Rich in materials and resources, the Language and Speech Center offers help to anyone who has the desire to learn a new language. BYU-Hawaii students can come and learn languages that are not offered as a course.
Jeannette Fukuzawa, the director of The Language and Speech Center, said Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Tongan, Samoan, Fijian, and Maori are offered at the center. “Those are the languages that have courses. “
“There are some languages that don’t have courses here at school, but students are still interested in them because they’ve returned from the mission and want to maintain the language, or they have a sweetheart from that language background, or they want to enjoy their Korean drama.”
Michael Potter, a senior from Hawaii studying biomedicine who works as the Language and Speech Center receptionist, explained how excited he gets when students come by wanting to expand their knowledge and learn something new, even when it isn’t offered as part of their program. He said, “We have a list. If people come in and they say, ‘Hey, I want to learn this language,’ and it’s not one of the ones we cover, we will take out a list and write down their name, phone number, and the language they want to learn.
Fukuzawa encouraged students to come by and share what they want to learn. She described the process. “What we try to do when there is a demand, like five or six students that are interested in a particular language, I use Language Center funds to hire a tutor.
“We’ve had all different languages, off and on, through the years. Korean is by far, the most popular. Right now, we’re doing Korean and Portuguese. In the past, we have done Cantonese, German, [and] Italian. We’ve even done Arabic. This is not for credit, this is just to [help students] keep up with a language or begin a new language that isn’t offered here at BYUH.”
Roger Zavala, a student from Honduras studying business, shared his experience as a former tutor at the center and how it impacted him in a positive way. “I taught Spanish to several students. My experience with them, in my opinion, was worth it. More than grammar rules, I focused on questions and answers that provided students a way to create conversation with me, a native speaker.
“What we shared during this time together not only helped them conjugate rules but gave them confidence in speaking a new language. It has helped me communicate better with other cultures and be more open minded in the way I treat others.”
Fukuzawa spoke about how learning a language is not easy, and it requires a commitment to learn new rules and practice them. “Those who are motivated are more likely to learn. It often helps if you have good reasons to learn the language, which could be education, a sweetheart, [or] a love for the people of that language. Students need time, effort, and resources. Motivation is the key, because it is time consuming.”
The center offers resources and materials for those who want to spend time reading and expand their study beyond casual conversation. Potter reveled that he was amazed. “One thing that astounded me was the depth of the materials that you can check out at the center. So obviously, there is a ton of language material, and it’s worth browsing for anyone who is interested in learning a language of any kind.
Zavala counseled students that are struggling with learning a language. “Do not be afraid of speaking it. Studying the rules of a language are important and needed, but putting in practice all you learn is through speaking that language. You have native speakers or tutors who are well qualified to help you understand at your level the language that you are learning. The tutors are usually about your age or well experienced. Spend time practicing the new language. As you do, you will encounter questions and you can bring those questions to your tutor."
Fukuzawa shared an experience of how getting to know more about another’s culture and learning their language has shaped her world. “I came here in 2001. I have always enjoyed my time here. It was like returning home, because I remember my time as a student. I could just go over to the cafeteria, and I would just find people who were sitting by themselves.
“I would ask if I could join them, and I could ask them what country they come from. Then I would ask them questions about their country. I learned so much. I think anybody coming from the mainland should do something similar, because the students here, themselves, are resources to learning about our world. You can learn about education systems, economic systems, [and] family life. The language center has enriched my view of the world.”