Oldenborg launches Haitian-Creole Language Table

Oldenborg Center gives students a space to build community around shared language. (Anna Choi • The Student Life)

Pomona College’s Oldenborg Center has added Haitian-Creole to the list of language table offerings. The table started on March 3 and now takes place every Friday. 

Oldenborg offers language tables to provide 5C students a chance to communicate in the available languages with other students, student mentors, language partners and professors. Students attend these language tables to fulfill their foreign language course requirements or to speak in their native language with other native speakers. 

Paul Cahill, director of Oldenborg, and Tamara Olivos, assistant director of Oldenborg, explained in an email to TSL that a new language table can be added when students reach out to them to volunteer to mentor a language. The directors also make sure to find at least two student mentors — students who have advanced proficiency in the language to guide conversations among language table attendees. 

Werlie Cius PO ’26 and Amid Louis PO ’26 were selected as student mentors for the Haitian-Creole table. Cius, who proposed the initial idea, feels that starting the language table will increase representation of African languages at Pomona. 

“There are a few African language tables at Oldenborg, but I feel like outside of [Oldenborg] … it’s really hard to get exposure to it because they don’t teach [African languages at Pomona],” she said. “You rarely ever hear anything about African languages.”

Louis explained that African languages are underrepresented, both within Oldenborg and in Pomona’s language department, but also in the student community itself. 

“I feel like there [are] not as many African languages represented as there could be, mainly because there [are] not enough people who speak the language to [initiate African language tables], or they just don’t go to Oldenborg,” they said.

Cius and Louis are doubtful there will be a lot of interest in the early days of the Haitian-Creole language among most students at the 5Cs. However, the pair are optimistic that the Haitian-Creole language table can be a space to share Haitian culture with the few other Haitian people on campus, rather than a place to teach the language. 

“I don’t think [the new language table] will have too much of an impact [on the 5C community], mainly because I don’t think there are too many Haitian people here or people who want to learn the language in general,” Louis said. “But I do feel that for the few Haitian people who are here, there will be an impact among us, because we will have a little space [of] our own where we build our little community.”

Cius shared that she would like to see increased interest in promoting African languages at the 5Cs. 

“I hope more people can … start [language tables] for languages that [are] not offered or taught at the 5Cs,” she said. “Having more African languages and Caribbean languages taught at the 5Cs by actual professors … would be really cool.”

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