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The Scarlet & Black

ALSO program welcomes new Director, Claire Moisan

Dan Gross, former Director of the Alternative Language Study Option (ALSO) retired from his post this year, inviting Claire Moisan, Lecturer in French, to take over as Interim Director.

ALSO was started at Grinnell in 1983 as a way of enabling students to study languages not offered by the school, including Hindi, Czech, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Hebrew, and Kiswahili.

“The ALSO program […] works on a combination of self-instruction and peer tutoring,” Moisan said. “You have to be extremely motivated and self-disciplined.”

Students often merge two years of ALSO with a study abroad program. For example, students planning to attend the off-campus study program in Florence often study Italian. Hindi is also gaining momentum as an ALSO language as India becomes a popular study abroad destination.

Similarly, seniors who want training for post-graduate employment abroad are increasingly looking to learn languages that the College doesn’t offer. Rob Stewart ’12, who is currently studying Brazilian Portuguese, wants to get a handle on the language to open up future opportunities.

“I’ve looked at graduate school in Brazil. I don’t think that’s particularly likely in the short run, but I could easily imagine going down and doing some language lessons as a way to kind of break into the culture,” Stewart said. “[I’m] excited to be doing a language class that focuses clearly on communication.”

ALSO has additionally served as a gateway for languages to become institutionalized when there is enough student interest. Chinese, Japanese and Arabic—once offered only through ALSO—are now available as full credit courses.

The program also allows student tutors to gain experience in sharing language skills and keeping in touch with a class of peers. Raghav Malik ’13, who tutored Hindi last year, found the experience very valuable.

“I really enjoyed the entire process of tutoring, planning the schedule for the semester and helping create the mid-term and final exams,” Malik said. “It was a challenge when I first began, but got progressively smoother as we all got more accustomed to the routine.”

As Director, Moisan will require tutors to complete some form of a syllabus for the students and then will later compile these syllabi online so that they are available to future tutors. She wants to create a weekly ALSO table at lunch and better organize student language education throughout the College and the community.

“My first step for that is to bring all of the ALSO tutors [and] the language assistants and bring them all together into a peer mentoring workshop … kind of a workshop/support group that would create a community of student leaders in the languages,” said Moisan.

Moisan has already streamlined the process of registering for ALSO by putting applications for both students and tutors up on PioneerWeb, and she has many more ideas to improve the program.

“Claire Moisan seems knowledgeable about language teaching, but more importantly I think she’s got ideas,” Stewart said. “She has a vision for where she wants the program to go and she seems like she has energy to pursue that, so I’m excited to be there.”

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