable experience. When I first applied to the apprenticeship program I had no idea what to expect. At first, I was discouraged from applying because in my mind I didn’t think I was good enough to be tutoring Spanish. However, my time here at LCLC has helped me boost my confidence and has helped me feel more comfortable. Tutoring was something that I didn’t see myself doing here at UIC or in general. I felt like it was a moral obligation to try and help others. Tutoring is very important and different from a typical classroom setting. This is a one-on-one learning experience that the students wouldn’t normally get during class time. During a tutoring session the goal is to make the students feel comfortable and help them understand the given concept. I understand how overwhelming it can be to visit a professor when it comes to asking for help.

Now that I am reflecting on my experience I have to say that tutoring has reinforced my communication and leadership skills. The ability to adapt to certain situations and to not only meet my needs but those of the student as well. This set of skills is important to any profession, whether it involves teaching or not. I highly encourage other language students to consider tutoring with LCLC.

–Juan

12.1.2020 - Sofiya on Parma

Prosciutto

The cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna region, where Parma is located, is full of delicacies. The most famous are the prosciutto di Parma, a kind of cured ham, and Parmesan cheese.

The region is also famous for the world’s highest quality balsamic vinegar, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, produced by only a few producers. Balsamic vinegar is naturally produced. It is simmered and then left to ferment in wooden bowls. The fermentation process ends after 3 years, but for a good balsamic vinegar it takes at least 12 years, and after 30 or even 50 it becomes even better.

Parma Ham is prepared with extraordinary diligence and care. The entire production process is controlled by a special consortium that guarantees compliance with all the requirements that rigorously define the breed of pigs, the feeding method, and the production process itself. The real Parma ham is suitably salted, it ages from 10 to 12 months in a cold room. It can ripen much longer and then acquires an even softer and more subtle taste.

Another famous product is Parmigiano Reggiano: its name derives from the names of the cities of Parma and Reggio, where its production began in the thirteenth century. The name Parmigiano is used only for cheese produced in certain provinces: Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantua, and also Bologna. The milk should come from cows that only eat fresh grass. Parmesan is aged from 10 to 36 months, depending on the ripening period, it is young, old, or very old Parmesan. Each of them has its own application. The young is used as a table cheese, and the old is added to first courses, salads, soups, and sauces.

–Sofiya

11.18.2020- Laurie Introduces the French Speaking Countries of the World

Where is French spoken?

French is the second most spoken language in the world after English. If you count the flags on the picture above, you will see that French is spoken in 29 countries. It’s the only official language for 13 of these countries,  and is the co-official language of the 16 remaining ones. It’s absolutely fascinating to learn about interesting facts about the cuisine, the traditions, the natural resources, the history, and the overall culture of each country as they are all very unique. During the last two weeks, I searched through the internet and found some interesting facts about each of these “francophone” (French-speaking) countries to educate myself on the diversity of the French-speaking world. Now, I would like to share these facts with you all. For example, did you know that Equatorial Guinea has had the same president since 1979? Or that France has several overseas departments and regions under its sovereignty outside of Europe? Or that Haiti was the first country in the western hemisphere to gain its independence and abolish slavery, in 1804? If you want to read more about those all the French-speaking countries, check out LCLC Peer Tutoring Instagram (@lclc_peer_tutoring)!

–Laurie

11.12.2020 - Valeria's Pan de Muerto Recipe for Día de Muertos

Valeria's pan de muerto

In Mexican tradition, every year on November 2nd, Día de Muertos is celebrated. It is tradition to celebrate this day with a traditional sweet bread called Pan de Muerto. Growing up in Zacatecas, Mexico, my family and I would typically attend our religious mass in honor of the family members that have passed, we would go out “trick or treating” and eat a delicious pan de muerto with a tasty hot chocolate.

After arriving in Chicago, we were longing for a Mexican bakery that would sell pan de muerto to satisfy our cravings. We eventually found one, but their pan de muerto did not compare to the deliciousness of our childhood and on top of that it was quite expensive. Just recently, with the help of glorious internet and youtube, I decided to look up recipes to make it myself. I finally gathered the energy to make it and it turned out surprisingly good for being my first time trying it! I can proudly say that I did it all by myself and surprised my family with the results. Now we are ready to celebrate Día de Muertos with a sabroso pan de muerto! Just like in the good ol’ days!

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:
4 cups of all purpose flour
¾ cup of sugar
3 yolks
3 large eggs
11 g of yeast
11 tablespoons of butter
½ cup of warm milk
The zest of an orange

Preparation for the sponge:
In a medium size bowl, pour the 11g of yeast, 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour, a tablespoon of sugar and the ½ cup of warm milk. Mix well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place the bowl aside in a warm place for approximately 20 minutes or until you see a “sponge-like” consistency has formed and it is no longer liquidy.

Pan de muerto preparation:
– In a strong and uniform surface, pour the 4 cups of flour and create a sort of volcano crater-like dip in the middle.
– At the bottom of the volcano pour the ¾ cup of sugar surrounding it.
– In the little crater you just formed, pour the sponge you had previously set aside. Slowly, pour the eggs and yolks one by one into the crater and mix them with the sponge.
– At this point, get ready to knead your dough for more than 40 minutes. Start incorporating little by little more and more flour into the mix of the sponge and eggs.
– After a long process of incorporating all the flour and kneading the dough with as much strength as you can, add the 11 tablespoons of butter. It is easier if you cut it up in little squares. Keep kneading. After a few minutes, add the zest of an orange and knead your dough for a few more minutes until it no longer sticks to the surface or your hands.
– Place your dough in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap and put it aside for approximately an hour for fermentation. After that period of time your dough should now be double its original size.
– Place your dough on a surface and give it a baguette-like form. Then cut it up in however many pieces of pan de muerto you’d like, leaving one piece aside for the making of the bones. For each piece, give it a round form and place them in a tray with a baking sheet.
– For the bones, give them a cylindrical shape and roll them to give it a twisted shape.
– Place your bones on top of your pan de muerto creating an “X.”
– Preheat your oven to 350° F and leave your pan de muerto in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. Once you see they are turning into a slight brown color, they are ready to be taken out of the oven.
– Place them aside so they cool down. Once they’ve cooled down, cover them with melted butter and sprinkle them with sugar. Mine came out looking like the ones in the video, see the picture on the left. Try it yourself

And you’re done! Your traditional pan de muerto is ready to be enjoyed!

Recipe source and pictures:

Jauja Cocina Mexicana Youtube Channel – Pan de muerto tradicional

–Valeria M. M.

11.11.2020 - Ella reviews "Durante la tormenta" (2018 film)

Durante la tormenta

Durante la tormenta (The Mirage) is a Spanish movie that was made in 2018. It’s the perfect movie that explores what would happen if you were to make a decision that could change the entire course of your life. As one woman makes a choice, she unwittingly sets off a chain of events in her past which in turn creates a parallel universe that she now must navigate and fight so she can get back to her family before her alternate reality becomes her only reality.

The movie begins by introducing the main character, Vera Roy, who works as a nurse in neurosurgery. She has just moved into a new house in present-day Madrid with her husband and daughter; the former inhabitants were a little boy and his mother. While clearing up the attic, Vera and her husband find an old television and camera set that belonged to this little boy. It was explained to them after they moved in that 25 years prior during an electrical storm, the boy had witnessed his neighbor committing a crime and in an effort to stop his neighbor, ran into the street, was hit by a car, and died. Haunted by his fate, Vera decides to watch some of the tapes in the collection that came with the television set late one night when, through a time portal caused by the electrical storm, the camera mysteriously turns on and she is able to communicate with the boy at the exact moment before his death. She urges him not to go outside no matter what he sees his neighbor doing because if he does he will not live past that night. The boy hesitantly listens to Vera and avoids the accident, which creates a butterfly effect and completely alters Vera’s life. Suddenly, she finds herself in a different house and a different reality in which she is a single surgeon rather than a nurse with a family.

Desperate to recover her family and old life before the electrical storm passes, Vera seeks out the television set to leave the boy a different message that won’t have such drastic effects all the while contacting the man who she was married to but who no longer recognizes her. She gets hunted by the police and is branded as insane and delusional, but she sticks to her guns and holds out hope for her old reality while realizing it wasn’t all that it seemed. In a beautiful plot full of surprises and little intricacies, Durante la tormenta presents a beautiful dialogue and mini montages that all click into place at the very end of the movie in a satisfying full-circle twist. Originally filmed in Spanish, it is available on Netflix with English subtitles.

–Ella

10.29.2020 - Maria on el día de los muertos

Day of the Dead

From Oct. 31st to Nov. 2nd every year, el día de los muertos is celebrated. This is a celebration that is traced back to the Aztecs and Mayas. Over 3,000 years, ago this celebration was in honor of Mictecacihuatl “lady of the dead.” After the Spanish conquest, this indigenous tradition was combined with the Catholic celebrations of All Saint’s Day and All Souls’ day. Together both traditions became what today is known as el día de los muertos. Even though this tradition originated in Mexico, over the years it has been continued in the US and other countries in Latin America.

Planning for el día de los muertos can begin up to a month before. The biggest preparation that takes place is the making of el altar. It all begins by choosing a special place where the altar will be set up. The altar can be as big or small as a family chooses. After choosing a location, the main piece needed is a table. To add height and levels you can use cardboard boxes or baskets, stacked on top of each other. Once the table is set with as many levels as wanted, it is covered with a table cloth or piece of fabric, to create a plain canvas. Now the decorating begins,this is what is known as las ofrendas or the offerings for the spirits. The altar can be in honor of a single deceased family member or in honor of all family members that have passed. To decorate the altar you need a picture or pictures of deceased family members, candles, water, cempasuchil flowers (Mexican marigolds), and any items that the person loved along with their favorite foods.

Candles

Candles are meant to light up the altar and welcome the spirits back to the living world.

Water

Water has different meanings. The main reason is to help refresh the souls during their journey. It is also meant to symbolize the purity of the souls.

Cempasuchil

The altar can be decorated with real or paper flowers. Cempasuchil is a flower traditionally used for its bright orange color and strong scent. Both the bright colors and potent scents are said to help guide the spirits back to the living word.

Food

Pan de muerto (Bread of the dead) is traditionally a round loaf of bread with sugar paste symbols. The bones are said to represent the deceased that is being remembered, and the symbol of tears is said to be the crying of the goddess Chimalmas for the living.

Mole is one of the most popular foods seen on altars. It doesn’t have a spiritual meaning aside from it being one the most traditional Mexican dishes, and it being a symbol of the mixing of indigenous and Spanish people (mestizaje).

For those who are able to visit the tombs of their loved ones the celebration begins on Oct. 31st. This day is dedicated to the souls of the children that have passed. On this day the tomb of the child is decorated, the decorations for the most part are small. They include small flowers, toys, small pan de muertos, candles and their favorite food or candy. In the days to follow the celebration expands to all the other sourls. The tombs are decorated with flowers, candles, food, and pictures. El día de los muertos is a celebration, those that can will stay in the cemetery the night of Nov. 1st, as if once again having dinner with their deceased family members.

The celebration of el día de los muertos varies depending on the place a person lives. Some go all out and have parties and some just have small family gatherings. Locally in many of or Latino/Hispanic communities a mass is held in honor of the spirits. Celebrations are held as a community by building communal altars or more intimately in homes. Whichever tradition is followed it has the same purpose, to remember all the loved ones that have passed and ensure that they are remembered throughout generations.

–Maria

10.21.2020 - Nikki's tips on baking vanilla macarons

Macarons by Nikki

Even though this year has not been ideal, the persistence of remote learning this semester enables us to continue onward in the kitchen. For most of my blog posts last term, I rekindled the spirit of Julia Child and prepared some recipes from her famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This semester I thought it would be fun to bake a few staples of French culture (I’m obligated to after having watched 3 seasons of The Next Great Baker this past summer).

Whereas the French national motto is liberty, equality, and fraternity, their culinary motto is more like cheese, bread, and cookies. A type of cookie that the French are famous for is the macaron, a meringue-based sandwich cookie that can be made in an assortment of flavors. Now don’t get it twisted with a macaroon, which is that small coconut cookie that looks delectable but is, in my opinion, regrettable and ultimately inferior to the macaron. However, the history of the macaron is actually a bit disappointing; It is believed that macarons actually originated in 8th century Italy where they were also known as “priests’ belly buttons” (we won’t dwell on this image). Anyway, one Saturday morning I decided to make three types of macarons. I understand now that my ambition clouded my judgement, especially considering I never made a macaron in my life. I found recipes for chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry online.

For the sake of concision and simplicity, I will outline the vanilla macaron recipe. This is a good gateway recipe to all things macaron. Once you’ve mastered this one, you can level up to fancier macarons.

For vanilla macarons make sure you have the following ingredients:

For the Macaron Shells:
¾ cup almond flour, sifted
1 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
2 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Buttercream Filling:
¼ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup + 2 Tb confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp milk
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

A few notes regarding the ingredients:
– This cookie is all vanilla, so if you can, make sure to use pure vanilla extract as opposed to artificial vanilla flavoring. There are few ingredients in this cookie so the difference may be noticeable.
– It is VERY IMPORTANT that your egg whites are at room temperature! Prepare your egg whites in a bowl a few hours before you plan on making the cookies to ensure this. Many macaron recipes will even want you to age your egg whites overnight in the fridge, but this is unnecessary for this recipe.
– Almond flour is naturally clumpy. Sift your almond flour thoroughly to avoid lumpy macarons (I was a culprit of this).

Onward with the cookies!
Instructions for Macaron Shells:
1. In a bowl, combine the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar and whisk. Sift the entire mixture and press on clumps.
2. In another bowl, use a hand or stand mixer on medium speed to beat the egg whites until soft peaks form (about 2 minutes). Add the granulated sugar and beat on high until harder/glossy peaks form (about 2 more minutes).
3. Add the vanilla extract and continue beating for 30 seconds.
4. Fold in the dry ingredients, gently*. The mixture should have the consistency of lava with no visible dry ingredients left.
5. Fit a pastry bag with a ½ inch tip. OR-cut the tip off of a ziploc bag and use this as a makeshift pastry bag!
6. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper and pipe the batter into ¾-inch rounds**.
7. At this point, there could be air bubbles in the shells. Lightly tap the baking sheets against the counter to release the air.
8. Let the shells stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes so they can form a skin. This is so that you end up with cookies that are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
9. Preheat the oven to 325°F and bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes. Rotate them halfway.
10. Let cool for 5 minutes and transfer to a wire rack until completely cool.

While the cookies are cooling, prepare the filling.
Instructions for the Buttercream Filling (the love of my life):
1. Use a hand mixer to cream the butter until smooth
2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla extract and mix and light, fluffy, delicious, and a bit dangerous (kidding).
Make the Macarons!
1. Once the macarons are cooled and you have the buttercream ready, prepare a piping bag with a tip/ziploc bag with some buttercream filling.
2. Pipe a swirl of filling on half the shells.
3. Sandwich the buttercream with the other half of the shells.

Voilà!

*If you are too aggressive and overfold, the macarons will be runny and lose shape.
**For help with piping the shells, try watching the following video: “How to pipe macarons”

I definitely do not recommend attempting three kinds of macarons in one sitting as I did. I started at 9:00am and wasn’t eating them until 3:00pm. The chocolate macarons were my personal favorite, but then again I’m also a diagnosed chocoholic. If you are only interested in flavored macarons, the cool thing about this recipe is that you can just add any flavor you want! Try adding some strawberry/lemon/mint extract or melted baker’s chocolate to your shell mixture. This recipe is great because it’s basic but also personalizable.

Happy baking and bon appétit !

–Nikki

10.20.2020 - Juan on Bilingual Life in the U.S.

Juan's family at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico)

My parents immigrated to the United States for a better life for my siblings and me. When they arrived in Chicago from Guadalajara, Mexico, they spoke little to no English. Growing up my parents always told me that the first step for success in this country was to learn the dominant language, English. Spanish was encouraged to be spoken at home. I’m grateful that during elementary school my teachers were bilingual and made my life much easier. However, I never truly felt confident speaking English with others. I never really had anyone to practice my English with, my sister was too little and my older brother had no motivation for learning the language.

Growing up my family from Mexico have always told me that I’m too “gringo” and that my Spanish is broken. Meanwhile, my friends in the United States have told me that I have an accent when speaking English. I’ve always been self conscious about the way I pronounce words. 

Nevertheless, I didn’t let this bother me and now I’m more confident when speaking in front of both family and friends. A quote that has always resonated with me is from the movie Selena (1997), “Mexican-American is tough, Anglos jump all over you if you don’t speak english perfectly. Mexicans jump all over you if you don’t speak Spanish perfectly. We have to be TWICE as perfect…”

When I started at UIC, I decided to take Spanish because I felt that there was still so much to learn. My parents told me that I was wasting my time since I already “know” the language. However, in reality I went in knowing only a bit. Research shows that heritage speakers are more efficient with oral than with written tasks. In other words, they speak more fluently than they write. I feel like this is true because second language learners began learning Spanish in a class setting. Meanwhile, heritage speakers grow up listening to the language and may not have sufficient grammatical knowledge when it comes to writing. My experience in UIC classes has been challenging but rewarding.

So growing up bilingual has also been beneficial. It has offered me many opportunities, both socially and professionally. It has allowed me to make friends with other people from different Spanish speaking countries other than Mexico. Oddly enough, video games have been a gateway for me to interact with other spanish speaking people and to make online friends. I took a summer trip to Bogota, Colombia two years ago with some friends and the fact that we all knew Spanish made the trip more enjoyable. My family and I visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and met a lot of people from Central America, they were telling us their stories as to why they decided to make the trip. I had the opportunity to work at Rush Hospital and was able to translate for families that didn’t speak English and needed help communicating with medical staff. 

Now I am a Spanish peer tutor and helping other UIC students learn Spanish! I have been working with the program for two semesters now and it has been a blast. Although I’m yet to have a student visit my session I feel prepared to help with their needs. Being bilingual sparked my passion for languages and I am currently learning Portuguese at UIC. I encourage others to take a couple minutes of their day to learn a new word or phrase in a different language. Learning a language is a beautiful thing and it opens up many opportunities in life. 

–Juan

10.14.2020 - Jordan on Her German Experience

Jordan and her group

Hi! My name is Jordan, I am a German peer Tutor and I am here to share my foreign language experience in my life and why I stuck with German all this time! I started speaking German technically when I was in K4. I am from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and my parents enrolled me in a German Elementary school there. They chose that school with the help of my grandparents who were teachers in the Milwaukee Public School System. They knew the school system well enough and German Immersion ended up being the best and closest option. I was only in the school until 1st grade so really only enough time to learn the basics. I could count, tell you the colors of the rainbow, say my ABC’s and that was about it. I changed schools and couldn’t take a language until 7th grade. Once we got to 7th grade we got to choose a language and even though I had only done it for a few short years, I really enjoyed German and wanted to continue.

Once I started German again I still had some things back in my brain but it only kept me ahead for so long . I really enjoyed the language and was always looking to learn more, a really cool experience I had that allowed me to grow in a very short period of time was the big eighth grade German field trip. We went to Bemidji Minnesota and went to Waldsee in the Concordia Language villages. It was a week filled with German speaking, German food, German music and so much more. The constant German speaking and meeting other kids from other schools in the area was so much fun and I was extremely upset once the weekend was over.

I then went on to high school and continued in the German program, my mom’s rule for us from 7th grade through high school was that we had to be in one foreign language and one music class. I continued German honestly because I had already started and didn’t feel like learning a new language. I had times where I contemplated quitting but I stuck through mainly so I could get to the GAPP trip. GAPP is the German American Partnership Program and I was overjoyed once I got the note saying I had been accepted in the group. I got a partner named Gizem, she lived over in Fulda, Germany, I messaged her instantly. Gizem’s family is Turkish which made for a bit of an interesting trip because her parents didn’t speak English or very much German. It was a struggle but I made it through my stay with Gizem as a translator most of the time. The fall of my Junior year our partners all came from Germany and stayed with us for two weeks. We were all so excited to show them around our town of Wauwatosa and bring them with us throughout the school day. We would go back and forth between speaking German and English and it was almost like having another sibling around for two weeks straight.

Once they left we had to wait until the following summer to be able to see them again. Once the second semester ended we got on a bus to the airport and flew to Germany to meet up with our partners again. We were there for three, while we were there we stayed with our partners for two weeks and spent one week on a bus driving around Germany and Switzerland. We went to Rothenburg which is known as the “Medieval Walled City’, Oberammergau, Munich and many more cities as well. During these weeks we were challenged because we had a lot of time walking around on our own. We were forced to use our German and that really helped us to do better conversationally. I’ve kept with German since and decided to take it on as a major and love how there is always more for me to learn.

Throughout my time learning German I have had mostly good experiences but I have also had a few times where I wanted to quit and just stick to English. If I had done that I would not be where I am today as far as my major, being Germanic Studies and a second major in Marketing, having the friends I have and still talk both from my high school and over in Germany, the world travel experience I have etc. I am also a German Peer Tutor here at UIC! German has opened so many doors for me and I really believe there is so much more to come as well. I am still deciding what specifically I want to do with my majors but, I can’t wait to see what comes in my future because of my choice to continue on in German.

–Jordan

10.9.2020- Laurie, French Tutor, with a Fried Plantain Recipe!

Laurie's Fried Plantain

How to cook Fried Plantain
Comment préparer des bananes pesées

In this blog I will explain how I make a very simple but amazing side dish known as Fried plantain (Haitian style). It is a very popular side dish in the Caribbean. In Haiti for example, we call this bananes pesées (a l’Haitienne) and in Haitien Creole it’s bannann peze and you can find it at every restaurant and people even sell them on the streets. There are two types of plantain that you can use for this recipe. You can either use the green plantain which would be salty or the yellow plantain which would be sweet (refer to the image above to see the difference). The taste and the texture of both of the plantain is different once fried as you can see on the pictures above.

Ingredients and tools needed (for 1 person):

– 1 plantain (green plantain)
– Oil (enough to dip fry the plantains)
– Salted water (~ a cup, Haitians like to add other spices on the water)
– A plantain press (if you don’t have one you can use the back of a bowl or a plate as long as it’s flat)
– A medium or large size pan
– A plate

Instructions:

1- First, you need to peel the plantain. After that you will cut it diagonally into 4-5 pieces (it all depends on the size of the plantain).
2- Pour the oil into the pan
3- When the oil is hot, carefully place the pieces of plantain in the pan and let them fry until they are ready. To check if they are ready to be removed from the hot oil, pierce one of the pieces with a fork and if it goes in easily it is ready.)

4- Once they are done, lower the volume of the oven, remove the plantains from the pan and place them on the plate.
5- Press each piece with the plantain press (or the back of the plate) until they become flat but not too flat or it will break. Dip them all in the salted water for a few minutes.
6- Finally, turn the heat back up on high then gently add the flat pieces of plantain into the hot oil. Once both sides of the plantain turn golden brown, they are ready to be removed from the pan. Place a paper towel on the plate then put the plantains on it.
7- They are ready to be served! You can sprinkle salt and pepper on top if you’d like.

*If you are using the yellow plantain there are some modifications that you have to make in the recipe:
A – cut the plantain into 7-8 smaller pieces (step 1)
B – don’t press the plantains and don’t dip them in the salted water (step 5) .*

–Laurie

9.16.2020- Laurie, French Tutor, and her First Semester of Online Tutoring

Laurie

Hello everyone, my name is Laurie and this is my first blog for the semester.  I am excited today to talk about my experience tutoring French online for the first time in Fall 2020.

As all of you know, most UIC classes are being taught remotely this semester and so is peer tutoring. Throughout the summer I was thinking about how tutoring was going to be so different this semester and one of my colleagues and I talked about our fears for this semester but also our hopes. One of these hopes was to have many tutees come to our sessions. Both of us started tutoring for French a few years ago and our aim as tutors was and still is, to help UIC students who are taking French classes. We want to share with them our love for the French and Francophone cultures and the French language. Also, we want to give them some tips that helped us when we were learning French for the first time.

During my shifts, I like to do research on francophone cultures around the world and post them on the UIC LCLC Peer Tutoring instagram ( follow us @lclc_peer_tutoring). Last week, I was working on some instagram posts about the Republic of Togo when I suddenly heard someone say “hello” through my headphones. It was almost the end of my shift so I did not expect any students to come that day (which is the reason why I was very surprised). I was very nervous but so excited at the same time. I felt the same as I felt when I first started tutoring. During the last 10 to 15 min of my shift, the student and I worked on a homework assignment for their Fr 104 class.

Both of our cameras were off and we did not physically meet like I usually met the tutees in the previous semesters in GH 305 but we had a good exchange about what the student wanted to work on, and overall the session went well. I was very happy to be able to help this student.

I cannot wait to virtually meet and work with more French students this semester!!!  Here are the links to the Online tutoring schedule for all languages:

French

German

Spanish

–Laurie

5.4.2020 - Nikki on Cooking Casserole-Roasted Chicken

Nikki

Bonjour, ça fait longtemps! A little French comfort food, anyone? In honor of the final week of the semester, I decided to celebrate my love for French culture by preparing a traditional roast chicken recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

First and foremost, it must be said that bacon, butter, and potatoes is the greatest combination to ever grace the palette. I blame this obsession on my Lithuananian heritage, though I think that most people can agree that it’s hard to go wrong with a dish that includes these elements.

Detour: if any are interested in a traditional Lithuanian dish (which is pretty much always equivalent to a preparation of bacon, butter, and potatoes), search a recipe for Kugelis and na štai! *Do not dare forget to top it off with some sour cream.

This week’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking is “Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme” (see below) which roughly translates to “good wife casserole-roasted chicken” or “housewife chicken”…interesting, not sure how I feel about that one. Moving on- this recipe was a major step for me, considering that most of the ‘roast’ chicken I eat is conveniently found in the frozen aisle at the grocery store where it is often decorated with the word “Banquet” on lovely red packaging. Now, just because I’ve recently been attempting to cook real food does not mean that I’m breaking up with my TV dinners! That relationship is long-lasting and I refuse to ultimately betray the questionable frozen food that has sustained me for the length of my college experience thus far.

Scroll down for the recipe!

So when it was time to start cooking on Thursday night, my mom was very amused with the idea of me preparing a legitimate entree. She quite literally sat down at the table with a glass of wine to watch me struggle, claiming that she had to witness my first time cleaning a whole chicken. I have to be honest, I expected that the chicken came oven-ready (blame it on my extensive experience with frozen foods), so I was a little taken-aback when I had to pull out the giblets. All was well though, and I washed the chicken like a seasoned professional.

As you could probably tell, there was a lot of preparation for what seemed like a simple roast chicken. Anxious as I was though, it turned out edible and I even received compliments from my dad (who’s a harsh critic). Though I also realized that after preparing dinner for 2 hours, I had grown tired of looking at the food and didn’t want to eat it. You win some and you lose some, I guess. I also learned a few things that will be useful in my future chicken quests, including that I cannot peel a potato for my life. I believe I was standing at the garbage can hacking at the same potato for nearly 15 minutes when my mom had to swoop in to save the day (the big guns). I am not exaggerating when I say that that woman peeled fifteen potatoes in the time it took me to peel one. If it wasn’t for her, I would probably still be peeling potatoes 3 days later (reference Spongebob image). I also learned that apparently I despise bay leaf. Even though I only added one bay leaf to each herb bouquet, it was too overpowering and took away some of the bacon flavor (would recommend leaving this ingredient out). Though it was still tasty, I will not be making this again in the near future; perhaps I would do better with a simpler chicken that I can unwrap and throw in the microwave.

Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme

Ingredients

½ lb chunk of bacon

Casserole for the chicken

1 Tb butter

A 3 lb whole chicken, trussed and buttered

20 peeled white onions (pearl onions)

1 to 1 ½ lbs. small new potatoes

3 Tb butter

¼ tsp salt

2 small herb bouquets: parsley, bay leaf, and thyme

A bulb baster

Aluminum foil

Cover for the casserole

Remove the whole chicken from packaging and pull out the giblets. Wash the chicken thoroughly with cold water.

Prepare the pearl onions by boiling them in water for 30 seconds, and then quickly submerge them in ice-water. Holding the onion by the stem, pinch the onion so that it slips out of the skin. Boil the onions in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain the water and set the onions aside in a bowl.

Cut the bacon into small rectangular pieces (½ inch by 1 ½ inches). In 2 quarts of water, simmer the bacon pieces. After 10 minutes of simmering, rinse the bacon with cold water, dry, and then saute it in butter for 3-5 minutes (in the casserole). Remove the bacon and place it in a side dish for later use.

Using the leftover bacon fat in the casserole, brown both sides of the chicken. Remove it to another side dish and wipe out the grease from the casserole. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Peel the new potatoes and cut into halves/quarters. Place them in a pot of cold water and use medium-high heat to bring to a boil. Drain the water and set potatoes to the side.

Melt the 3 Tb butter in the casserole so it is foaming and add the potatoes. Spread them in the butter for about 2 minutes. Push one half of the potatoes to one side of the casserole and the second half to the other side of the casserole. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and place it in the casserole, breast up. Cover the potatoes with the bacon and the onions, with one herb bouquet on one side of the casserole and the other on the opposite side. With the baster, coat all of the casserole’s contents with butter. Cover the chicken with aluminum foil and place the casserole cover on. Heat the casserole on the stove until everything is sizzling and then remove the cover to roast in the center of the oven for 80 minutes (or until golden brown). Remove the casserole and baste the chicken and contents with more butter and the juices in the pot. Bon appetit!

So when it was time to start cooking on Thursday night, my mom was very amused with the idea of me preparing a legitimate entree. She quite literally sat down at the table with a glass of wine to watch me struggle, claiming that she had to witness my first time cleaning a whole chicken. I have to be honest, I expected that the chicken came oven-ready (blame it on my extensive experience with frozen foods), so I was a little taken-aback when I had to pull out the giblets. All was well though, and I washed the chicken like a seasoned professional.

As you could probably tell, there was a lot of preparation for what seemed like a simple roast chicken. Anxious as I was though, it turned out edible and I even received compliments from my dad (who’s a harsh critic). Though I also realized that after preparing dinner for 2 hours, I had grown tired of looking at the food and didn’t want to eat it. You win some and you lose some, I guess. I also learned a few things that will be useful in my future chicken quests, including that I cannot peel a potato for my life. I believe I was standing at the garbage can hacking at the same potato for nearly 15 minutes when my mom had to swoop in to save the day (the big guns). I am not exaggerating when I say that that woman peeled fifteen potatoes in the time it took me to peel one. If it wasn’t for her, I would probably still be peeling potatoes 3 days later (reference Spongebob image). I also learned that apparently I despise bay leaf. Even though I only added one bay leaf to each herb bouquet, it was too overpowering and took away some of the bacon flavor (would recommend leaving this ingredient out). Though it was still tasty, I will not be making this again in the near future; perhaps I would do better with a simpler chicken that I can unwrap and throw in the microwave.

Et c’est tout folks! In these brief reviews, I hope I was able to provide a little taste of French culture along with some useful recipes to try at home. I will be continuing to cook with Julia Child over the summer so that, hopefully, I won’t depend (as much) on TV dinners next semester. Keep in mind that through cooking and reading, you can travel to France within your own home. Bon été et bon appétit!

Child, J., Bertholle, L., & Beck, S. (2001). Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Distributed by Random House. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

–Nikki

5.4.2020 - Laurie on French and Haitian Creole

Laurie

My name is Laurie, I was born in the United States but I grew up in Haiti and spent 16 years of my life there. I moved to Chicago four years ago when I was about to turn 17 years old.

In Haiti there are two official languages French and Haitian Creole, these languages are my first two languages and the languages I feel the most comfortable speaking especially when I’m upset. I think I get this from my parents, they would always switch from French to Creole, Creole to French or from English to Creole whenever they were upset. After speaking to many students at UIC, I realized that my parents are not the only one switching between languages when they are upset. Many people who speak multiple languages do that, I think it’s because it’s easier or more comfortable to express their emotions in their mother tongue.

Although I went to schools with French programs most of my life (from first grade to Junior year in high school), I was required to learn English and Spanish in addition to French and Creole growing up. When I was learning these two languages I was able to find some similarities between Spanish and French but I was more focused on “mastering” my English because I knew I would have to come back to the US to go to college. My language learning journey has not been easy for these languages because (besides being very unique) each language has its own complexity. However, it’s a journey worth taking.

Not too long ago, I would always feel embarrassed when speaking English because I knew that my accent was strong and different. The first year when I came back to the US to pursue my education, I would never speak to anyone in class because I was scared that people would laugh at my accent or that I would say something wrong which I thought would make the students make fun of me. I was wrong to think like this. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t the only one with an accent, that it was okay to have an accent when you are not speaking your native language and that I shouldn’t be ashamed of mine because it tells people a little bit about my story as an Haitian-American. Now that I understand the meaning of having an accent and the benefits that it can have, I take the opportunity to talk to people about where I’m from and everything positive I think about my country every time someone asks me “I love your accent, where are you from” or “I love your accent, what languages you speak”. I was fortunate enough to travel to Guatemala a few years ago and practice my Spanish a little bit. Although I am still not fluent in Spanish like I am in English, French and Creole, I can say that learning all these languages have been a great opportunity and a huge blessing because I was able to connect with many people around the world and see the beauty in each language.

–Laurie

5.1.2020 - Andrea on Tips and Farewell

Andrea Bitmoji

Today is my last day as a UIC undergraduate student. It’s a little sad but also exciting. However, I am not leaving without sharing a little bit of my wisdom. I will be receiving my Bachelors in Spanish with a concentration in Hispanic Studies. Thus, I have taken language classes at UIC for the last four years! Here are a few tips on how to succeed in language classes:

  1. Practice: Practice, Practice, Practice! I can’t stress this enough, practice! During my time at UIC I took Spanish classes and Portuguese. Although I am a native Spanish speaker, my Spanish is not perfect so I tried to expose myself to the language as much as possible. I started listening to more music in Spanish and watched more TV in Spanish as well (Check out our Instagram page  for movie and TV show recommendations). For Portuguese, I downloaded the Duolingo app and kept practicing there. Practicing is important because it can help you understand a language more and be exposed to other elements such as pronunciation.
  2. DO ALL OF YOUR HOMEWORK!: Yes, really, do your homework! For some language classes, homework assignments make up a decent percent of your grade. If you start missing some of your assignments, you’ll see your grade start to take a dip. Don’t be lazy and do your homework – those are pretty easy points to earn!
  3. Participate in class: Some language classes grade participation others don’t, regardless try to participate. If you participate you’ll be more engaged and more likely to retain the information and you’ll be practicing (ehmm point #1)
  4. Study for exams: Try to review material before your exams. Whether that’s in a study group or independently, whatever works for you.
  5. Have fun: And lastly have fun or at least try to. Some of you are learning a new language and others might be learning a language in more of an academic setting, either way both scenarios can be stressful so I advise you to try and have fun during this process because it’s a new experience and always try to make the best out of new experiences for better results.

I hope you guys follow some of this advice. I might be a little biased about language classes being fun because I am a language major but I can assure you these tips will be very helpful. Good luck in the rest of your UIC journey!

–Andrea

4.29.2020 - Laurie, French peer tutor, on majoring in French

Haiti

My name is Laurie, I am a Junior at UIC and I grew up in a country located in the carribean called Haiti (Ayiti), where Creole and French are the two official languages.

Multiple times I get asked questions like: “What made you want to become a French peer Tutor?”, “Why are you majoring in French and Francophone studies when it’s already one of your native languages?”, “Why French, why now, why here”?

The answer to all of these questions is simple: I love French, I love learning about the numerous Francophone countries around the world, I love helping people and one of my dreams is to work as a dentist in a francophone country. When I first became a French peer tutor back in 2019, I was very anxious because I feared not being able to explain well enough the questions that the tutees would have because sometimes it is very difficult to explain something that you just know or something that you have learned a long time ago. Although I had this concern, I was always very excited to work with the students and talk to them about the francophone country I grew up in.

I’ve been tutoring for a while now, and I can see how my journey as a French tutor has improved. I am more comfortable and I have developed a relationship with the majority of the students. Most of them come back multiple times throughout the semester and it’s always a pleasure to see their faces and help them with whatever they need help with. I have also built a relationship with other peer language tutors who also love the language they are tutoring and have the same goals as me — to show how unique and beautiful each language is, to help them succeed in their language classes and to show them that learning a languages at UIC can be really fun and useful. My journey as a peer tutor has been absolutely amazing so far, it’s important to help others and I want to do so as a peer tutor with UIC students.

–Laurie

4.23.2020 - Maria on Spanish across Fields

Nikki Blog

I am a Criminology, Law, and Justice major with a minor in Spanish. I desire to work for Federal Law Enforcement whether it be the FBI, DEA, or Border Patrol. Being a fluent Spanish and English speaker allows me to be better qualified for positions in these fields due to the daily interaction agents have with people from all cultures. In this day and age there are many career paths language is able to open up for you.

There are 53 million Spanish speakers, 41 million native Spanish speakers, and 11.6 million bilingual Spanish speakers living in the United States. Because of this expansion of Spanish in the country some jobs have added a requirement for their employees to be bilingual (Spanish and English speakers). Knowing more than one language helps a person become more culturally aware but also opens the doors for better positions in the workforce.

Forming part of UIC allows students to embrace a diversity of cultures and languages from all over the world and allows for students to develop skills that will open up careers for them. Learning more than one language helps a person stand out when applying for a job, especially today where English is no longer the predominant language in the Chicago area.
10 Jobs that require Spanish speaking skills:

– Teacher
– Interpreter/ Translator
– Customer Service Representative
– Sales Professional
– Medical Professional
– Law Enforcement Professional
– Social Worker
– Writer
– Administrative Assistant/Receptionist
– Teller/Personal Banker

–Maria

Kreisa, Meredith. “Have You Tried Applying for These 10 Jobs That Require Spanish Language Skills?” FluentU Spanish, 9 Mar. 2019. www.fluentu.com/blog/spanish/jobs-that-require-spanish/
Scamman, Kimberly. “Spanish Speakers in the United States (Infographic).” Telelanguage, 24 Feb. 202. https://telelanguage.com/spanish-speakers-united-states-infographic/

4.22.2020 - David on the French Festival of Music

David Blog

The French Festival of Music takes place in June all over France, and even in neighboring countries since 1982.  The streets come alive with music, including bands, singers, musicians, drummers, DJs and more. There are stages set up along the streets and in public plazas, and even along the river Seine.

This is a great time to see French street musicians and other performance artists. One of my favorites, French singer Zaz, started out as a street musician of this type and is now quite well known throughout French and across Europe.  She cites Edith Piaf as a major influence, putting a modern spin on the typical French folk singer vibe.

The musicians you may see at these festivals play a variety of music including traditional French music, jazz, soul, hip-hop, world music, and more.  There will often be performance artists such as interpretive dancers, live statues, artists, dancers, jugglers, and more.

One of the best things is that there are often discounts on public transportation, making it easy to get around the city and see this music. There are lots of street food vendors, in case you get hungry amongst all of the wandering and listening. You can try fresh crepes, other French street food, and even food inspired by other Francophone countries throughout the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East.

Some artists of these genres that I like besides Zaz include: Renaud, Renan Luce, La Caravane Passe, Zoufris Maracas, and Toofan. You can find any of these artists on YouTube. Most are singer-songwriters, “gypsy-jazz”, or North African influenced jazz/hip-hop/pop/folk music.

The main website includes a schedule of events including Festival of Music events taking place across the world. This is a great opportunity to experience the culture of French speaking people even outside of France.  However, with public gatherings for the summer a little up-in-the-air at the moment, you can find out about how to participate from home by visiting the Make Music website, in case some of the main events are cancelled publicly.

–David

4.16.2020 - Nikki on Cooking Crepes

cookbook and crepes on the counter; crepe in a skillet

C’est presque le week-end tout le monde!

This week I couldn’t help but make a classic French dish from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Child, Bertholle, Beck 191): pâte à crêpes (crepes). I’ve eaten plenty of crepes before, but this will have been my first time making them; and what better than to follow the directions of the master chef herself? For those interested, here is a link to another online crepe recipe that was inspired by Child’s rendition: French Crêpe Recipe

Crepe Batter:
1 cup cold water
1 cup cold milk
4 eggs
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups flour
4 Tb melted butter
Crepe pan or skillet

Mix all of the above (in an electric mixer or by hand), starting with the water, milk, eggs, and salt. Then mix in flour and butter. It takes all of 5 minutes to prepare this crepe batter!

The ingredients, I realized, were pretty basic and can probably already be found in most pantries: water, milk, eggs, salt, flour, and butter (Julia Child worshipped butter, like us all). Unless someone out there has sold their soul to the art of crepe-making, a crepe pan is NOT necessary! Although they can be cute and pretty, you just need a skillet, preferably iron. After mixing the batter, its consistency should be like a watery pancake batter. If it is too heavy, the crepes will come out thick and chunky and no one wants that, not even your grandparents.

Now for the hardest part: trying to tame the elements. The first crepe should always be a trial. The heat should be turned medium-high (not too high or one side will quickly burn and not too low or it won’t fry correctly). I noticed that if you have a smaller skillet (8-10 inches), only 1-2 Tb of oil is necessary. Too much oil will make the crepe greasy and grossly inedible. However, enough oil should be used so that the batter fries as soon as it touches the pan. This leads me to another revelation: after adding the oil, it is imperative that you add the batter AS SOON as you see smoke from the pan. Waiting too long will produce an embarrassing excuse for food that even the FDA wouldn’t approve of. We are also not trying to alarm the neighbors by recreating the Great Chicago Fire. It’s safe to say that I had a brief moment of panic where I thought I thought my fire alarms were about to be set off.

Surprisingly, flipping the crepe was not terribly hard. I must’ve had built-up anxiety about this part due to previous unfortunate circumstances with other flippable foods because there was a small celebration when I successfully turned the crepe without ruining it. In terms of filling, I attempted to make homemade whipped cream with half and half because I was previously told (thanks mom) that if you added some butter, it would make up the same fat content that is in heavy cream. This was a big mistake. Bits of cream-coated butter EVERYWHERE. I don’t even know how that was possible since I melted the butter first. The failure could have been due to my mixing bowl not being cold enough, but it doesn’t matter because I was temporarily scarred and resorted to using canned whipped cream. The point is, if you want to make homemade whipped cream, you need four essential items: heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and a cold bowl.

Overall, this recipe is simple, easy, and versatile. There are plenty of different crepe-filling recipes that are cream cheese-based (yum) that can be found online. Add anything you like – candy, nuts, fruit, etc. But all you really need are the basics beloved in France: any kind of jam, just sugar, Nutella, or–try a savory crepe with melted cheese or ham.

If you or a quarantined loved one is suffering from pyromania, do not try this at home. Do try this at home if you want to be temporarily relocated to a Parisian crêperie. MIAM (=French for yum!)!

–Nikki

Child, J., Bertholle, L., & Beck, S. (2001). Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Distributed by Random House. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

4.16.2020 - David on Volunteering

French Performers in Chicago

Connecting with the French Community in Chicago

One of the great things about learning another language like French is the opportunity to use the language to connect with that community in your city. There are French businesses, French immigrants, and other Francophone speakers who work and live in Chicago. Becoming involved in local activities is a great way to meet people in that community and to practice your language.

After a study abroad trip to Paris last year, I was fortunate enough to connect with folks from the Chicago Sister Cities International Paris Committee as well as the French Consulate.  Through meeting those people, I was able to volunteer at several Chicago events, including at the Chicago Marathon and the Field Museum.  Volunteering is also a great way to practice a language. When you volunteer within a community, it gives the people of that community a chance to get to know you, and you’re able to demonstrate an interest in them and what they are interested in as well.

Once you’ve made connections in a community, you can learn about events, food, culture, and other types of experiences. I was able to find out about a French singer from Paris who was performing in Chicago and was even able to arrange to buy extra tickets from someone when it was sold out. Likewise, I’ve been able to offer suggestions to French people who are visiting Chicago about places to eat, where to accomplish certain things in Chicago, and more.

The best way to learn a language is to practice speaking with others. Here in Chicago, being a multicultural city, we have access to people who speak a variety of different languages. By getting involved in the French-speaking community at UIC, that of greater Chicago, and now even online, we can easily practice French and make great connections with other Francophones.

–David

4.9.2020 - Nikki on trying out new French recipes

Nikki's dog masters French cooking

Salut tout le monde!

Before Julia Child, French cuisine was an enigma to Americans. One of the most renowned chefs in American history, Julia Child found her love for cooking in 1948 when her husband was reassigned to the U.S. Information Service at the American Embassy in Paris. She attended Le Cordon Bleu, one of the most prestigious culinary schools in the world. Teaming up with fellow chefs, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertolle, Child authored her famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961). She became an icon and was granted a PBS special in 1963 to bring her cooking tips to the small screens of America.

PBS recently revisited the legacy of Julia Child by airing a new special called Dishing with Julia Child where modern cooks watch and discuss her specials from 1963. There are two episodes every Friday night at 10:00pm and 10:30pm on PBS (WTTW). Also available to watch is Julie and Julia on Netflix which is a biographical narrative about two women of different times: Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) and Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams). Julie Powell represents the real life author who committed to cooking every single recipe (524 recipes in total, yikes!) in Julia Child’s Mastering in 365 days whilst blogging her progress.

In the midst of all the chaos happening in the world right now and #stayathome, I have decided to venture out into the dark, mysterious depths of my house that is… my kitchen. Now that I have this extra time and no books left to read, I have decided to take it upon myself to attempt some of these recipes. Of course, I will only be cooking recipes from Mastering that are practical and non-wasteful in terms of resources during the pandemic. The goal is to cook 1-2 recipes a week, depending on difficulty and access to ingredients.

Today’s featured recipe is one for croissants (not from Mastering) that I found online last week at this link.

For people who are unfamiliar with baking, precision and adherence to procedure is very important, so this recipe is great because it outlines every step with pictures, tips, and explanations. Homemade croissants are not necessarily an easy task. For about 6-7 hours, it is just layering the dough and waiting, however, performing these steps correctly is principal to traditional flaky croissants. If you do not have the patience or strength to commit to Jo’s outline, this recipe is NOT the one for you.

For the sake of healthy eating (if your family/friends are dieting like mine) or if you’re only feeding 1-3 people, I recommend cutting this recipe in half to make 12 croissants instead of 24. I made this mistake and could not prevent the wrath of hungry parents.

Do try this at home. Not recommended for people who dislike butter. No tree nuts added. A chocolate or fruit filling is encouraged. Dippable in cafe au lait.

–Nikki

3.13.2020 - Andrea on Espanglish

andrea

Spanish is my first language. It was the first language I ever learned. My parents migrated from Mexico to the U.S and the only language they spoke was Spanish. I was their first child and an only child for a few years.Thus, as they were raising me they did it all in Spanish. My mom used to read a lot to me in Spanish because she saw I had an affinity for books even before I started school. When it was time for me to go to school, she enrolled me in bilingual classes; however, I don’t remember them actually being bilingual, everything was in Spanish. I learned to read and write in Spanish as well as learn all other subjects in Spanish. It wasn’t until the second grade when teachers started to incorporate English into their lessons. I didn’t find English hard but I did notice I had an accent, which felt embarrassing and discouraging. At the end of second grade my teacher informed me that my English was very good and that the following year I was going to be placed in an English only classroom. I was very nervous about this because I didn’t feel confident enough.

However, learning English was not that hard for me and by being in an English only classroom my accent went away soon due to how much I was practicing and exposed to English. After I was placed in English only classes, I didn’t have classes in Spanish at all. I was only exposed to Spanish at home when talking to my parents. I was grateful that Spanish was spoken at home because it allowed me to practice spoken Spanish; however, since I stopped reading and writing in Spanish I knew those areas were not as good as they could be.

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I took another Spanish class. We had to take a language course in high school and the only language that was offered was Spanish. I actually placed into AP Spanish because my spoken Spanish was very good due to the fact that I still spoke it at home. I did very well in AP Spanish but did struggle with grammar a little. After high school I didn’t think I was going to take a Spanish class ever again. However, here at UIC they also told me I needed to take a language course so I decided to take Spanish again. I had previously enjoyed learning Spanish in an academic setting so I found myself really liking it in college too. I soon realized that my Spanish courses were the classes I looked forward to the most. At that time I was undecided so I did some research on what you can do with a Bachelors in Spanish. It turns out you can do so many things with a BA in Spanish, so I ended up declaring Spanish as my major. I love the Spanish language not only because it was my first language but because I sort of fell in love with it all over again.

–Andrea

3.11.2020 - Ella on Learning Spanish

Ella at peer tutoring

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been able to understand Tagalog (Filipino). My parents would occasionally talk to me in Taglish (English and Tagalog) all throughout my childhood, stressing the importance of knowing one’s roots, but ultimately stopped speaking to me in Tagalog altogether in the later years. On the other hand, my grandmother, who lives with us and helped raise me, would only talk to me in Tagalog since she immigrated here with my mom well into her forties and has had a hard time speaking English even to this day. When I started learning Spanish in 6th grade, I realized how differently I would have to work to understand both languages. For Tagalog, it came naturally. I wouldn’t have to think of the English translation and could simply comprehend whatever was said to me or piece it out using context clues if I didn’t understand a word or phrase. However, with Spanish, I learned to dissect each word and conjugation and had to bounce the English equivalent in my head a few times until I could fully understand what was being said.

Even then, knowing Tagalog first helped with learning Spanish. Over 300 years of Spain colonizing the Philippines heavily influenced how the language was spoken. Through more and more years of studying Spanish, I learned that Tagalog was an amalgamation of Spanish and the other tribal languages of the natives. Some examples of Spain’s lingering influence off the top of my head include the word kumusta (Tagalog), which means “Hello” and cómo estás (Spanish), which means “How are you?” However, sometimes knowing both languages could get confusing since the same word can have the same meaning. For instance, siyempre (Tagalog) would mean “Of course” while siempre (Spanish) would mean “Always.”

When I first started learning Spanish, my teachers would always grill us on being correct grammatically, never really emphasizing how to properly pronounce words, which set me back a couple years when I finally started learning in high school and college. I noticed how much this still influences me to this day since I can write essays in Spanish with little difficulty but have a harder time speaking fluidly when in a conversation with a native speaker. This made my last semester in SPAN104 somewhat difficult but simultaneously very interesting since we had assignments to FaceTime a native speaker from a Spanish-speaking country and held conversations for about 30 minutes. I gladly accepted this challenge since it pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to use my verbal skills in a nice and controlled environment.

Now that I have a better understanding of the Spanish language and the many cultures of its speakers, I have a greater appreciation for anyone who takes on the task of learning a completely new language. 

–Ella

3.5.2020 - Nikki on "Médecins Sans Frontières" or "Doctors Without Borders"

Doctors Without Borders

As an undergraduate student with her heart set on both medicine and the French language, I’ve been advised to choose between the two, because “it is not necessary to know French as a medical practitioner.” However, one of the biggest, most successful non-profit organizations requires both of these skills. This organization is called Médecins Sans Frontières or “Doctors Without Borders and was founded in 1971 by French doctors and journalists who wished to “expand impartial and equal healthcare across borders without considering factors that can normally affect access to healthcare (such as politics or religion).” Their goal is to provide free healthcare all around the globe, often in Francophone (French-speaking) countries. My own professional goal is to work with Doctors Without Borders so that I can pursue both of my passions by practicing medicine in French-speaking countries

This non-governmental organization appeals to people who want a future of travelling and exploration while applying both language and medicinal skills to diverse communities and geographical areas. Complete language fluency is not necessarily required but those interested should be at the B2 (upper intermediate level) for the relative language. UIC students who are taking advanced language courses or are majors/minors in any language would be good candidates for Doctors Without Borders. Their website, doctorswithoutborders.org, details their current projects and career opportunities.

Even if you do not plan on pursuing medicine, but are still interested in applying your language skills to find a job around the French-speaking world, they offer other diverse career options. They have medical, paramedical, and non-medical field positions ranging from financial administrators, supply logisticians, and laboratory technicians to doctors, nurses, and psychologists. Their “Essential Requirements” page explains who strong candidates would be.

In addition to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders, there are numerous other organizations “without borders.” Check out this website for a list of these other groups, including Accountants without Borders, Architects without Borders, Artists without Borders, Engineers without Borders, and plenty more. If you speak another language and wish to travel in the future, I highly recommend exploring this list and researching ways to integrate culture/language into your career.

–Nikki

3.2.2020 - The Importance of Being Fluent in Language(s)

Valeria at Spanish peer tutoring

Learning a  language can be fun, interesting and it sure can connect you to different places and cultures from other parts of the world. But most importantly, learning and becoming fluent in another language can create great benefits for you once you are in a professional setting and join the workforce. 

During the winter break,  I started a job as a cashier in a retail store. One of my coworkers was having some trouble trying to communicate with one of her customers who didn’t seem to understand any English. The manager jumped in to try to help and eventually called me to be the intermediary and translate for the customer because she knew I am fluent in English and in Spanish. It was the first time I had put my Spanish to work in this specific work setting, so I was a bit nervous about not finding the correct translation for certain words. But as I got going, I felt more and more confident. The look of relief on the Spanish-speaking customer’s face of knowing someone was able to help her communicate her concerns made me feel better. When we were done, she expressed her gratitude along with a huge smile.

More and more jobs are seeking employees who are fluent in a second language, as this creates a more diverse-friendly environment for everyone. Plus, speaking another language fluently could get you good chances of being accepted for a specific job. When learning a new language it is great to think about not only discovering an entirely new culture, but also about how that language can help you in the long run and eventually your professional life.  Keeping these advantages in mind will definitely encourage you to keep studying a language.

– Valeria

2.21.2020 - Ariana on La musica italiana: the greatest perk of learning Italian

Ghali, Tunisian-Italian rapper

Italian culture is thoroughly a beautiful one–the food, the landmarks, the music. Italian music has produced some of the most influential international artists, such as Mina, Andrea Bocelli, Fabrizio D’Andre – and now, Ghali.

Ghali is an Italian pop singer and rapper of Tunisian descent who has gained rapid popularity throughout Europe and Africa, and his fame is now spreading to the United States. His music comments on immigration, racism, growing up in poverty, and the complexities of Italian culture. Though his songs are written predominantly in Italian, he also utilizes Arabic, French, and English in songs like “Wily Wily” and “Boulevard”.

If you’re looking for proof that understanding Italian music is one of the greatest benefits of learning the Italian language, just give “Cara Italia” by Ghali a listen and find out why “cara italia è la [sua] dolce meta.”

To find out more about Ghali and practice reading in Italian, here is an interview he attended for RockIt.

– Ariana

2.10.2020 - Spanish-speaking countries: many different cultures to discover

Valeria, Spanish Peer Tutor

There are about 21 countries in the world whose official language (or one of the many languages spoken) is Spanish! Growing up in Mexico I was completely exposed to the Spanish language and immersed in Mexican culture in a different way than here in Chicago. Over there, we were taught specifically about our traditions and festivities and our own history.

When I came to the United States and started taking Spanish classes in high school I was surprised to see the way in which they teach it. It is not only the language, but also some cultural aspects of various countries where Spanish is spoken, so they focus on teaching a little bit about each country and their history as well as their own and unique traditions different from any other country. It was fascinating to me how easy it could be to discover and learn about different places all connected through the same language.

I was introduced to places like Spain and Argentina that completely fascinated me and have made me want to visit them in the future. Things like the beautiful architecture of Spain, their own festivities, their music, their dances and the different languages that are spoken in different regions have sparked in me some curiosity.

One specific festivity I learned about Spain when I was in high school is a tradition called “La tomatina”. This tradition is original to the city of Bunol in Valencia, Spain. The participants get involved in a tomato fight for pure entertainment. Everyone who participates ends up completely soaked on tomato puree and as one can imagine, the streets of the city end up as a complete mess. I started looking up videos of this festival and saw how much fun people were having. And in reality, not one single country is going to be the same just because they might share a language. There will be many different and unique cultural aspects about a country or countries to learn about and Spain is just one of them.

– Valeria

2.6.2020 - Anye on cultural awareness

Anye, Peer Tutor in Spanish

Spanish is the second most common spoken language throughout the world. I’ve chosen to become a Spanish Peer Tutor because I want to be able to study, practice, and expand other students’ and my own knowledge of the Spanish language and its diverse culture. Being a Spanish peer tutor is an opportunity to broaden my own knowledge of the Spanish language, to broaden my cultural awareness, to broaden the cultural awareness of others, and to connect with other UIC students in order to continue the narrative of emphasizing the similarities instead of the differences between our cultures.

In my future career, as a clinical psychologist, I could be doing a disservice to those whom I serve without cultural awareness and the ability to communicate effectively. I seek to be of service to as many groups of people as I possibly can regardless of ethnicity, language barriers, cultural barriers, and lifestyle choices. Spanish peer tutoring is one way to do that now at UIC.

– Anye

2.4.2020 - Ariana on the Joys of Italian Grammar

Ariana, Peer Tutor in Italian

I am now a senior and am currently enrolled in Italian 300: Advanced Italian Literature and Cultural Studies. This week in class we have been reviewing the congiuntivo (subjunctive) and I have been meeting recently with a few 104 students during my tutoring hours who were struggling with this verb tense.

Creating verb charts and memorizing examples for each type of verb ending (-are, -ire, -ere) have been the most successful ways for me to further break down the subjunctive for students. This has also helped me practice with the subjunctive and memorize its specific rules through various explanations. Working with students assists me in learning Italian through helping me learn easier ways of breaking down the language’s syntax.

I enjoy learning alongside other Italian students and welcome you to the LCLC for a conversation!

2.3.2020 - Lily, German peer tutor, on German Cinema

Lily, German Peer Tutor

While I haven’t yet had a German student come to my tutoring hour yet this semester, I’ve been working on a project that interests me. it’s my last year at UIC, so I began to work on my Honors College Capstone. I work with German film and last night, I read a fantastic book on Weimar Cinema and shell-shocked postwar culture. The book is entitled Shell Shock Cinema by Anton Kaes. If  you have any interest in German film, the films released during the Weimar Republic – especially those touched upon in the book, such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Metropolis, which stands today as one of the most influential sci-fi films of all time – are a fantastic place to start your film analysis journey!

My favorite German film of all time is probably The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Released in Germany in 1920 and directed by Robert Wiene, this film tells a “story within a story,” as Francis recounts what had happened to him in a sequence that is mainly a flashback with occasional cuts back to Francis. Caligari was a keystone film in the world of German expressionism. The audience is led on a journey where they feel as if they are observing the movie through a peephole, almost as if they were some sort of warden observing their prisoners in their cells. The film combines its use of camera movement (or the lack of it) with its jagged, distorted scenery to instill in the audience the sense that there is no freedom to move. We can only see through the lens that is given to us; we are not allowed outside the world of Caligari.

There’s a wide, wide world of German cinema out there. From Caligari, to classic “homeland films” like Sissi, to sci-fi marvels like Metropolis, there is something for every viewer, from the first-time watchers to the long-time film fans. The most interesting thing about German film is how the atmosphere of Germany affected the film’s messages; as Germany’s cultural climate changed, so did its cinema.

-Lily

1.30.2020 - Natz, French peer tutor, on learning French

Natz and tutees

Growing up with immigrant parents I was fortunate enough to learn Spanish and English simultaneously since birth. Since I had spoken both these languages for the entirety of my life I became curious about other cultures and given the opportunity I set out to learn French in high school because I knew at some point I wanted to go to France. Since I knew two languages prior to learning French it became easier for me to understand but I still struggled with minor details of the language because learning a new language is difficult. After 3 years of taking French I was able to partake in an exchange program in 2017 through my high school and made a very special connection with my French Exchange Student. Through the 2 weeks she spent at my house I made it my mission to practice my French as much as possible so I could truly benefit from the experience and have extra practice before I went to Figeac and Paris.

While in France, I spoke as much French as I could and took in the different culture because that was the reason I wanted to learn French in the first place. I wanted to push myself to understand another culture and see everything this place had to offer. 3 years later and I am still learning more about the French Culture and I am still in awe of the differences between the cultures I am accustomed to and this culture I have been learning about for the past 6 years.

Through learning French I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone and learned to communicate with others in a language that was not my native tongue. It has also pushed me to look into different study abroad programs so I can continue to push myself to use the language outside of the United States. Ultimately, French has made me look at the world in a different perspective and has made me curious of other world cultures that I can learn from.

-Natz

11.20.2019 - Angela, Italian peer tutor, talks about all the languages in her life

Italian peer tutor Angela sitting at a desk with a laptop

My first exposure to a foreign language was in kindergarten. My parents enrolled me in an Italian class at the school that was right before my kindergarten class. I was very excited and would tell my family what I had learned. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep up with the classes because they moved farther away after that. In middle school, we had 8 weeks of Spanish, French, and German to expose us to the language options we had in high school, and I settled on German because I enjoyed it the most.

Although I loved the language, I didn’t continue with it in my first years in college because it didn’t fit in with the plan I had. When I started at UIC, I decided to take Italian classes because I remembered about the class I took in kindergarten. I have been interested in traveling abroad for many years, so I took advantage of the study abroad program led by one of the Italian professors in the summer of 2018 and went to Italy.

After the program ended, I decided to travel and explore some other European countries. While in Berlin, I stopped at a pizza place for a late dinner my first night there. Although I had understood the German the waiter used when asking about a table for two, I panicked and responded in Italian. Luckily, the waiter spoke Italian, and the entire service that night was done in Italian. I never thought I would have such a cool experience using the Italian language in a different country. Since this trip, I have tried cooking more Italian dishes at home and looked more into the culture to learn about it. I think it is so interesting to look at other cultures and see the differences there are. I am also looking at different ways I can go back to Italy through programs outside of studying abroad, as well as ways for me to continue practicing the Italian language in Chicago after I graduate.

–Angela

11.6.2019 - First Day On The Job

German peer tutor Lily sitting at a desk with a laptop

Today I had my first German client come in! She was concerned about her essay corrections she needed to do for a film review, so we went over each correction individually and worked out not only what it should be, but why it should be. We had her essay corrected after a short 20 minutes; she went off to her next class and expressed that she appreciated the help.

After this, my first experience actually being a tutor and helping someone else, all I can say is I’m exhilarated for the next opportunity I have to work one on one with someone. German is a beautiful, complex language – I once heard it described as “a bit challenging to learn, even more challenging to master.” This is true, but it doesn’t mean the challenge has to be something painful or dreadful.

Language learning, in my opinion, should be something to be looked forward to. My mindset with German when I was in the BLP was, “I get to go to class today.” While I know not everyone will see German, or any other language, as something they get to do versus something they have to do, the more we can usher students towards thinking that learning a new language is something fun, not something they necessarily have to be frustrated about.

Even though I’m done with the German BLP, I continue to take German classes. It’s become an important part of my life – it’s comforting to me. I know that during the week, I have a class I can look forward to, no matter what else I may be going through. I hope with tutoring, I can help students in the BLP to start looking forward to German. Language can bring joy!

–Lily