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Sofia Alvarez

Episode 127 – Knowledge is Power and so is Language

Sofia Alvarez, treasurer and secretary of the Mexican American Studies Society at UNC, discusses the importance of learning about cultures and languages around the world. Katie and Sofia start this journey of discovery with open arms, excited to share their interest in the world around them.

Sofia Alvarez, treasurer and secretary of the Mexican American Studies (MAS) Society at UNC, discusses the importance of learning about cultures and languages around the world. Katie and Sofia start this journey of discovery with open arms, excited to share their interest in the world around them. (Running time 14:52)



Hello everyone! Welcome back to this week's episode of the Bear in Mind Podcast. I’m your host, Katie Nord, let’s get started!

All around the world, people communicate in many different ways, some that we may have never heard of. There are over 7,117 languages on Earth, and I barely know two of them! Living in a world that revolves around communication, finding new ways to learn and grow as people, starts with stepping outside of your comfort zone. Learning about a new language or culture can begin that journey of discovery and welcome you into communities full of interesting people! Sofia Alvarez, a student here at UNC, is here today to talk with us about all things language and culture. Thank you for joining me today! As someone who’s been interested in language learning, I’m very excited to share this conversation with you all and I think you, the audience, will really enjoy what Sofia has to say!

Can you please introduce yourself, what year you're in at UNC, your education interests, anything else you’d like us to know etc. (MAS Society treasurer and secretary)

Hello I'm Sofia Alvarez I'm a senior at UNC, my major is elementary education with a CLD (Culturally, Linguistically Diverse) endorsement. I am currently in my second practicum and hope to start student teaching next semester. I work for UNC catering and I am treasurer and secretary for MAS society so I'm a busy.

For those who don’t know, September 15th began Hispanic Heritage Month. In your own words, how would you describe this celebration, the importance, and how you and your friends and family celebrate together? 

The importance of Hispanic Heritage Month is to celebrate our heritage, the people in our heritage and the impact we've had on the community and the world. There’s not many huge holidays but its more so that there are mini events that celebrate us as a community. The César Chávez Cultural Center is one of the main organizations on campus that host many events because they are hosts and partners to many clubs especially those with Latinx/Hispanic heritage. 

What are the best ways people outside of the community can get involved and learn more about the culture and its history

Honestly getting out and about. Showing up and showing out. I want people to understand that we're stronger in numbers and that adding you voice to our cause helps us get the message out more. I'm not sure if its nerves or something but whether you are part of the Latinx/Hispanic community you are always welcome to the carne asadas if you are willing to be open minded and accepting… and you bring good chisme. We welcome all and we will always be more than happy to tell you our goals, our missions, and our dreams for our community. We're history in the making, you know.

How do you believe learning about new languages and cultures opens up your world to different experiences, people, and worldviews?

I believe learning new languages helps make connections. When you make an effort to learn a new language i feel you're also making a effort to understand another culture and I mean from there it's only a matter of time until you explore more. Or its vise versa, where you're exposed to the culture then are curious to learn the language.

You know three languages, English, Spanish, and American Sign Language, and you are currently learning Portuguese as well. What do you believe are the best ways to learn a new language?

I am a Duo user but aside from apps, constant exposure. So whether its shows, music, events, or even talking with people that also speak your target language. I strongly believe if you don't practice it you'll lose it, hence why i speak Spanish around all my friends even if you don't understand me its mainly for me because i hold my Spanish close to my heart. 

Why do you believe it’s important that people learn more than one language? How does it improve your life as a whole?

BEING BILINGUAL IS SOOOO COOL. That, and its beneficial in so many areas. There is ALWAYS times where someone is speaking Spanish and needs help and i take it upon myself to help. Especially being an educator, I have a lot of Spanish-speaking kids or bilingual kids that feel more comfortable speaking in Spanish so i switch between the two in the classroom. 

In your opinion, what are the most challenging things about learning a new language?

The slang, the vocab is different depending where you're at, pronunciation, and when it comes to verb ending and conjugates, I get so confused. And sometimes since I speak both English and Spanish, one will carry over into the other. 

Do you believe that surrounding yourself with people who speak the language or know about the culture can help you meet new people, therefore learning about their experiences as well?

YES. Everyone has a story and if you really want to know it, you just gotta put in the effort to learn the language, communicate, and get to know them. You learn so much by exposing yourself to different cultures.

What is something about Mexican culture that you find the most pride and joy in? 

My language and my food! Honestly, the holidays are always poppin' but the food is always so comforting. My language though, and I may be biased but everything sounds better in Spanish. Loving, music, poems, nursery rhymes, jokes. Everything -  but that might just be me 

As you mentioned before, you are the current treasurer and secretary for MAS society at UNC, could you tell us about your roles and about the club itself?

As secretary, I take notes during meetings and I jot down everyone's ideas so we can revisit them when planning for our next events. As treasurer, I am in charge of the funding and budgeting so not only do I jot down your ideas and then I try to make them happen.

Who is able to join the club and participate in your club events?

EVERYONE, literally EVERYONE. We're a student-run club and as I mentioned before - be friendly, welcoming, open minded, willing to learn more, and glad to stand alongside us then you have a place in our club. We're trying to partner more with other clubs and cultural clubs this semester and we’ll most likely be partnering again with Greek life and the César Chávez Cultural Center. Our meetings this semester are looking to be Thursdays from 2-3 in the basement of the César Chávez house so if you're able to make it then stop by.

How do you recommend those who are interested in joining this club, can reach out to find out more?

So we have an Instagram and we can also be found on Bear Connect. Our Instagram is mas.society.unco, so give us a follow to keep up with all our events

As a community, taking that first step into learning something new about the world around us, puts a new lens on life. Whether that be meeting new people, celebrating a different country’s holiday, or watching a movie in a different language that you never would’ve watched otherwise. Learning about other cultures is a big leap we can take to discover more about the world we live in. Personally, I can't wait to dive right in and I hope you will too!

¡Gracias por escuchar el capítulo de Bear in Mind Podcast de este semana! Que tengas un gran dia! Adios!

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