Department of modern languages hosts third annual poetry, short story competition

By Kevin Graham

The department of modern languages and literatures is holding their third annual Foreign Languages Poetry and Short Story Competition. Students can submit entries until Feb. 6.

Originally open only to Spanish students, Cecelia Saenz-Roby, assistant professor of language, expanded the competition to include the other languages in the department last year.

To be eligible, students must submit a piece of work in Chinese, French, German, Japanese or Spanish of no more than 700 words.

Entries will be considered for publication in the “Nuestras Voces” (Our Voices) journal. Winners and participants will be honored during “Noche Literaria (Literary Night).”

Saenz-Roby said the work of her students inspired her to start the competition.

“I was inspired by the creativity of my Intermediate and Advanced Spanish Composition students, which they demonstrated in their short stories and poems,” she said. “Opportunities like these help students discover their abilities and motivates them to improve their communicational aptitudes.”

According to Saenz-Roby, writing in a foreign language can be challenging for a variety of reasons.

“On one hand, you need to think in the foreign language to avoid interferences from the native one,” she said. “On the other hand, our students are very sophisticated thinkers and many times find themselves needing to express their complex ideas in their second language. In addition, in order to attract the attention of your readers in a creative work, you need to use colorful expressions, images, and metaphors.”

Despite the barriers, the judges said students have been able to come up with some impressive work.

“I have noticed that in the past, students wish to convey a personal feeling or experience, and it is amazing how well they have been able to find the words in a foreign language to express themselves so eloquently,” Dikka Berven, special instructor of French, said.

Each piece is judged by a professor of the language in which it is submitted. Students will be judged in a variety of areas.

“The criteria will include things such as creativity and originality, how well-organized and thought out the poem or story is, whether the writer has good control of the structure and grammar of the language, whether the writer has used interesting vocabulary, if there is good use of idiomatic expressions, a certain fluidity of expression that would make the piece a pleasure to read,”Berven said.

Saenz-Roby said judging the competition has not been easy.

“Selecting the winners is very difficult because the quality of our students’ work is very impressive,” she said.

For more information, students can visit oakland.edu/nuestrasvoces.