Image 001

Image 002

March 18, 2023

Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, and Friends,

I am delighted to announce the winners of the first annual Year of Languages Video Challenge Prize in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.  Six prize-winning videos and four honorable mentions were selected by an interdisciplinary faculty committee from two dozen submissions in fifteen languages.  Students were invited to create videos of up to 30 seconds or up to two minutes addressing creatively what they value about learning and knowing world languages.  Using TikTok, YouTube, or Instagram, students produced their videos in English, in one or more of the languages they are studying at Rutgers, or both. 

The questions we asked were: How does learning another language contribute to your way of thinking, your worldview, your attitude towards others, your career growth, or your self-awareness?  What does learning another language mean to you?  What does learning a language allow you to know?

Students studying across the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus, from the biological and natural sciences to the social and behavior sciences to the humanities, arts, and business, submitted dynamic and artful multimedia compositions that speak to their passions and their skill as communicators.  Many of the videos involve hand-drawn or digital animations.  Some are narrated by the creator or creators.  Student videos combine music, narration, captions, video montage, personal memoir, research in linguistics, and song. 

In the coming days, we will post information about winners and honorable mentions, and links to all of the videos, on the Year of Languages web site.  You can read there about the Year of Languages initiative, and about the winners of the Year of Languages Essay Prize, awarded in Fall 2022. 

For now, here is a preview of some of the excellent compositions we received:

First-place winner in the two-minute category Aisha Hussain, who grew up as a heritage speaker of Urdu and Punjabi, explains in a sophisticated montage on YouTube how she came to learn Mandarin and why it has been important to her.  Aisha is a first-year student at Rutgers and hasn’t yet chosen a major or minor.

Our first-place winners in the 30-second category, Political Science major and Critical Intelligence Studies and Spanish minor Victoria Richard and Psychology major and Spanish minor Caitlin Spafford produced a humorous TikTok skit about why they want to learn to “speak up” in Spanish.  

French, Linguistics, and Philosophy major and Cognitive Science minor Deshik Iyengar took second prize in the two-minute category for his charming animation on YouTube about the cognitive and embodied experience of learning languages, in his case, learning French: it’s like charades, he explains.

And Soren Pham, a Japanese and Psychology major and Data Science minor, received honorable mention in the two-minute category for a deftly animated Instagram video that shows us what learning a new language means to him: it helps him become a better artist and reach a larger audience, make friends and interact with others, and stay up to date about news produced in Japanese!

Economics major and Sociology minor Enzo Leray tells us about learning French in his third-place video in the two-minute category.

Business Analytics and Information Technology major Anakha Nair also tell us about learning French in her third-place video in the 30-second category.

Linguistics major and French and Japanese minor Ary Saxena tells us about the experience of the language classroom in her second-place video in the 30-second category.

Other students who received honorable mention in the two-minute category are Japanese major and Military Science minor Patrick Kwon for his video about learning English and JapaneseCell Biology and Neuroscience major and French minor Isabella Ottay for her video about learning French; and French major Arielle Sawyer for her video about learning French, Portuguese, and Haitian Kreyol.

The Year of Languages Video Challenge competition, which took place in the first weeks of the Spring 2023 semester, would not have been possible without the enthusiastic participation of Rutgers undergraduates and without the commitment and expertise of our instructors, language coordinators, undergraduate program directors, chairs, and staff across the Humanities departments.  I am grateful to them and to the generous and timely support of the excellent teams in The Language Center, SAS Communications and Marketing, and the Dean of Humanities office, who worked together to move the initiative forward.  For launching, designing, and implementing the Video Challenge Prize competition, we are indebted to Professor Preetha Mani, who chaired the faculty selection committee, and Professor Doaa Rashed, Director of the Language Engagement Project.  Finally, I would like to acknowledge the substantial work and expertise of the faculty selection committee members, Professors François Cornillat, Allan Punzalan Isaac, Jorge Marcone, Tom Stephens, and Jenny Yuan-Chen Yang.  Many thanks, all.

Please take a few moments to watch our students’ videos, and please join me in congratulating our video prize winners and honorable mentions.  They eloquently and creatively express a keen understanding of the role that language education and language engagement play in their lives, in their education and aspirations, and in our communities.  


Rebecca Walkowitz

Dean of Humanities

Distinguished Professor