Kelsey Langille ’11 loves language. Having spent summers in Costa Rica and Japan living with host families and observing the rich cultures around her, she felt frustrated by the language barrier and decided to do something about it.
“The travel bug bit me hard during high school,” she says, “so I studied three different languages at different times in high school. I knew that whatever field of study I chose would have to include my passion for languages; on my arrival at Scripps College, I threw myself into French and Spanish and never looked back.”
The Foreign Languages major seemed almost too good to be true for Kelsey. “It provided me the freedom to take a wide range of classes within the context of learning about languages and cultures,” she says. “It also encouraged us to study abroad for multiple semesters. As a result, I spent semesters in Aix-en-Provence, France and Granada, Spain.”
Kelsey’s fascination with language permeates her senior thesis, “Rewriting the feminine identity: Silence, the Fantastic, and Rapture in the novels of Carmen Martín Gaite and Marguerite Duras.” Inspired by two of her favorite authors, she demonstrates how powerful, subversive female voices created in their works contradict dominant social norms. The thesis describes how women authors in France and Spain during the mid-20th century reacted to the shifting social and political structures of their times: post-Spanish civil war, post-WWII, and feminism.
“It surprised me how much my two authors and their texts had in common,” says Kelsey. “I feel like all I had to do was put the texts in dialogue, and they did the rest of the work for me.”
Her advice for other students interested in studying foreign languages? Start early, get involved with language clubs, live in a language hall, be diligent about grammar and pronunciation, and, of course, study abroad.
“Nothing jumpstarts language acquisition quite like immersion,” she says. Kelsey also learned informing herself about world events, politics, and reading in her chosen languages also greatly increased foreign languages skills.
One thing’s for sure: after four years of assigned reading, Kelsey is definitely looking forward to reading books for pleasure again. “I realize that I’ve read a veritable mountain of books while at Scripps, but I’ve collected an even longer list of titles I want to read and never seem to have the time for. Now I have a chance to make my own ‘syllabus,’ if you will, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me.”
There might even be some Duras and Gaite on the list.