Interview with Brittany Olinkiewicz

“I went to a lot of plays during my semester abroad in Madrid, and that’s where I first saw a play by José Luis Alonso de Santos. When I came back to Bennington, I chose a scene from three plays that exemplify the themes I’m interested in and directed them in the original Spanish. I want to know, if you’re performing in a language that isn’t your audience’s primary language, how does that affect the acting?”

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Tanya Schmid ’11

While on study abroad in northern Chile, “we went to listen to a presentation by an NGO fighting against arsenic and lead contamination in their neighborhood. It was then and there that I realized I had found the project that had been awaiting me. Two weeks later I was in the neighborhoods and working with the NGO once again, this time with my camera, notebook, a bit of fear, and an open mind, beginning a project that would prove to be one of the most incredible, challenging, and rewarding experiences of my life.“

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In other words.

Chinese. French. Italian. Japanese. Spanish.

Whether a beginner or a more advanced speaker, the impulse to convey an idea or insight or to deepen your understanding of something that fascinates you is the key to learning any language.

At Bennington, language classes are shaped around the ideas and cultural backdrop that provide meaning for the words you are using, recognizing the importance of critical, disciplined thought in conjunction with linguistic proficiency at all levels of study. By exploring this world, you learn to speak another language, as well as gain an understanding of another culture from its own perspective. That is, you learn to see and experience other ways of being and thinking that challenge not only your viewpoint but also your means of perception. The process clarifies or potentially transforms who you are in relationship to a world whose boundaries are increasingly complex.

Learning languages often means integrating work from other disciplines, drawing on the faculty’s interests and your own. Knowledge gained in coursework about the arts, sciences, social sciences, and literature enriches classroom discussions and shapes advanced work. Students who center their work on a language are also encouraged to study abroad.

In addition to serving as the primary source of language study at the College, Bennington’s Isabelle Kaplan Center for Languages and Cultures offers graduate education to French and Spanish teachers, providing a model for teaching languages across the country.