LTS

Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

May 29, 2018
by LTSblog
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Faculty Spotlight – Robert Elliott in Costa Rica

In April, LTS faculty member and NILI Associate Director Robert Elliott travelled to Costa Rica to partner with the University of Costa Rica (UCR) in San José to offer 2 weeks of workshops for Indigenous language teachers.

Robert (far left, back row) and the workshop participants in San José, Costa Rica

Tell us about your experience. Who did you work with in Costa Rica?

In partnership with Professor Carlos Sánchez Avendaño of the UCR linguistics department, and Kara McBride of World Learning, the workshops were developed for 15 Indigenous language and culture teachers from 7 languages throughout the country of Costa Rica.  The languages – Ngäbere, Buglere, Malecu, Bribri, Cabécar, Boruca, and Térraba – are in various states of endangerment, and the teachers work predominantly with middle-school aged children.

During a session about online teaching resources

How were the workshops structured?

The workshop was divided into two parts and were loosely based on the model of NILI summer institute classes. The first week, the teachers received training in pedagogy in the morning hours while the afternoon was geared towards learning to use technology tools and generating ideas for making greatly needed language learning materials for their classes. The second week was centered around giving time and support for the teachers to build materials to take home to their communities and share new ideas with other teachers. On one of the last days, the group was able to visit Carlos’ “Languages of Costa Rica” university class, and the teachers all got to use some of their new techniques to teach his class a bit of their languages.

Recording the language of a participant for a teaching material

How do you think the workshop is relevant to LTS and future language teachers?

In some ways, we as language teachers are all in the same boat. We are all involved with promoting language, culture and opening people up to new world views. But having LTS faculty actively involved in minority and endangered language situations is fairly unique and adds to our program. First, we do have future teachers in the LTS program who are planning to teach less commonly taught languages and endangered languages and having faculty actively involved in these issues is important for these students. Further, all future language teachers should be aware of the effects of globalization and the extreme loss of smaller languages both in the Pacific Northwest as well as in the world at large. It is likely, for example, if you teach ESL in the US or Latin America, that you will have speakers of indigenous languages in your class and you may not even realize it. For much of the world, a language exists in a system of other languages, and while we have the ability to do much good as language teachers, opening doors to our students that would not otherwise exist, we also need to also be aware of our ability to do great harm, even unintentionally, particularly to smaller and fragile languages. We hope that all of our teachers leave the LTS program with a sensitivity towards these issues.  

What else did you do there?

While the schedule was busy, not everything was all business all the time. In the evenings and weekends the group was able to visit different venues in and around UCR, such as the Insect museum at the university and the National Museum of Pre Columbian Gold in the center of San José.

How about a snack?

The insect museum contained specimens of gigantic tropical bugs, and we were offered some freshly prepared cockroaches and larvae to sample – yum! The Pre-Columbian museum was described as bittersweet by one of the participants: very interesting but also a reminder of the difficult history indigenous people have endured in Costa Rica and the Americas. I was also able to sneak in some seriously needed beach and surfing time at one of the stellar surf spots in the country, and got lost in a tropical rain forest in the mountains one day. This was an invaluable experience, and I look forward to participating in more workshops for indigenous teachers in the future.

 

May 20, 2018
by zachp
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Student Spotlight: Sean Brennan

It is my pleasure to introduce 2016-18 LTS student Sean Brennan. Sean is one of the many students who have pursued concurrent MA degrees in LTS and East Asian Languages and Literatures (EALL)

Hi Sean! Please tell the world a little bit about yourself.

Sean at one of his art gallery shows.

I’m a Kentucky native, but my interest in Chinese carried me away from there to spend a good chunk of my twenties studying in China, and eventually here in Oregon. I remember when I was a kid, I was fascinated by the idea that different people had different ways of speaking and writing, and longed to study foreign language. In high school, I was finally able to study my first foreign language which happened to be German. I enjoyed studying German, but it was only once I was able to study Chinese as an undergraduate that I truly fell in love with another language, and I’ve never looked back. Outside of school, art and in particular, painting, has been one of my life-long passions and I’ve been fortunate to have a couple gallery shows since I moved to Eugene.

You are quite the jack of all trades! So how did you end up in the LTS program?

I believe I first heard about it from the instructor for my Chinese linguistics course here at UO.

What has been your focus in the program?

In participating in this program, my aim has been to gain the tools and knowledge to effectively utilize my experiences learning Chinese as a second language to inform my teaching of the language. I believe my project represents a culmination of this effort, as it addresses a specific need of Chinese learners that’s not accounted for in current curriculum—bridging the gap between English reading and Chinese reading—which I recognized as a problem from my own experiences.

Sounds like a great project! And you mentioned you are a GE (graduate employee) for Japanese literature, how’s that experience been?

It’s been going great. While I’m normally a GE for the Chinese department, teaching in the Japanese department is always a refreshing change of pace, and through the works we read, I get to see the cultural and linguistic exchanges between the two countries throughout history.

Sean presenting at the LTS poster session.

Are you excited to start working on your MA project?

Yes, I really feel good about my project. I’ve received some really positive feedback from Chinese department faculty about the idea, and I think it’s possible it may lead to some serious consideration for adding a Chinese extensive reading course to the curriculum.

Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview! Best of luck in the completion of the program!

May 12, 2018
by LTSblog
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LTS presents at 2018 Graduate Research Forum

Every year, the Graduate School showcases research by graduate students at the University of Oregon’s Grad Forum. This past Friday four LTS students presented their projects, alongside other MA and PhD students from various fields. It’s a great chance for LTS grads to get experience presenting their work formally to others outside of the field. All of us who visited the Forum were so impressed by the creative and attractive posters, and the professional presentations that went with them. Go LTS!

Krystal Lyau

 

Yumiko Omata

Yuxin Cheng

Ngan Vu

May 3, 2018
by zachp
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Student Spotlight: Kunie Kellem

It is pleasure to introduce you to LTS student Kunie Kellem!

Kunei presenting at the LTS poster session.

Hi Kunie! Please tell the world a little bit about yourself.

Hi. I’m Kunie! I’m from Osaka, Japan. I like running, working out, playing and watching basketball, and eating delicious food!! I came to Eugene with my husband and son in August 2016. Before I came to Eugene, I taught English at Japanese high schools for 14 years. I loved my job, students, and my coworkers, but I was always struggling with this dilemma between ideals and reality of English classes in Japan. I wanted to change something. I wanted to see my students communicate in English confidently. I wanted to have confidence in my skills and knowledge to support students to realize their goals. That is why I decided to study in the LTS program!!

Kunie with her son and Puddles the Duck.

Well, we sure are glad you made that decision! So how has the LTS experience been for you?

It was a big decision for me to come to U of O to study since I had to leave my work, and my family had to change their life styles dramatically. What I was most worried about was my son; if he could adjust to the life in U.S., if he could get new friends, and if he could improve his English to keep up with his school work. I was not so worried about myself at the start point of my new journey. However, it turned out the first 3 months here were the hardest time in my life. Since it had been for such a long time after I graduated from university, everything was new and different. I was surrounded by young, enthusiastic students who were always actively involved in discussion in class, whereas I, who was not used to discussion style lectures, was always at a loss about what to do. Being an international student made things more difficult.

Kunie with her son at the Grand Canyon.

I still remember for the first few weeks I woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning to work on my reading, take notes, review the lecture notes, and prepare for the classes. In addition, as I had expected, my son also had a hard time at his new school because of the cultural and language issues, which made me feel terrible and responsible for taking him all the way here with me. I literally cried a lot for the first few months. However, things started to get better after 3 months. My son started to enjoy his school life and made many friends. (At first, he could not read English, but now he is in the advanced spellers group!!) My husband finally got a job here. I gradually got used to student life here. After that “dark time” passed, I started to enjoy my life here more. I started to hang out with my friends more, go hiking more, go to watch Duck’s games more, which made me realize that Eugene is such a beautiful place surrounded by great nature and great people. I don’t think I could have gone through this far without support from my family, friends and professors at U of O and I am so grateful about it!!

Kunie with LTS friends Aska (2017) and Krystal (2018).

Kunie in her UO duck gear.

Glad to hear you and your family made it through that transition period and grew from it! What are some key things you’ve learned in your time here?

Of course, I have been learning very important principles and pedagogy of language learning and teaching, but at the same time I really appreciate that I get the perspective of how it is like being a student and learning new things again; what students think, what they struggle with, and how they deal with learning. I almost forgot those perspectives, and I am sure this experience will help me to become a better teacher when I go back to my work. Also, I have learned from my professors how to create the comfortable atmosphere to learn, how to support students, and how to assess students’ learning based on objective-based assessment, which is very motivating. I would like to incorporate what I learned here into my teaching!!

And I know you have been teaching Japanese, how has that experience been?

Kunie at a beach in Newport, Oregon.

Yes. I have been working as a Japanese GE at U of O for 6 terms. I really enjoy teaching Japanese and I like when the students show me “aha! moment” expressions when they understand and use the structures well in a communicative practice. One time, at the REC center I bumped into a student whom I taught before, and he gave me a high five and talked to me in Japanese. I felt extremely happy!! I think this is one of the (rare) rewarding moments for language teachers. Teaching Japanese has also given me a great insight about language teaching. Although Japanese and English are two different languages, I am learning a lot about teaching techniques, curriculum designs, assessments, and classroom managements from Japanese instructors and actual lessons. Now I can see Japanese language and its culture from a different perspective, which I am sure will be a great asset of mine when I go back to Japan. I appreciate that I was given this opportunity to teach Japanese here.

Are you excited to have started working on your M.A. project?

Yes! Actually, I have been worried about it for a long time, but once I started writing literature review for MA project, I really enjoy it. Since I am on the two-year program, I could spend more time thinking about my project than many of my cohorts who are on the 15-month program. On my first year, I spent most of my time, energy and effort on just doing well in a class. However, after one year passed, many things I learned from each class started to make sense, and they started to be connected with each other.

Kunie with her son biking around the Golden Gate Bridge.

Now I feel like I am working on puzzles; a small puzzle for literature review and a big puzzle for MA project.  I will keep reading and learning from professors and cohorts to find the best pieces for my puzzle. I am really looking forward to seeing what kind of picture my puzzle will turn out to be.

What a nice connection between the final project and puzzles! Any final thoughts?

I know most of my LTS cohorts live busy stressful days with a lot of school work. I also feel the same way. Although it is very important to be organized and work hard on our project, sometimes it is also important to release our stress by doing/eating what we like.  We are now 4 months away from the end of our journey. I am sure it is going to be busy and hard 4 months, but we are on this together. I hope each of us can see our own beautiful picture on the puzzle at the end of this journey!!

Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview and best of luck in your completion of the program!

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