On the Same Page gets new students talking with voice sample map

Just how linguistically diverse is UC Berkeley’s incoming class of 2011-2012? In a lively welcome video for this year’s On the Same Page program and its focus on the many Voices of Berkeley, Social Sciences Dean Carla Hesse points out a fun way to find out.

It involves a “Start by Talking Back” experiment devised by linguistics professor Keith Johnson to map the voice samples submitted by this coming fall’s crop of new students.

Only new students—both freshmen and transfers—to the College of Letters and Science can submit voice samples. But anyone can listen to students’ voices, check out a voice match page, and test their own, non-student skills on tasks such as distinguishing between the words “Don” and “Dawn,” as pronounced by a diverse array of speakers.

Voices of Berkeley aims to engage all students, as even those who don’t think they have an accent will learn that everyone is linguistically unique, and those who only speak English will discover opportunities for instruction in 60 different languages. At a time when other universities are cutting language instruction to save money, UC Berkeley decided that increased funding for foreign language courses is a wise investment.

Every year since 2006, On the Same Page has given incoming freshmen something to think and talk about — a book, a film, or a timely topic of discussion.