Tag Archives: high school

Language & Culture are Linked

Students participating in DCIFF’s “Acing the Interview” afterschool high school program recently attended a virtual session with Dr. Young-Key Kim-Renaud, Professor Emeritus of Korean Language and Culture and International Affairs at George Washington University. Dr. Young-Key, who contributed to the program’s syllabus and selection of topics, led an engaging session with students to explore the connection between a person’s languages and cultures.

A native Korean speaker who was born in Korea and then studied in France at the Sorbonne before moving to the United States, Dr. Young-Key drew on extensive experience teaching the Korean language and culture to foster discussion about both language and the requisite skills and awareness for interviewing an individual to learn about their linguistic and cultural identity and experiences. 

The lecture and discussion began with a global perspective of bilingualism (including multilingualism). With seventy-five of the world’s population speaking two or more languages, a majority of the world’s population have multiple options for multiple linguistic perspectives and modes of expression. Students noted their own experiences of early-memories of language-switching in line with Dr. Young-Kim’s claim that by age 2.5, a multilingual child begins to make choices in language use and to identify their majority language. Regardless of what age a person engages a language, whether by beginning to learn it or mastering fluency, speaking additional languages opens whole other worlds for the speaker. 

Dr. Young-Kim also discussed best-practices for the students when speaking with their bilingual interviewees, highlighting both “universal and culture-specific norms of polite behavior.” Unsurprisingly, universal norms include expressing sincerity and curiosity; being generous without condescending; maintaining awareness that questions are never threatening or imply negative assumptions; and offering encouraging responses, gestures, exclamations. For culturally specific suggestions, she highlighted the importance of recognizing the role of power in the personal dynamic or general topic of the conversation, ensuring solidarity with the interviewee, fostering an interpersonal relationship, expressing appropriate formality, and maintaining awareness of language that can imply inclusion or exclusion. As a general principle, Dr. Young-Key quoted the British philosopher of language Paul Grice who claimed that “conversations are to a certain degree cooperative efforts.” Overall, she noted the importance for an interviewer to be informed, relevant, and lucid in their interview conversation.

Dr. Young-Key will participate in the program’s screening and talkback event on March 13 where attendees can virtually view students’ final interview films and hear from the students on their creative processes.

Written by: 
Daniel Erichsen-Tel

Building Blocks: High School Student Films Soon-To-Be On-Screen Premieres

This year, DCIFF’s educational programming expands beyond the film festival week with a 6-week after school program for high school students in partnership with DC International School. Students study the foundations of creating on-screen interviews by exploring storytelling and script-crafting, elements of the interview, and technical aspects of filming and editing.

In sessions focused on storytelling, students have debated the competing importance of context, conflict, and motivation in cultivating stories that an audience will care to hear and see. To practice crafting their own stories, students shared filmed accounts of a broken arm, the disappointing results of a soccer team tryout, and learning how to ask uncomfortable questions, among other topics. 

As sessions moved on to interviewing techniques, the group discussed building rapport with an interview subject, planning the topic and order of a line of questions, and probing for more information without planting a desired answer. In breakout rooms, mock interview groups experimented with these techniques and through practice identified the small but impactful difference made by asking open-ended questions (“When do you feel most energized in your work?” versus “Do you like your job?”). 

An Emmy award winning Documentary Producer and Cinematographer for Tegna Media, Spencer Bruttig will be leading upcoming sessions on filming technique and various factors to consider, from locations, lighting, and sound to time restraints and other logistical planning factors.

In the next couple of weeks, students will be planning, filming, and producing their own on-screen interviews with bilingual Washingtonians to explore community members’ experience of inhabiting multiple languages. Currently, students are preparing to send out their requests to potential interview subjects and are drafting scripts to develop a line of questioning. Once complete, students’ interview films will not only be screened at the DCIFF High School Film Festival (March 13-14), but they will also be saved in HumanitiesDC’s Digital Museum. (DCIFF’s free after school program for highschool students is made possible by the DC Humanities Council.)

Stay tuned!

(Top photo courtesy of Engin Akyurt)