Our Campus, Our Languages
Claudia Ramly is a PhD student in Educational Psychology.
What languages do you speak/use?
Arabic, English, French, and Italian
Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Lebanon and moved to Madison two years ago. Currently, I’m a PhD student in the Educational Psychology program in the learning sciences area, and I do research on how people learn with visuals. Prior to that, I worked for ten years in the medical industry and I used to train physicians on diabetes technologies. This experience made me wonder, how do people learn, particularly adults? How do you get them to be motivated to learn and use the skills that they’re gaining? Now, in the Learning Sciences Program, I learn about how people learn. My research is mostly on visual representations. For example, in STEM learning, many people learn about abstract concepts like chemistry molecules which you can’t really see or touch. Therefore, I try to see whether we can help these students learn abstract concepts by giving them a physical model they can manipulate, or whether they can do an online training and see those visuals online and try to learn with them.
How do languages add value to your work and personal identity?
By speaking four different languages, I know that you need to be patient, and I keep that in mind when doing my research. I focus on experience-based learning because when I am a student learning Italian, it is important to revisit concepts over and over again in order to learn. I try to use strategies from my personal experience in my professional work. The fact that I speak four languages opens up opportunities and creates these multiple identities that manifest when speaking different languages. There’s a lot of richness to languages and connections with different people so just knowing the language is a key to a whole big culture.
How do you believe that linguistic diversity adds to the richness of various communities?
I think it all comes down to a big theme which is creativity. You have richness in languages and this brings richness in the way people think. There’s a lot of creativity that comes when you’re trying to solve a problem, whether it’s a research problem or whether it’s a workplace problem. If you explore multilingualism, you can see diverse ways of addressing a problem. There are some words, for example, in Arabic, that talk about a certain situation that you cannot express in English and vice versa. And the same goes for French, for example. So that type of richness in languages lets you think about things differently. It’s really interesting to see how those different languages bring out a certain identity. There’s more creativity when you’re working with people who are multilingual; they bring so much background and experience that makes working on something richer.
In what ways do you believe the campus community can better recognize the value that linguistic diversity brings?
I think of two things, awareness and exposure. So awareness about linguistic diversity, celebrating it and the exposure in that sense. I love that the Italian Club, for example, does movie nights every Tuesday where people who speak Italian watch a movie together and meet other people. I would have loved to be part of an Arabic group where people learning Arabic can meet students from Arab countries and get to know them and learn about various cultures and traditions through conversation. I think these two things, awareness and exposure, are why I love this initiative because it’s starting to create that, that idea of awareness that people speak different languages and let’s connect closer versus just reading about that somewhere on the news.