Yasmine Allen, Instructor in Spanish, Pursues Passion For Language and Culture

A self-described “language-nerd,” Yasmine Allen, Instructor in Spanish, has a love for learning new languages and culture that extends far beyond Spanish. From Japanese to Portuguese, Allen boasts a bountiful repertoire of new languages, as she seeks every opportunity to expose herself to a new language. “I just love the idea of meeting new people and accessing new languages and cultures, or accessing the people through the language and culture, and being able to talk and converse with millions of people through that medium,” said Allen. Aside from teaching two sections of Spanish 400, Allen serves as the Chair of the Spanish Department, House Counselor at Nathan Hale and a spinning instructor. She was also recently appointed as the new Assistant Dean of Faculty. Attending a Spanish-American bilingual school in Maryland, Allen was surrounded by a diverse group of students from a young age. “[The school] was probably more than half minority. I grew up with people from El Salvador and different Asian countries, including Korea, Laos, Cambodia. It was very diverse, and I like to get to know different people, so I guess that’s how I started my love of culture and language,” said Allen. In addition to receiving a Master’s Degree in Spanish at DePauw University, Allen decided to pursue Portuguese in college after befriending one Brazilian and two Portuguese friends in high school. “I learned about [Portuguese] culture through them, and, considering the similarities between Spanish and Portuguese, I was immediately interested in learning the language,” she said. Fascinated by Japan’s culture after taking a class on traditional Japanese literature in English at DePauw, Allen also decided to take a Japanese language class her senior year in college. Allen’s passion for new languages continued through graduate school, where she not only continued taking Portuguese classes as part of her Master’s Program at Purdue University but also took a summer course in Italian. Beyond the classroom lectures in college and graduate school, Allen has had the opportunity to visit Portugal and Brazil, where she was able to flaunt her new language skills and immerse herself in their culture. “Travelling to the places where I could speak their native tongue was an amazing experience. I would love to go to Japan one day. I haven’t been beyond the Iberian Peninsula in Europe… so I would also love to visit France and Italy as well,” said Allen. At Andover, Allen is currently auditing a French 200 course, taught by Debra Pickering, Instructor in French. Last year, she audited French 110/120. Furthermore, Allen had the chance to visit Quebec City over the summer, where she was able to practice speaking French. “It’s wonderful [auditing French]. I’m a ‘language nerd,’ so just to be back in the classroom again is wonderful. I absorb everything, and I just want to speak French everywhere,” said Allen. Allen hopes to relay her passion for new languages to her students. “I tell my students: ‘When you come into the classroom, adopt the culture. Become a different person. You’re not necessarily your English-speaking self, you’re your Spanish-speaking self.’ When I go to Panama in the summers, I’m a different Mrs. Allen when I’m in Panama than when I am here. Immersing yourself in a new language and culture makes you think of yourself differently… it makes you view yourself through a different lens. You’re changed by the people you meet, the food, the culture you experience,” she added. Apart from her love for learning new languages, Allen also enjoys spinning, an aerobic exercise performed on stationary bikes in the gym. Although she was intimidated at first by the cold gym rooms and shouting instructors, Allen was hooked after she tried her first class. “Riding on the bike is like meditation. I’m in the zone, especially when I am climbing up a hill. Once I tried spinning and experienced the cardiovascular benefits of exercising on the spinner bike, I wanted to continue incorporating these workouts into my weekly routine,” she said. Allen teaches 45-minute classes per week during the winter and spring terms and usually tries to get on the bike before the term to start training for the upcoming season. She has been instructing spinning classes since she got certified in 2010.