Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

Faculty Spotlight: Joana Jansen


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What is the nature of your work at the University of Oregon? 

I am the Associate Director of the Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI) which is one of the research institutes and centers on campus. I am privileged to be able to support projects focused on revitalization and linguistic description of Native American languages, and students and community members working on these projects. In the part of the world that we now know as the state of Oregon, there were once 18-25 languages, many with multiple dialects. Most are not spoken today by elders who grew up speaking the language, but more and more are being spoken by language learners. There is so much interest in passion in returning the languages to daily use – it is inspiring!

My work at NILI is quite varied. There is not ‘typical’ day or week. I could be drafting a grant proposal, working on a research project with tribal partners, supervising GRFs to disseminate information and products via NILI’s website, meeting with Linguistics students, planning for NILI’s Summer Institute, and/or delivering online workshops and trainings to Native language teachers.

How are you associated with LTS?

I have worked with a number of LTS students, particularly those working on Native American language projects. Their work and ideas strengthen NILI. I have also been a reader for LTS Masters projects. I have not taught in LTS classes regularly, but this term I am teaching Linguistic Principles and Second Language Acquisition.

What is your favorite language of those that are taught at UO? 

The Ichishkíin language is spoken by elders of several tribes in Oregon and Washington. Most of the work I have done on documentation and curriculum has been focused on Ichishkíin – we’ve been teaching it at UO since Yakama Elder Virginia Beavert came here to get her PhD in 2007. LTS students and grads have been key to the class. In the early years of the class, LTS student Roger Jacob developed course materials and co-taught with me and Virginia. Now, LTS grad Regan Anderson is teaching it with Virginia, and other students are involved building and enhancing curriculum, which is shared with teachers at the tribes. The language is also taught at NILI Summer Institute and that brings together students and teachers of Ichishkiin from across the region, including UO students.

What do you enjoy most about working with language educators?

It’s a cliché but – I learn so much from the teachers I work with! Their love for their students is inspiring. Because I work in many different communities, I can facilitate connections between people and help to share ideas and inspiration.

You are teaching one of the first classes our cohort is taking – do you have any words of wisdom or advice for them as they continue in the program?

I’ve seen a lot of students grow in skills and confidence during the LTS program, and the relationships built in the cohort are really important. As a group, you hold a lot of knowledge: help and learn from one another. Also, even though you are in graduate school, take time for yourself and your family, keep a balance in your lives. Exercise, play, relax, go outside!

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