Miranda Jiang

Credentials: 2022 WISLI Elementary Vietnamese Student

Language Institute and Level: SEASSI / Elementary Vietnamese

Why did you choose to study a language through WISLI? What attracted you to our program specifically? WISLI has a strong reputation at the Southeast Asian Studies department at my undergraduate university, UC Berkeley, as a program with Vietnamese teaching expertise among the top in the nation and a welcoming environment.

How has studying a less commonly taught language enriched your life? Studying Vietnamese has allowed me to communicate with more people and to better understand Vietnamese culture. Learning Vietnamese with classmates I see for hours everyday has been a bonding experience like no other, and that is not at all a hyperbole!

What makes studying a language at WISLI/UW-Madison unique to you? At WISLI, we spend four hours every weekday in class and have activities with our classmates and teachers every week, like Vietnamese language tables and picnics. Many of us are neighbors in the dorms and spend our time doing homework together at the Terrace and running around Madison exploring various lakes, parks, grocery stores, etc. So although the work of learning a language is intense, the community aspect makes it just as fun. In the classroom, the communicative method means we’re listening to spoken Vietnamese constantly from the day we begin, and even more consistently starting in the second half of the program. This creates the immersion necessary to learning the language well, and it allows us to be challenged in the classroom but also immensely rewarded when we finally figure out how to communicate something new with our classmates.

How do you plan to use the language you’re learning in your personal/professional journey? I plan to use my language skills to communicate while visiting Vietnam. I’m also really interested in researching  periodicals that came about as part of the Vietnamese-language print culture that flourished in the 1930s, such as the women’s newspaper Phụ Nữ Tân Văn, and the writings of the Self-Reliant Literary Group (Tự Lực Văn Đoàn).

What are you most looking forward to in your language program? I have most enjoyed the lakeside picnics we’ve had with the Vietnamese cohort, the SEASSI poetry night, guitar circles, and kayaking with my class. The language tables each week are also extremely enriching.

What has been the impact of the  WISLI Tuition Scholarship for you?  What would you say to other students who might be interested in applying for the scholarship? The WISLI Tuition Scholarship has helped me attend SEASSI with my tuition fully covered. If you aren’t an academic currently supported by a graduate program or a fellowship, the WISLI Tuition Scholarship is an excellent option for anyone who needs financial support to study a language regardless of profession.

Do you have any advice for students who are studying the same language as you? This applies more to language-learning in general, but I would recommend anyone studying beginner Vietnamese to start practicing speaking, writing, and listening outside of class as soon as possible, which is usually sooner than you think. Apps like Tandem and online penpal websites have been around for years and years and are generally trustworthy. There are so many people from varying backgrounds around the world eager to engage in mutual language learning. Memorizing the lyrics to a song you really love is enjoyable and fruitful. Reading material that’s slightly higher than your reading level is frustrating, but it will help you improve. Keep a list of important words that you stumble upon, not just in class but in outside sources like newspapers, social media, songs, etc.

What is your favorite word/phrase/proverb in your language? The proverb “Sông có khúc, người có lúc” roughly translates into “Rivers have meanders, people have phases.” It’s a reminder that human life is made up of twists and turns, so if you’re sad in this moment, it won’t always stay that way, and vice versa.