LTS

Language Teaching Specialization Blog Site at the University of Oregon

May 16, 2017
by LTSblog
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Alumni Spotlight Hortensia Gutierrez

Hortensia Gutierrez graduated from LTS in 2014 with an MA project titled Teaching Forms of Address in Chilean Spanish to U.S. College Students. She worked at the American English Institute (AEI) for a few years before applying for her PhD studies in Spanish Linguistics.

Hortensia on the Georgetown campus, where she will pursue her PhD

Tell us about your good news about the next 5 years!

I am about to start a PhD in Spanish Linguistics at Georgetown University and I am very excited to start this new path in my professional life! During 2016 I had many experiences that pushed me to take this important step. I applied to six programs around the country and I was accepted to four of them with full funding for five years: University of Arizona, Indiana University, State University of New York Albany, and Georgetown University. My final decision to go to Georgetown was based on the faculty, the professional opportunities (outside the regular ones that any PhD program offers), and the solid instruction in all the areas of linguistics. In addition, I had two emotional factors to include: the fact that our beloved Keli Yerian is an former student of GU and the professional life of my husband.

Why did you decide to go on to a PhD? How did your experiences in LTS and otherwise lead you to this path?

I grew up in an academic environment that shaped my way of seeing life, learning to love questions and showing others my findings. At first, I became a high school teacher and I taught physics for more than 4 years in Chile, but it wasn’t until I came to the US that I found my true passion for linguistics: I liked physics, but I love teaching languages. For that reason, I decided to study in the LTS program and it changed my life. I believe that the first moment I thought about continuing my studies was when I started to work on my MA project. I was so passionate about the social and political aspects of language that I decided that I wanted to go deeper. I know that in the next five years I will find what I am looking for and more, and that makes me really happy.

What will be your areas of focus during your PhD?

During my M.A., I wanted to study the suppression of certain Spanish variation features in the traditional classroom, caused by linguistic ideologies in Latin America. Now, for my doctoral studies I would like to explore the dynamics of linguistic ideologies in areas of language contact. For example, I am interested in what happens when Mapudungun, a language spoken by the Mapuche community, is in contact with Chilean Spanish. This contact reveals elements that I would like to explore, such as bilingualism, heritage learners of Mapudungun, language revitalization, and the teaching of Mapudungun to the general population, among others. My ultimate professional goal is linked to my personal core value that pushed me to study Education in the first place: to use my research and work in academia to empower communities, encouraging people to understand and protect their identity.

Is there any advice you would give to current or future LTS graduate students?

People have different goals in life and different ways of reaching them, but I believe there is one fundamental element that is important to achieve them, and that is the passion for what you are doing. So if you want to teach languages or research languages, remember to always give your best.

March 16, 2017
by gkm
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Student Spotlight – Valeria Ochoa

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? Where have you studied? Any hobbies?

I was originally born in S. Lake Tahoe, California but have spent most of my life in Las Vegas, NV. To stay close to home, I decided to attend the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. I got my B.A. in Romance Languages (French and Spanish). During my undergraduate degree, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Pau, France and Heredia, Costa Rica. Both of these experiences studying abroad have helped to shape who I am now and fuel my love of language learning/teaching. It also helps that I love to travel (hard to find a language teacher that doesn’t), and I sincerely enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds. One more fun fact about myself is that I love watching/playing soccer. Go FCB!

You’re a GE for the Romance Languages department. What is that like?

Yes, for the past two terms I have taught first-year intensive Spanish. This course is intensive in that the students have already had at least two years of Spanish learning experience, so the class moves through the units quicker than if it were a class of true beginners. This upcoming term I am going to be teaching Spanish 203, so it will be interesting to see how much the learners are expected to know from the end of first year until this point. I look forward to being pleasantly surprised.

Teaching Spanish here at the UO has been insightful, but honestly quite exhausting at times. Balancing your personal needs and the needs of your students can get pretty tricky, but when you see how much your students are progressing, it makes the whole thing worthwhile. Teaching while doing LTS at the same time is not for the weak-hearted; however, I do think it serves as an invaluable experience in which you can directly apply what you are learning in LTS to a real class.

Can you tell us a little about the ideas for your Master’s project?

My master’s project is going to be a teaching portfolio for Spanish Heritage Language Learners (SHLLs). I am currently looking into creating activities that integrate service-learning, since heritage learners often report learning their heritage language for the purpose of connecting to their family members and their communities. As a SHLL myself, this project is especially important to me because I want to create a teaching portfolio that not only promotes language proficiency and community engagement, but that encourages heritage learners to value the knowledge they already have as rich and important. So far it has been extremely interesting and kind of fun to research these topics. I cannot wait to start the process of actually creating the activities!

Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose the LTS program? What are you looking forward to doing in your remaining time in the program?

Unfortunately, UNLV does not have a Linguistics department, and I was set on doing something related to linguistics for graduate school, so that meant I had to start looking for a place that suited me. Lucky for me, while searching through program after program, I ended up meeting my now fellow cohort companion, Becky Lawrence, on Facebook through mutual interests. After she explained that everything she was learning was directly applicable to real language teaching situations, I was convinced LTS was the place for me. I have not regretted my decision since. Many of my peers in other departments often tell me how they wish they would have done LTS rather than what they are doing. It feels good to know that I am in the right place.

One thing I am looking forward to doing is starting the process of collecting information from heritage learners and teachers for my master’s project. I want to know what they enjoy and do not enjoy about their SHL classes. I want to find ways to satisfy the needs of these learners, since we know their needs are different from that of L2 learners. It should hopefully be an enlightening and satisfying process.

 

Video Blog Update!

Valeria returns to update us on her GE experience, switching from teaching 1st-year Spanish to leading the 2nd-year course. She also shares with us how her project focus has evolved since joining the Master’s project class this Spring term!

February 15, 2017
by gkm
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Student Spotlight – Becky Lawrence

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I’m originally from Louisiana, but I’ve lived about half of my life in Oregon. I’m definitely a fan of the cold and rain over the heat! I received my bachelor’s from Western Oregon University where I double majored in English Linguistics with TEFL certification, and Spanish Linguistics. In my spare time, I love spending time with my 5-year-old daughter, watching anime, singing, and writing.

Tell us about the work you do in the LTS program and at the University of Oregon in general. What kind of internships have you done?

I began the LTS program in Summer 2015 and although I had planned to graduate in one year and begin teaching immediately, I decided to take two years to complete the program instead so that I could take advantage of the many opportunities the LTS program has to offer.

During my time in LTS, I have done internships at CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies), AEI (American English Institute), LCC (Lane Community College), and an internship abroad at TIU (Tokyo International University). I’ve also worked at AEI as a Conversation Partner/Help Desk Tutor and Activities Lead, CAPS (Center for Asian and Pacific Studies) as an English Tutor for the Shanghai Xian Dai architect exchange program, Mills International Center as the English Conversation Circle Lead, and CASLS as a Spanish Assessment Rater. There are so many opportunities to gain experience in both campus jobs and internships that really help to grow your CV!

I’ve also taken advantage of the many professional development opportunities present for LTS students. I presented my project research at the 2016 UO Grad Forum, which gave me the chance to present my work in a professional setting in front of other graduate students and faculty from departments across the university. I hope to present again this year as well because it was such a great experience. I also got the chance to present my research in an AEI Professional Development Friday poster session for AEI faculty. Outside of the university, I will be presenting at two big conferences. In March, I will present at the 2017 International TESOL Convention in the Electronic Village in Seattle, WA, and in June, I will present at the 2017 IALLT (International Association for Language Learning Technology) in Moorhead, MN.

Since you’re on the two-year plan, you’ve had a head start on your MA project. Would you tell us a bit about that?

When I first entered the LTS program, I had no idea what I wanted to do for my MA project. I’ve always been interested in creative writing, and I write fiction as a hobby, but I didn’t think that it would be something I could focus on. I thought that I should focus on something more typical like grammar or pronunciation; however, I was wrong! That’s one of the great things about LTS. You can really tailor your MA project to focus on what you’re passionate about, so long as there’s a need and a relevant connection to language teaching. For me, creative writing is a way to express yourself, create new worlds and characters that you wish existed, or to escape from reality every once in a while. So, I decided to focus on designing a creative writing English course. However, after doing a few internships at CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies) where much of the focus is on the intersection between gaming and language learning, I was inspired to design a creative writing course where students create a playable narrative-based game using ARIS, an open-source platform for creating mobile games and interactive stories. The focus of my project is on multi-literacies development using ARIS in a creative writing classroom. I’m really excited to hopefully teach this course in the future.

June 10, 2016
by LTSblog
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Faculty post Anna Mikhaylova – Heritage language learners

Heritage language learners in language classrooms – Anna Mikhaylova

A widely cited broad definition of heritage speakers in the US by Valdés (2001) includes individuals raised in homes where a language other than English is spoken, who are to some degree bilingual in English and the heritage language and, who also have a personal interest or involvement in an ancestral language. Polinsky and Kagan (2007) offer a narrow definition of heritage language as the language which was sequentially first, but may not have been completely acquired due to the speaker’s shift to another language as their dominant means of communication. The latter distinction suggests that, like foreign language learners, heritage speakers may differ in their proficiency levels. Kagan and Dillon (2004) outline the following “matrix” for programs targeting heritage language learners: proper placement; time on task; programmatic rigor; specific instructional materials; an uninterrupted, comprehensive curriculum; instructors trained in heritage language acquisition; a multi-year sequence; consideration of the home/community native speaker environment; and a metalinguistic framework that raises awareness of the importance of grammatical accuracy and register (p.100).

The National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA has many useful resources for both teachers and linguists interested in working with heritage language learners. One of the center’s big projects, led by Maria Carreira and Olga Kagan was a national survey of 1732 heritage speakers of 22 different heritage languages across the United States. As a result, the following general profile of an adult heritage language (HL) learner studying the heritage language at the university level was published in 2011. Such a learner (1) acquired English in early childhood, after acquiring the HL; (2) has limited exposure to the HL outside the home; (3) has relatively strong aural and oral skills but limited literacy skills; (4) has positive HL attitudes and experiences; and (5) studies the HL mainly to connect with communities of speakers in the United States and to gain insights into his or her roots.

While some universities do have classes devoted specifically to heritage language learners or even whole programs, like the Spanish Heritage Language Program here at the University of Oregon, more often heritage language learners find themselves in the same classroom with foreign language learners of the same language. Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 8.33.04 AM

One of the differences (an assumed advantage) observed for heritage language speakers of various languages over foreign language learners is that the former are exposed to the target language naturalistically from birth in family/community contexts while the latter usually post-puberty and in instructed contexts. From this often assumed definitional difference stem other common observations about heritage speakers being usually stronger in oral skills than in literacy-based reading and writing, having a stronger cultural connection, a larger vocabulary and greater focus on meaning than on form in language use, while second language speakers are believed to have stronger reading and writing skills and metalinguistic knowledge and greater attention to form with noticeably weaker oral fluency. While, unfortunately to date there are not too many empirical studies that test effectiveness of instruction, but those that do find that instruction is useful for both types of learners.

Based on these observations, a number of scholars (Beaudrie, Ducar, and Potowski (2014) among others) have called for different or at least differentiated instructional and research methodology approaches targeting the two types of learners. For example, Kagan and Dillon (2009) suggest that macro-based (top-down) and discourse based teaching is more suitable for HL learners in instruction of grammar and vocabulary than the bottom-up grammar/vocabulary to function teaching often used in L2 contexts. Carreira & Kagan (2011) argue for a community-based curriculum, which incorporates materials and types of activities that help learners connect to their experiences in the U.S.

References:
Beaudrie, S., Ducar, C. & Potowski, K. 2014. Heritage Language Teaching: Research and Practice. Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill Education.
Carreira, Maria. 2011. Formative assessment in HL teaching: Purposes, procedures, and practices. The Heritage Language Journal, 8(1).
Carreira, M. & Kagan, O. (2011) The Results of the National Heritage Language Survey: Implications for teaching, curriculum design, and professional development. Foreign Language Annals, Volume 44, No 1. pp. 40-64.
Kagan, 0., & Dillon, K. (2004). Heritage speakers’ potential for high-level language proficiency. In H. Byrnes & H. Maxim (Eds.), Advanced foreign language learning: A challenge to college programs (pp. 99-112). Boston: Heinle/Thomson.
Kagan, O., & Dillon, K. (2009). The professional development of teachers of heritage language learners: A matrix. Bridging contexts, making connections, 155-175.
Polinsky, Maria, and Olga Kagan. 2007. Heritage Languages: In the ‘Wild’ and in the Classroom. Language and Linguistics Compass 1/5: 368–395
Valdes, G. (2001). Heritage language students: Profiles and possibilities. In Peyton, J.K., Ranard, D.A., and McGinnis, S. (eds.), Heritage languages in America: Preserving a national resource. McHenry, IL The Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems. pp. 37-78

December 17, 2015
by LTSblog
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Faculty Spotlight Robert Davis (Romance Languages)

Robert Davis is professor of Spanish and Director of Language Instruction in the Department of Romance Languages. From 2009 to 2014, he was the director of the Middlebury at Mills Spanish School (at Mills College, Oakland CA), a language immersion program of the Middlebury Language Schools.

What is your connection to LTS students/the LTS program?

As one of the applied linguists on campus, I collaborate with the LTS faculty and occasionally have LTS students in my classes on Spanish linguistics. We have also had LTS students in Romance Languages as Graduate Teaching Fellows, and it has been a pleasure to work with these students who are so motivated to become language teachers. We are working on promoting the idea of a concurrent LTS-Romance Languages degree, which would offer students a GTF position while they complete two MAs in the two departments.

Could you tell us about your work in language pedagogy and Spanish linguistics?

My training was in both formal and applied linguistics, and since coming to UO, I have focused on applied topics. My specialty is the creation of language learning materials within the frameworks of content-based instruction and interculturality.

What do you enjoy most about working with graduate students? 

I always learn so much from my graduate students! In my most recent methods class, they designed action research projects that touched on topics from diverse learning styles to improving pair/group interactions in the L2 classroom. Their passion and hard work are always inspiring to me, and it’s a honor to be able to prepare the next generation of language teaching professionals.

What do you think is most important for new language teachers to remember? (video response below)

 

November 2, 2015
by LTSblog
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Alumni Spotlight Mylece Burling

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Mylece Burling received her BA degree from UO with a major in Romance languages in Portuguese and Spanish. She joined LTS in 2012 and graduated in 2013. Her MA project was titled, “A Teaching Portfolio of Workshop Tasks for Brazilian English Teachers Applying for the HE/Capes Scholarship”. She is shown here (on right, as Malificent, the evil stepmother of Snow White) with another teacher and some of her students at Halloween.

What was your MA project about?

My MA project was a teaching portfolio of English language tasks for English teachers in Brazil. The objective was to help non-native English teachers to navigate the pragmatic and linguistic language barriers of the scholarship application, in order to enable them to continue their professional development as English teachers.

What did you learn in LTS that are you using as a teacher now?

LTS has helped me to begin to develop the ability to effectively select activities and plan lessons that are relevant and useful for my students. It provided a framework that I have been using as a way to structure my lessons. It has helped me to organize and analyze my teaching in a way that I can view my lessons objectively, evaluate and try to change and improve.

What did you find most challenging as a new teacher?

Student motivation. Of course as a new teacher my lessons could be more effective; however, if students are not also somewhat self-motivated they will not learn. The importance of student motivation was something I could not understand without real life teaching experience and it is something I wish I would have spent more time on during LTS. Inspiring one’s students to teach themselves is the ultimate goal of any teacher.

You are now teaching English in Spain, but also pursuing other interests dear to your heart. Can you describe what you are doing, and why you chose Spain?

I first came to Spain through the “Auxiliares de Conversación” program and taught English to all levels in a public elementary school for one year in the city of La Coruña, in the Northwest of Spain. Currently I am teaching English part time at a private academy in Madrid. I teach all levels and all ages from primary to retired adults, absolute beginners to nearly bilingual. Due to the economic situation in Spain many citizens are searching for work outside the country. As English is the language used for communication among citizens of different countries for matters of business and tourism, there is a high demand for English education in Spain. My LTS degree has been indispensable in finding work here as it provides access to better positions in better schools.

In addition to my work I am also studying sculpture at one of the official state-sponsored art schools, for which I moved to the capital, Madrid. After this first year I intend to specialize in wood or stone. Europe is the basis of the history of Western civilization and art. Being in this environment has contributed to my continuing education of art history, providing inspiration and a solid background for my artwork. I intend to stay in school as long as possible, though it has proved considerably more challenging to study art on a professional level than I originally thought.

I also enjoy rock climbing which has been popular in Spain since the birth of the sport in France and is world famous for its limestone cliffs in the northeastern mountain ranges. Last year I was able to find more time to travel and climb, while this year it has been hard to find time for everything.

What advice to you have for current or prospective LTS students?

My advice to current and prospective LTS students is not to forget the importance of your peers as a resource. While you are together try to learn as much as possible from one another.

August 13, 2015
by Tiffany VanPelt
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Internship Spotlight Patricia Roldan Marcos

Patricia is an LTS student originally from Spain. She will be graduating in summer 2015.

In what context did your internship take place?

I did an internship in the Intensive Spanish Grammar Review course in Winter 2015. It was a 300-level class with Sayo Murcia and the group consisted mostly of American students, but I remember there was a student from Europe and also a heritage language learner. The learners were very enthusiastic even if they knew the focus would be grammar. Who said students hate grammar? ☺

 

What surprised you most about the internship?

The most surprising part of the internship was the fact that students had to present a grammatical point to the rest of the class. I had never tried this in my teaching career, so it was really interesting to see how students found original ways to help their classmates grasp the language features. It was challenging, but it worked really well because the time they spent researching and preparing their topic helped them gain confidence and become experts on it. I remember a pair used a sonnet by Neruda to exemplify a type of subordinate clause – just amazing!

 

What part of the internship was the most challenging for you?

Well, I love grammar, but I had never taught it outside of an integrated skills class, so it was a new experience for me and that’s why I wanted to intern in this course. Moreover, I hadn’t taught Spanish since 2008, so these two factors pushed me out of my comfort zone and provided me with the challenge I was looking for. Being a native speaker of the language, I had to spend a good amount of time researching the grammatical points I was going to teach. When preparing my presentations, I also considered why English speakers found these topics especially hard and tried to come up with examples that would be tricky and relevant for them.

For Tiff-blog

Would you be willing to share a memorable or special moment from your internship?

There were a lot of memorable moments because of the positive environment in the class. Sayo built rapport with students from day one by playing salsa before the teaching began, through the use of humor and the sharing of personal experiences. For me, it was special every time we pointed out cultural elements, pragmatic differences, and shared personal insights with the class because I feel we were contributing to the development of well-rounded students. I’m really grateful for having had Sayo as my mentor in this internship.

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