Found in Translation

By Found in Translation: The Connecting Power of Language

Learning a language has provided deeper insights into my own values, priorities and perceptions as I see them reflected in other cultures. 

The instructors keep things moving and engage our brains in different ways. I can't believe how quickly I have been able to advance.

These comments reflect the core themes we heard while interviewing both our language learners and instructors. We also came across powerful stories of how practicing and connecting with language revealed some hidden treasures for our learners.

Michiko DressenMost of our learners are working professionals who are balancing a day job and enriching their skills in the evening. In several cases, the learning is directly related to a business connection. Such is the case with Michael Migliacio, a game designer who has completed several levels of Japanese with instructor Michiko Kato Dressen. "Thanks to the additional practice provided by Michiko-sensei's class, I was able to successfully present my game to a Japanese publisher-and we launched it in Japan on a Nintendo platform last year!"

Rachael Young

Michael MigliacioRachael Youngs, one of Michael's peers, is currently studying for her Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)-a globally recognized professional certification. "I was blown away to find a program that catered specifically to working professionals and also offered a space for peers to meet and an instructor who was passionate about teaching."


Amy Manicor

Amy Manicor wanted to learn Italian to connect with her husband's extended family through social media, and also to prepare for an Italian foreign exchange student who would be living with them. "I was able to speak with our exchange student's mother in her native language, which brought her a lot of comfort. Learning Italian really helped me form meaningful relationships across cultures."

Katie Ojanpa

Katie Ojanpa learned Italian for a similar reason. Her mother-in-law, a first generation immigrant, was slipping into dementia-which had progressed to the point where she was only speaking Italian. It became increasingly difficult for the family to communicate with her, which is when Katie decided to learn basic Italian. "I was so excited when I arrived at the nursing home and spoke (my very primitive) Italian to her. She looked at me and, in a rare lucid moment, told me I had learned the wrong dialect." This somewhat funny moment led to very sweet memories. Katie's mother-in-law has since passed away, but Katie continues to practice speaking Italian with her four grandchildren.

Jean Moeller

While everyone has an individual reason for learning a language, many people find that the learning community is a bonus. Italian instructor Paola Foresti Faul says, "Many adult learners have not been in a classroom for years, so we ease the transition by creating a warm and welcoming environment where people can learn from each other."

Jean Moeller, an American Sign Language (ASL) student, echoed this sentiment. "I really enjoyed networking with others and connecting to the ASL community, which opened my eyes to so much. You're not just learning a language, you're learning a whole culture."

Mary Zielund and Melissa Schroeder, ASL instructors, recognize that language proficiency is accelerated when it is practiced. They utilize an immersion approach, which emphasizes "non-spoken classrooms." "The learning environment is designed to build mastery and confidence," Mary shares. "It is also very dynamic and inclusive. When the students complete the coursework, they have gained new skills and friendships. They often continue their learning through the guided practice sessions."

No matter the motivation, our learners find unique and supportive learning resources and programs. In addition to Normandale's many continuing education programs, the college also boasts the largest world languages division (college credit courses) in Minnesota. To find the connection right for you, please contact us at 952-358-8343.