Around the map: Freshman follows passion for language

Freshman Michaela Duffey is planning to major in French and minor in Japanese. She was the first prize winner of the French competitive scholarship last year and has a knack for syntax and memorization.

“I first started taking French in high school my freshman year,” Duffey said. Duffey began to take Japanese when another friend of hers started telling her about it.

“After one year of [my friend] taking Japanese, and telling me the fun about it, I actually did take both languages in high school,” Duffey said.

Duffey is currently enrolled in French 302 and Japanese 102. Along with the language, a student must learn about the culture as well. Duffey finds it interesting, especially when she looks at both in comparison.

“They are two completely different cultures,” Duffey said. “The languages are almost complete opposites. French is really precise, where in Japanese they usually just assume subject.”

Duffey intertwines the importance of language and culture.

“Learning the social culture that goes along with the languages is very interesting,” Duffey said. “It’s really challenging to yourself sometimes, but it’s really fun to see how other people do it. If you learn a language, you open up a door to another place.”

Outside of classes, Duffey finds other ways to be involved with both cultures and languages through clubs and international students.

“I’m in French and Japanese club,” Duffey said. “I’ve been trying to make friends with the Japanese exchange students. The French teaching assistant is taking Japanese.”

Pronunciation is very important to Duffey. Not only does she want to know all of the languages’ rules, she wants to be able to make her speech in both languages sound authentic.

“For Japanese, we use a lot of sound files from the textbook,” Duffey said. “The thing is you carry vowels from your own language, and they are out of place, so I’m trying to mimic the intonation in vowel sounds.”

Duffey pays special attention to the way a native speaker’s mouth moves. That way she can mimic the sound of the words as closely as possible. Duffey is also taking classes in other materials that will help with her languages. This January Term, she took Latin to learn some of the root words French uses.

“To continue Latin would be fun,” Duffey said. “I’ve had a bucket list of languages.”

To major in French, Duffey only has to have one semester abroad since she started in French 301. She will also have one semester abroad for her Japanese minor.

“This fall, I’m going to France in Aix-en-Provence in AUCP,” Duffey said. For her Japanese minor, Duffey will go to Kanto Gakuin University during spring semester in 2015.

Sometimes, Duffey does mix up Japanese and French, but the deeper she goes into both the easier it will be to keep them separate.

Gilberto Galvez/Features editor

Gilberto Galvez can be reached at

Freshman Michaela Duffey helps at the Portland

Mochitsuki festival on Jan. 26. She attended the event with the Japanese Club.

Photo courtesy of Michaela Duffey