Missouri State University
Modern and Classical Languages

Recap: 2017 World Language Showcase

The department of modern and classical languages recently hosted nearly 400 students from nearby high schools (including Central, Kickapoo, Nixa, Republic, Bakersfield, Stockton and Moberly) for the second annual World Language Showcase.

The students spent the day on campus, taking part in contests like spelling bees, dioramas and living exhibits.

They also had the opportunity to take college placement exams in Spanish, French and German. These web-based evaluations provided immediate feedback about how a student would place in college-level language classes, based on the student’s proficiency in the language.

Dr. Tonia Tinsley, assistant professor, was pleased with the showcase’s success. “There were fantastic entrees in the dioramas, posters and living exhibits,” she said. “And we were thrilled to host our guest speaker, Kurtis Grothoff, who told the students about how his adventures in Latin America led him to be a language and culture consultant for the Springfield Cardinals.”

Invited speaker caps off #MCLShowcase

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Selections from social media

Students had the chance to share the day’s experiences via social media, using #MCLShowcase, and they definitely made the most of their time on campus.


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@msumcl #mclshowcase

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Celebrating the Year of the Rooster

Missouri State’s observance of Chinese New Year got off to a festive start with the Chinese New Year Banquet and Show. Members of the Missouri State and Springfield communities gathered to help ring in the Year of the Rooster at an event that also raised money for the Chinese Students and Scholars Association scholarship fund.

Upcoming opportunities

The celebration resumes on Feb. 1. with tea tastings, porcelain workshops, musical demonstrations and more and concludes on Feb. 4, wrapping up with the Dragon and Lion Dance.

Check out a complete listing of events, and join in the celebration!

Celebrating on social media

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Celebrate the Day of the Dead with MCL on Nov. 2

The department of modern and classical languages is co-hosting the annual Day of the Dead Festival with La Barraca Spanish club on Wednesday, Nov. 2 — and you’re invited! Come celebrate one of the most beloved Hispanic holidays with traditional Catrina/Catrín face painting, sugar skull decorating, papel picado art, poetry and traditional Day of the Dead desserts. Admission is free and open to the public.


Festival Schedule

The tradition of papel picado

9 – 10 a.m.
Siceluff 222

Papel picado is a decorative paper cutting folk art from Mexico. During this session, the participants will make their own papel picado by drawing inspiration from traditional techniques and motives.

sugarskull-catrina-dayofthedead-620x867Turn yourself into Catrina/Catrin

10:10 – 11:10 a.m.
Siceluff Library

Get your face painted as a Catrina (or Catrín, the male version), the traditional elegant skull first created by printmaker José Guadalupe Posada. Come learn about Posada’s work and influence in the Día de Muertos.

Calaveras de Azúcar

11:15 a.m. – 12:10 p.m.
Siceluff 222

During Día de Muertos in Mexico, the living make offerings of sugar skulls (calaveras de azúcar) to welcome and commemorate their deceased relatives’ souls. You will participate in this ancient tradition to celebrate the sweetness of life while honoring the spirits of the dead.

“Calaveritas” satirical poetry competition (I)

12:20 – 1:15 p.m.
Siceluff Library

Calaveras literally means “skulls.” Calaveritas are also short poems recited for Día de Muertos in Mexico. These satirical poems poke fun at people in a way that suggests they are dead, even though they’re still alive. Often times, the poems satirize politicians and other people in power.

dayofthedead-blogThe meaning of the altar: Decoding its elements

1:25 – 1:40 p.m.
Siceluff Library

Throughout this presentation, you will learn about one of the most important elements of Día de Muertos — the altar, an elaborate construction to celebrate family members who have left the mortal world.

Pan de muerto and chocolatada

1:40 – 2:15 p.m.
Siceluff Library

Enjoy free Pan de Muerto — or “dead bread,” a traditional holiday dessert — as well as some hot chocolate!

“Calaveritas” satirical poetry competition (II)

2:30 – 3 p.m.
Siceluff Library

Calaveras literally means “skulls.” Calaveritas are also short poems recited for Día de Muertos in Mexico. These satirical poems poke fun at people in a way that suggests they are dead, even though they’re still alive. Often times, the poems satirize politicians and other people in power.

Catrina and Catrín Costume Competition

3 – 3:30 p.m.
Siceluff Library

Dress and paint yourself as a Catrina or Catrín, with a great prize for the winner! You can also have your picture taken with our Día de Muertos photo booth and props.

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Save the Date: World Language Showcase returns March 22

High school teachers and their students are invited to an exciting day of language-related events for the second annual World Language Showcase on March 22, 2017. Registration details will be available soon.

Help your students make transition from high school to college

Your students will meet modern and classical languages department faculty members and college students in world languages. There will be contests, proficiency activities, guest speakers, and lots of languages, all happening on the Missouri State campus.

Competitive Events

The competitive events include exhibitions, poster contests, a cultural exam and two spelling bees, one in French and Spanish and the other in German, Latin and Japanese.

Non-Competitive Events

The non-competitive events include language-learner self-assessments, language proficiency testing and a foreign language university placement exam. There will also be guest speakers, classroom demonstrations and prizes.

Visit the website for more details and the complete schedule of events. If you have questions, please email Dr. Tonia Tinsley or Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez de la Vega.

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International, American students paired in new LLC

Missouri State’s living-learning communities, or LLCs, have been instrumental in bringing students of similar interests and academic backgrounds together to help them build a strong network of supporters on campus.

This year, there’s a new LLC on campus and it’s a little different.

Global Community builds cultural, educational bridge

Spring 2016 Free Portrait Days
Madeline Hooper

The Global Community was created to connect American students with international students through residential and academic life. After spending a semester (or hopefully a year or longer) together — participating in activities and study groups — students in this LLC will develop a deeper understanding of either culture.

Madeline Hooper, modern and classical languages professor, global studies director and Global Community partner, said those connections are crucial to bridging the divide between the two student groups.

“I’ve noticed international students who come to Missouri State have a difficult time connecting with American students,” Hooper said. “And American students are sometimes reticent to connect with international students. Global Community is aiming to facilitate cultural exchange.”

Educational, social experiences unite groups

Global Community members live in the Sunvilla Tower and Monroe Apartments. During the course of this semester, they hope to schedule a variety of events that expose international students to American culture and vice-versa.

“We’ve come up with several ideas,” Hooper said. “Movie nights, scavenger hunts, organized sports events, corn mazes and bonfires. We hope to do a mini-Thanksgiving so each student can experience a Thanksgiving dinner. We also want to do a lot of potlucks, giving the students a chance to cook and try different cultural meals. We’ll definitely be experimenting this semester to see what works.”

Find out more

If you’re interested in becoming involved with Global Community, contact Residence Life by email, or call (417)836-3234 for further information.

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MCL’s new Spanish professor specializes in 19th-century romanticism, naturalism

heidi-backes-croppedDr. Heidi Backes will join modern and classical language’s Spanish faculty in the fall. Most recently, she was an assistant professor of Spanish at Drury University.

Degree in modern peninsular literature

Backes received her Ph.D. in modern peninsular literature from the University of Wisconsin in 2011, where she wrote her doctoral dissertation on the neo-Gothic movement in contemporary Spanish fiction.

Classes she’s taught

Specializing in 19th-century romanticism and naturalism, Backes has previously taught courses on 19th- and 20th-century Spanish fiction, an introduction to literary analysis, a graduate seminar in literary theory and the evolution of Spanish visual and print culture during the Franco dictatorship.

Interests include Spanish literature, international travel

She has authored several articles and book chapters on modern Spanish literature, and she is currently working on a book-length project that explores the Gothic literary tradition in Spain.

Backes encourages students to study abroad, and she loves to share her own international travel experiences with them.

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Spanish major takes nontraditional path to becoming teacher

In eighth grade, Spanish major Jessica Garcia watched a documentary film that would change the course of her career.

Since she could remember, she wanted to be a teacher: “I was always the little kid forcing my friends to play school so I could be the teacher.”

But when she saw the film “Waiting for Superman,” she was shaken by the state of public education.

“It was shocking to realize not every student is getting a great education, which is one of the pillars of U.S. democracy. It’s supposed to be the land where if you work hard, you’re going to succeed. That documentary highlights that is not the case.”

Jessica Garcia on a mission trip to Kenya.
Jessica Garcia on a mission trip to Kenya.

Seeing education from a different perspective

Jessica was not giving up on education, though. Instead, she made it her mission to approach teaching from a different perspective. She is majoring in Spanish and sociology, with a minor in diversity studies, rather than education.

“I chose to study language because I didn’t want that to be a barrier for my students. I want to be able to speak to them, or their parents, or anyone in their lives that they need to have their educational experience communicated to.”

Admittedly, learning Spanish was difficult for her, she said, but with encouragement from friends, family and the faculty in modern and classical languages, she pushed through.

“I’m really glad I did because it taught me that failure doesn’t define who you are. Not only has Spanish given me the tactical skills of learning the language and learning how to communicate with other people, it’s also taught me a lot about myself.”

Jessica-Garcia-blog-350x523Understanding systemic poverty

At about 12 years old, Jessica and her mom started volunteering at a women’s homeless shelter. Her outreach efforts continued throughout college, and her heart grew bigger for those in our society who have the greatest needs.

That drove Jessica to learn more about the systemic causes of social issues.

“My friend was majoring in sociology. He told me about the classes he was taking in juvenile delinquency, social inequality and social problems in the community. It just sounded exactly like what I was passionate about.”

She said her sociology classes have given her insights into the challenges facing low-income children and families and the resources available to help them.

“I feel like my knowledge of the entire picture of poverty, and not just education, is so much bigger because of the nontraditional route I took.”

Looking to the future ahead

As she approaches graduation on May 13, Jessica is looking to the future, and to a job waiting for her in New York.

Jessica will be teaching 7th grade reading at Democracy Prep Endurance Middle School, an open-enrollment, public charter school in Harlem.

“Democracy Prep is really passionate about taking in students who actually were likely to underperform in traditional public schools. They have really high graduation rates and high achievement rates.”

Jessica found Democracy Prep through Teach for America, a national organization that places “recent college graduates who commit two years to teach and to effect change in under-resourced urban and rural public schools,” according to its website.

She is eager to get started this summer.

“If we could provide everyone with a quality education, I feel like the level of achievement within the communities that are traditionally underachieving would be astronomical.”

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Cultural differences: tips, tricks for visiting China and Japan

Missouri State offers several opportunities to study abroad, including Japan and China. Whether you are a student or a typical traveler, there some cultural differences you should know. Plan your study away experience. In Japan, don’t bow like in the movies When visiting Japan, there’s one mistake that most people make when greeting someone, said […]

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Lost in translation: learning Arabic words and culture

The Middle East is a region rich in culture, history and language. Many people on the Western side of the world, however; don’t have a clue about what it is like to live in, or even hold a simple conversation with someone from the Middle East. According to Islam Farag, a graduate teaching assistant in […]

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