NUCALLS grows, expands offerings

By Marc Larocque

Amanda Zoglio’s family speaks Italian, but she grew up without learning the language.

“It makes me feel left out to hear my mother and sister speaking in our native tongue as I sit incomprehensive,” said the senior graphic design major. “In high school, my mom made me take Spanish instead of Italian because she said that it’s used more broadly.”

But because of a blossoming student group at Northeastern, Zoglio can now communicate with her family without altering her class schedule.

NUCALLS is a student group that offers free, weekly, peer-taught language classes. Homework is optional, grades are not a factor and students dictate to instructors what they would like to learn.

“If you are in NUCALLS for one semester, you can learn exactly what you want,” she said. “My roommate and I now have a resource to practice conversing in our own time for our spring break trip to Italy.”

The idea for the group started last summer when two Student Government Association (SGA) officers, Michael DeRamo and MJ Paradiso, felt Northeastern’s modern language department did not offer a broad enough selection of foreign languages. They modeled the group after a successful student-taught language program at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

“Northeastern students are eager and motivated to learn a broad variety of languages and are not shy to share enthusiasm with their friends and classmates,” Paradiso said.

Northeastern officially recognized NUCALLS as a student group Sept. 8. Less than one month after gaining this recognition, the group had 350 Northeastern students registered online, and more than 170 people attended its first general meeting in late September. By the end of the first semester, NUCALLS had more than 500 students registered online to take language courses.

Now the society hosts 759 students that have registered for the spring semester session, and currently provides 80 weekly classes in 23 languages. There are 62 instructors teaching their fellow students for free.

Some students said learning with NUCALLS is more useful than Northeastern’s language courses.

“It’s a lot better than official Northeastern classes,” said Jasika Tabassum, a junior behavioral science major. “It makes me want to learn. There is not someone on me constantly and the fear of a bad grade is not there.”

The spring lessons started Jan. 22 with a more exotic choice of languages for students to learn. Romanian, Urdu and Marathi were added, in addition to languages like Arabic, Croatian, Hindi and Icelandic. NUCALLS offers all the language courses the modern language department does, along with 14 others.

Octavio Seijas, a sophomore international business major, is contributing to and benefiting from NUCALLS – teaching Spanish and Japanese while learning Chinese and Korean.

“I am already bi-lingual and I am pretty advanced in a third language,” he said. “So, I thought it would be nice to learn more languages, while helping others, especially considering my major.”

Co-op students are also taking advantage of NUCALLS.

“The program is a totally worthwhile thing to do, especially when I have spare time after work with nothing to do,” said Marisa Levine, a middler political science major. “The class schedules are convenient. A one- hour class after work or on the weekends fits in my schedule well.”

The society has also acquired unused textbooks from the Department of Modern Languages to distribute to its instructors as teaching aids, Paradiso said. Staff at Snell Library have also met with the society to create a database of the language resources available on campus.

Besides lessons, the society hopes to host on-campus programs like showing foreign or international-themed films, visiting consulates in Boston and showing a series of short lectures on language and culture by NUCALLS instructors, Paradiso said.

The society encourages any interested student to view language selections and register for a course online at NUCALLS.com

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