New Perspectives on Global Issues

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Of all the student publications at Yale, only one offers students the chance to write in languages other than English.

Accent, Yale’s first and, thus far, only multilingual student publication, features articles by Yale undergraduates on current affairs topics written in the language related to the community or issue the article focuses on.  

The publication was founded by a group of undergraduates in Spring 2012 as a way to not only showcase Yalies’ language skills and international interests, but to explore foreign languages and cultures and share interests with one another in a novel way. 

Languages are “not just a medium of communication, but they are also a unique way of thinking,” explained Igor Mitschka (SY, ’15) current editor-in-chief of Accent and one of the original founders of the publication. An international student himself, Mitschka said that the mere fact of speaking, writing, and thinking in a new language changes the way he describes things, expresses desires, engages in conversations, and thinks about his environment. Writing for Accent offers Yale students the same chance to share their opinions, and findings from within a new framework of thought, as well as an opportunity to write and think in a language they love.

Accent began in 2012 with a group of 11 students, 8 of them international students. Altogether, the group had 7 different mother tongues (French, English, Spanish, German, Japanese, Hebrew, and Chinese). 

Accent features articles that highlight the individual experiences, findings, feelings, and opinions of student writers who either come from the culture they are writing about, or are engaged in it extensively.  While writers of any language skill level are welcome to contribute to Accent, writers usually have strong backgrounds in the  language — meaning that they either study it at a L4 level or beyond, or are native speakers.

The magazine’s first issue, surrounding the theme of sexuality, was well received by the Yale community. Issues were quickly snatched off dining hall tables, debates were sparked online, and the magazine leaders received requests from students to publish English translations of the articles alongside the foreign language original version so that they could have access to every article. These English translations have been included in every issue since.

Today, the Accent team consists of 22 people. The students involved come from a variety of backgrounds: 14 are international students and 8 are Americans; only 4 are native English speakers. International students working on Accent come from Italy, Spain, Afghanistan, Peru, United Kingdom, Austria, Russia, Japan, Israel, Bahrain, and China.

To date, Accent has published two more print magazines — on the themes of youth in revolt, and identity — as well as a summer blog.  The blog premiered in summer 2013 and is available on the publication’s website. Blog topics include Chavez’s legacy in Venezuela, immigration reform in the United States, working at the United Nations in Geneva, and uprisings in Turkey.

Mitschka’s hopes for the future of Accent are simple: “More languages, more writers, more Americans, and English-as-a-first-language speakers. Accent should be a focal point for every student interested in thinking, debating and exploring in a language other than English.”

- By Leslie Bull