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Meet Brian Powers, language learner and Membrain!

By Memrise Blog

In an effort to get to know more about our wonderful community and what drives everyone to keep learning, we’ve recently been in touch with a few very keen Memrisers. On this ocassion, we’d like you to meet Brian, who has written this guest blog post to share his experience of learning in Memrise and beyond. Take it away!

Hello Memrise!

My name is Brian Powers, I’m the administrator and creator of Languages Around the Globe, a growing community of language learners, linguists and other culture or language enthusiasts. I graduated from Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire in 2011 with a degree in cultural anthropology. I am now living in Ithaca, New York (where I was born) with my wife and our 4 year old son.

I’m currently studying Russian and Spanish. These are what I consider to be my primary language projects, though I merely consider myself proficient, not bilingual. As an aspiring polyglot, and as a hazard of being exposed to hundreds of languages regularly, I find it hard to not deviate into other languages, however briefly. I have studied (mostly to no large extent) Ukrainian, Kyrgyz, French, Quechua and most recently have begun working on Japanese.

I think I’ve always been a strong learner, so long as I can stay motivated. It’s funny to look back on so many years of classes and courses and teachers and not think to myself about how much more I care about learning than I did when I was in, say, high school. I didn’t do poorly, but I could have worked so much harder and done so much more. I’d venture to say I’m a better student now than I was when I was a student.

The best teacher I ever had was probably Dr. Robert Welsh, a medical anthropologist specializing in Papua New Guinean tribes and a professor at Franklin Pierce University, and also something of a polyglot. He took a very unorthodox approach to teaching, and was often not well thought of by students (or staff…) He would challenge students (undergrads) on a level that they weren’t expecting. He had this way or forcing participation from everyone and took a sort of sadistic pleasure in making unprepared students squirm. Of course he sounds like every student’s worst nightmare, and for some he was, but not for me. I was often an unmotivated student, bored, or just not always in the room mentally speaking, but Dr. Welsh forced this attention and really fostered the critical thinking in all of us – not always common in large classroom settings.

Another unusual attribute of his teaching style was his refusal to fail students. One could argue that he was just coving his own butt, but he didn’t accept writing assignments that were lower than B quality, instead allowing students as much time as they required to rewrite and sometimes re-rewrite the paper until it was of an acceptable quality. He didn’t give tests and every class was discussion oriented. It was a different, sometimes extremely embarrassing environment; but he seemed to be the only professor or teacher that I’ve ever had that cared exclusively about student learning and development rather than scores.

Today I am inspired to learn in an effort to help others learn. I’m not a teacher, not usually anyway, but I am a huge language and cultural awareness proponent and feel that the more I learn, the more I can then impart on others. I don’t think there is a problem with accumulating knowledge simply for its own sake and that the highly business, profit oriented world has taken strides to stunt raw intellectual growth in children and adults around the world.

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time studying up on blogging and website administration in an attempt to take the LATG blog and social community to a new level of success, and hopefully learn some skills that are actually marketable without a Ph.D 😉 . I’m not sure if I’d call this the “best” thing I’ve learned lately, but it’s certainly one of the more interesting and enlightening things I’ve learned.

I learned the other day that Reading Rainbow, a PBS show from my childhood that fostered learning and literacy in young children, cancelled in 2009 after 30 years started a Kickstarter campaign to resurrect the program into a new, modern-technology friendly medium that would no longer function as a television show, but as a free, interactive world available on all sorts of new devices. The campaign sought to raise $1,000,000 over the course of 35 days. They reached their goal in 12 hours and three days in (as of me writing this) they are close to 5 million. The public support for this is pretty uplifting; if this doesn’t restore faith in humanity, I don’t know what would.

Finally, we asked Brian to describe himself in three hashtags.

I only started a Twitter account a month ago, so I’m still horrible at the hashtagging game. Lets see…