Caitlin M.

Languages: Swedish, Spanish, French

Majors and Certificates: French Major, Scandinavian Studies Major, Certificate in European Studies

Current Location: Madison, WI

Graduation Year: 2013

What have you done since graduating from UW-Madison?

After graduation I moved to France, where I taught English to French high school students in Marseille through the TAPIF program. I currently live in Madison and work at Literacy Network, a non-profit that focuses on goal-based learning to teach reading, writing and speaking skills to adults in Madison and Dane County.

What motivated you to study these languages?

I’ve always enjoyed learning languages because of the mental challenge. I enjoy stepping into a different mindset, teasing out patterns and grammar puzzles.

How have these languages enriched your life?

Learning a new language opens up your life in a way that nothing else can. You learn to operate in a new linguistic and cultural environment. I used my language skills to travel and work abroad, but I also use my language skills everyday with community members here in Madison. I’m incredibly grateful that I can communicate with people from a variety of countries and backgrounds.

What do you remember about your UW language classes? How were they different from other classes you took?

In my language classes I met a lot of new people and made some lifelong friends. The interactive format, where students practice speaking with each other, really allows for team building and a sense of community.

How valuable were your out-of-classroom experiences?

I studied abroad twice–in Umeå, Sweden, and in Québec, Canada. Immersion experiences not only allow for dramatic improvement in language skills, but also for great personal development. When you step into a new culture, you learn about yourself, your values. Each time I move away from the cultural pressures of the US, I discover positive ways to change, and I bring that home with me.

How have you maintained or improved your languages since graduation?

I’ve done my best to maintain my French and Swedish skills! They may have suffered a bit while I’ve been improving my Spanish. I use Spanish every day at work, and I’ve found that despite only taking two academic semesters, I can really get my point across if I don’t worry too much about elegance.

What advice do you have for current language students?

Don’t sweat the small stuff! Difficult pronunciation and grammar quirks will become habitual and easy if you relax and keep on communicating. It’s okay to make mistakes– in fact, most people will like you more for it. 🙂

What is your favorite word or phrase in a language you know?

Stackars liten! (Swedish– Poor little you!)