This month, with midterms firmly behind us and the end of the semester so close we can almost taste it, the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures wanted to highlight a lesser-known service that we offer: Peer Tutoring. It’s exactly what it sounds like – tutoring services offered through the CSLC by ND students who are advanced learners and native speakers of that language (aka your peers). And yes, it’s FREE! The Peer Tutoring program is almost as old as the Center itself, but over the years, it has expanded to encompass all of the languages taught at ND…and then some.
With finals around the corner and students bustling to wrap up the fall and plan out their future terms, we wanted to give our readers a little glimpse into the world of peer tutoring. Of course, without our stellar students, there would be no peers to do the tutoring. Rather than bore our readers with all the details of the benefits, we figured the best lens with which to look at Peer Tutoring was by hearing from some of our tutors themselves.
Beatriz de Campos Silva ‘24
Beatriz is a senior physics major who hails from Brazil. Her native language is Portuguese, and she began learning English when she was in the 4th grade, when her parents encouraged her to start watching programs and listening to music in the language. She began attending English language school in the 8th grade. Beatriz made the decision to attend Notre Dame after meeting Mr. Don Bishop in Brazil during his ND on the Road tour. When she recalled the meeting, Beatriz emphasized how kind he was to both her and her mother; the encounter assured her mother that Beatriz would be “in good hands” while attending university in the United States. She was also accepted into other institutions, but the thriving community of Notre Dame is what ultimately made her choose to become a Domer.
Beatriz has been a Portuguese peer tutor at the CSLC since fall 2022. She’s not just bilingual –
she’s going trilingual, having also taken German at Notre Dame. “I like to explain and teach different things, and I saw becoming a tutor as an opportunity to engage with students interested in learning about Brazil and its culture,” said Beatriz. As a native speaker, she finds it interesting to see where non-native speakers of her mother tongue make certain mistakes. For native speakers of a language, not much thought goes into conjugating certain verbs, employing certain grammatical structures, or observing pronunciation differences. She also enjoys teaching over Zoom, finding it very useful to reach students wherever they may be. In addition, Beatriz finds the Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Program in the College & Arts and Letters to be excellent. She participates in the Portuguese Language Tables, citing them as “feeling like home.”
Beatriz’s favorite word in Portuguese is saudade, which can translate to “the feeling of longing for something or someone– a familiar feeling for anyone who calls multiple places “home.” Beatriz’s advice to anyone who wants to learn a new language is as follows: “be open to the process; be immersive, even if you can’t go to the physical location [where the language is spoken]]. Watch movies and listen to music in the target language.”
Ella Maria Griffith ‘25
Ella is a junior from Pensacola, Florida, majoring in German and Neuroscience & Behavior. Prior to coming to Notre Dame, she had 10 years of experience studying the German language, having lived in Stuttgart, Germany, for two years while her dad served in the Marine Corps. “It was a great experience,” she said, “because I interacted as much as she could with German native speakers. I was more involved in the surrounding town than the U.S. base itself. It was useful to have a personal connection to the language and culture.” After returning to the United States, she recognized that her worldview was now not only shaped by her American upbringing, but also shifted after her years spent living in Germany. This led her to choose to keep up with her German by taking online courses in both middles school and high school.
Upon becoming a student at Notre Dame, Ella scouted out the CSLC to use the resources to get involved in her passion for German language and culture. She served as the President of the German Club during the 2022–2023 academic year. Ella reflected on experience with the German and Russian Department as a positive one and commented that each German professor makes an effort to get to know students individually. "They are very helpful in giving students their time to figure out how you want to apply the German language in their lives [and] by informing them about the FLIP and SLA programs here at the CSLC.” Ella is a CSLC champion – she participated in two of our flagship programs to take her back to Germany. In the summer of 2022, she received the SLA grant to study at an intensive summer program in Radolfzell, Germany. The following summer, Ella joined the inaugural cohort of the FLIP (Foreign Language Internship Program) to work at a Catholic start-up church in Vienna, Austria. She will be studying abroad once again in spring 2024 in Heidelberg, Germany. Ella cannot stress enough that studying abroad or doing an internship abroad is the key to becoming as in-tune with the language and culture of your interest as possible.
Although she was well-familiar with the CSLC, Ella only became a German peer tutor with us this fall. She reported that wanted to tutor since she was already familiar with the CSLC and help others learn German as well. Although the CSLC is somewhat off the beaten-path, Ella says that’s part of what she enjoys about the quiet and welcoming atmosphere at the center: “People have a clear aim in coming here. They want to improve their language skills and cultural competency. [They] have the same goal in mind and level of enthusiasm whether they are studying Chinese or Arabic.”
Ella’s favorite word in German is genau, meaning “exactly” or “of course,” not necessarily for its textbook definition, but it’s pragmatic usage. According to Ella, genau “fits in almost any situation.” After graduation, Ella is considering applying for the Fulbright Program in Germany. Her goal is to be able to work between the United States and Germany and continue building the cultural bridge she’s spent nearly a decade in piecing together already. We asked Ella what advice she may have for new language learners, or those just starting out. Her response was practical and heartening, empathizing with the hard work we see all of our language students doing: “It’s a goal in which you have to frontload a lot of the work–there will be a lot of stumbles and mistakes–and it will require an enormous amount of effort. Once you get past the hard parts in the beginning, you will see your goal in sight. It’s rewarding–no matter where you are–to apply that language. Developing a deeper connection with others–no matter what field you’re working in–leads to friendships and professional opportunities.”
Genau, Ella. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
About the CSLC
The Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures (CSLC) aims to support language learners at ND by facilitating meaningful experiences with linguistic acquisition and exchange - both in our campus and abroad. We believe that access to the worlds’ languages and cultures allows us to seek out new perspectives, to value diversity of the world’s cultures, and to embody global citizenship.