Dani Hammes: Combining Anthro and Languages Before It Was Cool

CATEGORIES: September 2016

Early this semester, we had the chance to sit down with WLC Ambassador, Dani Hammes. Dani is a third-year undergraduate studying Anthropology, German and Chinese- someone who saw the connection between the two departments before they became one. We talked with her about Anthropology, Language Study, and the connection between the two.


Did you start out as an anthropology major?

 Yes! I came in already Anthropology and German- Anthropology is my primary major, but I came in knowing I wanted to do German as well.


When did you decide that you wanted to study German?

 I knew…freshman year of high school really. I started my first class and knew I was down for it. I started as a freshman- after an introductory course through my high school where they let us try each language for a few weeks to determine which we would like to study. I immediately fell in love with it. Bavarian dialects- that’s my heart. I started it as a freshman, then, as a junior, went to Austria for a year. Luckily, I started it as a freshman because when I came back from Austria they had already cut the German program from my very small high school, so I got very lucky. From there, it just kind of continued into college.


Do you think that one major sort of helps the other- in terms of understanding?

 Anthropology splits into archaeology, biological anthropology, linguistic and cultural. But Anthropology is the study of culture- it’s the study of humans throughout time. What you’re doing is you’re going from all of those four perspectives and you’re looking at culture. If you think about language, everyone says that you can learn the language, you can speak it, your syntax can be beautiful, but until you’re surrounded by people that speak it or when you go there, something happens. You begin to pick up on the cultural clues on what to say, how to say it, when to say it. Linguistic Anthropology is different from Linguistics because it is looking at culture through the linguistic perspective. Every language is a toolbox full of all this information about a culture. By looking at language this way, you can look at a language you’re learning and start making all these connections as “wow, compared to my own language, I always thought this was so hard, so different” and you can see that reflected within their society.


So which area of Anthropology are you most interested in right now?

 I have always loved Linguistic and Cultural. This semester, I’m taking an Archaeology course this semester, and I’m learning that I really like Archaeology as well, but Linguistic and Cultural are my loves.


After graduation, what’s next?

Anthropology- if you’re not just going in to be an anthropologist- acts sort of like a “Jack of all trades”. You can apply it to what you want to do with it- much like you can do with languages. I specifically would like to work abroad. My plan, at the moment, is to volunteer with a couple of different programs abroad, then after that, potentially Peace Corps, but get different skills. Maybe, I would like to eventually end up in an Embassy or with smaller companies who want to branch out into other countries- teaching them cultural sensitivity and adaptation. Really, you can really tailor it to what you find interesting.


When we talked with Ali Lovett, she mentioned that a lot of tech companies are hiring anthropologists right now since it’s such a fast-growing field. Do you think that would be something you would potentially be interested in?

 Maybe! That’s the cool thing about Anthropology here. I started out not really thinking that I would be interested in any parts other than Cultural and Linguistic, but now with this Archaeology class, I think maybe I might like all four parts. I think that is slowly leading me in different ways, so maybe I might end up at a company like that.


Do you take any classes outside of your two majors that you think have influenced what you plan on doing in the future?

 Well, Chinese. The majority of my classes have always been language and Anthropology. I throw in other classes when I need to, but I think that, honestly for me, Chinese has been the biggest influence. It’s still languages, but it’s not German. I had never taken any Chinese before I got pulled onto a program going to China a week before they left. I got lucky that I knew someone that knew someone who had a spot to fill. Before that, I never thought I would go to China, I never thought I would learn Chinese. This was the summer before my Freshman year of college.


So you didn’t speak any Chinese before you went. Wow!

 Yeah, I was just kind of thrown into this forty-day trip, learning a little bit of the language, but mostly seeing culture classes, history classes and then learning a lot about the wind energy that they use there. This was why I really wanted to be an ambassador- I had no clue I would like Chinese, I had no clue that it would be so amazing to me and the culture is just fantastic. It was just this little chance that I happened to go there, I happened to get introduced to this whole other culture and found out I loved it. And then I got to go back on [full] scholarship for a full year which was amazing. That’s why I really like this- I’m hoping that if people get enough introductions to different cultures, maybe they’ll discover something that is amazing to them.