Peter Haskin

Position title: 2020 SIPI Alumnus

Graduate student at Yale University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, History Department in New Haven, CT

What motivated you to enroll in SIPI? I figured out that I love studying foreign languages when I was about twelve years old. In the degree program in which I’m currently enrolled, I am required to demonstrate proficiency in Portuguese — a new language for me. I’d been awarded a grant for summer language study in Lisbon. When COVID hit, I discovered SIPI. I know that I learn languages most easily when I have ample time to practice speaking skills. Since SIPI offered more (digital) classroom hours than any comparable program I could find, I transferred my grant and enrolled.

How has Portuguese enriched your life so far? This past semester, I took a course in Brazilian history. Portuguese and Brazilian historians have written a lot of good stuff that’s never been translated into English. The language capacity I gained last summer gave me access to texts I would have passed by a year ago.

What was your favorite part of the SIPI program? I enjoyed the exposure that the program provided to Portuguese-language music, films, and literature. My partner eventually got sick of hearing Caetano Veloso on the speaker in our apartment, so having bright classmates with whom to discuss all this new material was an added bonus.

What is your favorite word or phrase in Portuguese? I don’t know if it’s my very favorite, but I love that the calf muscle is called “a batata da perna” — literally “the potato of the leg.”

How do you feel SIPI performed given the impacts of COVID-19? My first experience taking a language class entirely online was with SIPI. Carolina and Mariana, our instructors, were both whizzes at teaching in this format. They moved class along at a quick pace, never lecturing for long periods or wasting much time in transition between class activities. They used the chat function in our online classroom very effectively: students could post questions as new material was being presented, and the instructors would pause to answer once they reached a natural stopping place. They also cleverly encouraged the use of emojis and online games to make class fun. SIPI really made a refreshing limonada with the sour limões that COVID dealt it.