Playing a “BMW” Instrument

Last Monday I attended the Annual Induction Ceremony of Phi Sigma Iota, the International Foreign Language honor society founded in 1922 at Allegheny College. This society is a national organization and involves over 50,000 members.

As a member inducted in 2012, I was honored to present some “talent” during the ceremony in representing the German Language Department. Last year, I gave a speech about why we still need to study foreign languages nowadays when English has become the dominating language that is spoken everywhere.

From my understanding, language is not simply a “tool” for translating words. It is a way of communicating meaning and promoting true understanding among people. In the globalized world today, if we want to compete with others, we have to develop skills based on a good knowledge of the person/group with whom we work.

Language opens the door for knowing another culture and another way of thinking, and sometimes translation cannot interpret the logic behind the expression. For example, in Chinese, the word for “crisis” (危機) consists with two “roots”–one is “danger” and the other is “opportunity”. The word involves philosophy and ways of Chinese dialectic thinking. The concept may not be perfectly delivered if it’s a simple translation into another language. Knowing the importance of foreign language, I chose to study German as my third language, and I can tell hours of stories of how much I benefited from learning it.

This year, I decided to play the Guzheng (古箏) I brought from home. Even though it is a Chinese instrument, I still kept the sense of mission in representing German languages in my head, and I made a big big “BMW” sign stuck to the instrument. Hopefully people will remember that not only do I carry my “unusual combinations” everywhere, my instrument does, too!  🙂

A Happy “Guernsey” Birthday!

You may want to ask the same question as I did when I first heard the country “Guernsey”—yes, it is a country!

I have never been to that “legendary” island, but it is the favorite place for two Allegheny faculty members! On this year’s birthday, I received a lovely card with a Guernsey stamp from them. I would assume that the total number of Guernsey stamps in the US is about the same that of pandas in China. So, I’ll take very special care of them—but not sure if the card will love bamboo as well.

If you ask how special a birthday can be for an international student at Allegheny, I would say that it can be as international as you want! Similar with every one of you, I was picturing a day surrounded by lots of friends and families. Besides a Guernsey card, I also received phone calls, messages and presents from friends in China, Singapore, Japan, Germany, France, Canada and other states, where many Allegheny graduates/exchange students are living. They have become my best friends ever since the day we met here at Allegheny. Isn’t it cool?

Now, I am on my way to a dinner with a French professor, whom I never had class with but have known since my sophomore year. I would say that there’s nothing more pleasant to go to bed tonight with warm wishes and a filled stomach! I’m coming!