This post will NOT give you the typical information that you can easily find online about the LTS program or the University of Oregon. For me, as a current international graduate student in the LTS program, what I have experienced in the last month has been very different from what I thought it would be like.
I remember the time before I joined the LTS program. I had read about the program. I had checked the social media, LTS blog, and the website. I had also seen pictures and videos of the campus online, but I admit none of them did full justice to how beautiful it truly is. When I visited the university campus for the first time I was wowed by how amazing it looked. I am very happy that I got the chance to be in this program and at the University of Oregon. Therefore, I want to share my experience with you, and I hope it will help you know this beautiful university and this unique program better.
The first thing you will notice on the campus is the variety of trees and their beautiful colors in the fall season. There are lots and lots of trees such as: oak trees, hazelnut trees, walnut trees, and many trees I don’t know the names of.
Other than trees there are also a lot of friendly squirrels that live on the campus and sometimes peek into your classes. There is a friendly one living around Friendly Hall where the LTS classes are usually held and according to one of our professors, he is named Harry! The picture below was taken outside our class at Friendly Hall. I usually spend my class breaks sitting on those benches and enjoying the sun. These benches can be found all over the campus.
Another great thing about the University of Oregon is its library. It is a great library for nerds like me. There is a huge sitting area on the first floor where you have access to computers, printers, scanners, and reference books. There is also free internet access. There are literally millions of books available to read, and there are also plenty of sitting areas provided. In the basement there’s a café, so you don’t have to go without your caffeine. I personally like the UO library very much. In the picture you can see how big the building is. The library also has a website where you can find almost any book or article you are looking for.
Agate Hall is home to the American English Institute (AEI) and where some of our classes are held. It is a beautiful building surrounded by beautiful trees. It truly is a hall for languages. When you go in, you see students from many different nationalities and can hear very different languages spoken. Sometimes I just go there, sit in one of the study areas provided for the students, and just enjoy the environment. If you are an international student and need to improve your English, AEI can help you.
Yamada Language Center
Fortunately, we have one of our classes at the Yamada Language Center (YLC) this term. In this center, languages other than English are taught. It is a very welcoming environment for students to learn other languages. The Center is located in Mckenzie Hall and has very high tech classes. The Yamada Language Center works with a number of language departments at the University of Oregon and also has classes for less commonly taught languages such as Russian, Arabic, Persian, and Swahili.
Last but not least, I would like to talk about the academic aspect of the LTS program and its faculty at the Department of Linguistics. While you are in the LTS program, you will benefit from the great LTS program curriculum. You will study about the theoretical aspects of language teaching and ways of putting them into practice. From the beginning, you will participate in teaching and will have many opportunities to observe language classes. Also, the LTS faculty are very knowledgeable, kind, patient, and open minded individuals. They have always answered my questions and have gone out of their way to help me with my problems. I personally am very proud and happy to be part of this wonderful academic community.
Becky and Jeff at the banquet dinner and awards ceremony.
In addition to the many internship opportunities available to LTS students, there are also many opportunities for professional development in the field of language teaching! In March, several LTS students attended the 2017 TESOL Convention in Seattle, Washington, which was a great opportunity for them to learn new ideas from experienced teachers in the field. Becky Lawrence (2017 cohort) presented at TESOL Electronic Village, which was an amazing opportunity for her to share what she has been working on in the LTS program with other teachers.
Becky also accompanied LTS faculty and Yamada Language Center director, Jeff Magoto, to the biennial 2017 International Association for Language Learning Technology (IALLT) conference held at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota this past June. Jeff, also a longtime IALLT member, gave presentations about the Yamada Language Center and ANVILL. Becky gave a presentation about her MA project, which was great practice for the final MA presentations coming up in August.
Fun fact! The 2019 IALLT Conference will be held in our very own American English Institute at the University of Oregon, hosted by Jeff Magoto himself! Because technology in language teaching is such a crucial part of the LTS program, IALLT is a great organization for LTS students. They provide a lot of support and opportunities for graduate students and new teachers to present at conferences and publish in their journals. The IALLT organization is very warm and welcoming. Despite not knowing anyone besides Jeff upon arriving, Becky left the conference with many new friends!
For graduate students interested in attending IALLT conferences, IALLT also offers a $500 Ursula Williams Graduate Student Conference Grant to help pay for costs such as registration and housing. Becky was a recipient of this grant for the 2017 conference, and plans to stay involved in the organization to support graduate students in the future!
TESOL and IALLT are just two of the organizations that LTS students can become a part of, whether to attend, present, or publish.
From Left to Right: Duong Hong Anh, Kainat Shaikh, Irene Njenga, Suparada Eak-in
This end-of-term Student Spotlight is a special “goodbye” to our dear friends, colleagues, and classmates from the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program. The Yamada Language Center at the University of Oregon has hosted these four lovely language teachers throughout the 2016-2017 school year, and the LTS cohort has had the wonderful opportunity to study along side them in the various Language Teaching courses they participated in. The YLC has been proud to welcome the FLTA’s without whom 4 of the 8 Self Study Program languages would not be available to the UO students and community. Now that Spring term is over, each scholar will soon be heading back to her home country, and the LTS program would like to recognize and remember the wonderful experiences we got to share with them!
Tell us about yourselves! Where are you from? What kind of work have you done? Any hobbies?
I am Anh Duong. I come from Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. I am an English instructor at the University of Languages and International Studies back in my home country. I was granted the Fulbright scholarship last year and came to UO to study and work as an FLTA. About my personal life; I love music, movies, traveling, reading, and taking pictures. Since I came here, I have taken up cubing, basketball, and playing the guitar as my new hobbies.
I am from Hyderabad, Sindh, Pakistan. I work at the National University of Modern Languages (NUML), so currently I am on leave as I am availing the Fulbright Fellowship. I teach graduates and undergraduates majoring in English Literature and Linguistics. I like reading books, and writing critical reviews. I enjoy traveling, especially to the places which have had a rich history.
My name is Irene Njenga, and I am from the central region of Kenya. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics and a Master’s in Education, both from the University of Nairobi. Before coming to UO, I had worked in two places. My first job was at Dadaab Refugee Camp (Kenya) as the officer in-charge of the Accelerated Learning Program, and my second job was as an English teacher at Mukurwe High School (Kenya). I enjoy traveling and socializing with people from different cultures because it opens my mind to new ways of thinking and stimulates my creative problem-solving skills. I also enjoy swimming, cooking, reading novels, listening to music and watching movies.
My name is Suparada Eak-in. I am from Thailand. Back in Thailand, I worked as a lecturer of English in the Department of English and as a Deputy Director of the International Office at Mahanakorn University of Technology. My specialization is Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Teaching English for Specific Purposes. I taught EAP and ESP to non-English majors including Engineering, IT and Business students. In my free time, I like learning new languages, doing art and working out. Now, I am learning four languages: Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese by myself. I also draw and take pictures. My favorite exercises are jogging, Thai boxing and yoga.
Tell us about teaching at the UO as an FLTA! What is that like?
One of my key missions in the US is to teach Vietnamese to both students at UO and community members at the YLC. I appreciate the chance to teach my native language and share Vietnamese culture with American people as well as heritage students. Thanks to the Self Study Program at YLC, with small-size classes but extensive interaction with students, I have precious opportunities to listen to many individual stories, enabling better understanding of American culture as well as my own culture.
The YLC is the place to grow professionally, interdependently and culturally. I never taught Hindi/Urdu before coming to US, though it is the national language of Pakistan. I, being a native speaker, learned a lot about my culture, language and country by staying oceans away and that’s not only remarkable but a kind of liberating feeling.
Although I have been teaching for one year before becoming part of YLC, participating in the program has provided me an insight to see language teaching not as a way to show how languages are different from one another, but as a platform to let me explore how languages all around the world are spoken in their natural, cultural and raw forms. So, in order to completely imbibe in this language teaching experience, I myself decided to learn a new language. I attended classes of Turkish. New language gives a new lens to view the world. As such it may seem that speaking different languages actually makes us different from one another but actually learning a new language makes one feel connected to the wider community which is not one’s own. In one place, where creating borders may divide us, but learning new languages can unite us, this is my takeaway from YLC.
Swahili is one of the easiest languages to learn! Although a biased view, it is true that Swahili is not a tonal language, has a fixed stress pattern, and words are spelled exactly how they are pronounced i.e. no silent letters! Teaching Swahili at the UO has been very rewarding. It has also been a great opportunity to interact with new cultures and incorporate Swahili culture into language teaching. I believe that my students enjoyed the lessons and gained competence in using the language. This has also helped me refine my teaching skills and familiarity with using the communicative approach in teaching grammar. I never discussed grammar in a tabular form and very rarely used grammar technical terminology.
Teaching Thai at YLC is different from teaching English at my university in Thailand. Firstly, YLC classes are small with no more than fifteen students. This provides me the opportunity to get to know my students more so I can facilitate their language learning more properly. Moreover, YLC offers the Self Study Program which places emphasis on the students’ needs. The challenge is to compromise/balance students’ individual needs and prepare the lessons to serve their needs efficiently. Lecture-based and commercial textbooks seem not to correspond with YLC students’ learning styles and goals. Thus, I mainly implemented a theme-based method in my classes. I set the themes according to the students’ needs and designed interactive activities to engage students in learning. I found that the students enjoyed learning and improved their skills proficiently.
What classes did you take during your time at UO? Did you have any other projects that you worked on? What was the most valuable thing you’ve gained from your experience here?
Apart from teaching Vietnamese, I also attended some classes, two of which were Teaching English Culture and Literature, and Testing and Assessment in the LTS Program. The most significant thing I took from these classes is the inspiration from my professors and classmates. I especially enjoy the lively and thought-provoking discussions with different points of view and practical projects in teaching that will benefit my own teaching in the future.
I enrolled myself in three courses, one course per term. My grant with Fulbright ensures that I grow strong academically by taking the classes that can serve my long term goals. Therefore, I took classes in LTS all three terms; Teaching Culture & Literature in Language Classrooms, Teaching Pronunciation, & Teaching and Assessment. My time with LTS cohort is worth treasuring as I met intelligent and creative people from various parts of the world.
From my entire year at UO, the most valuable asset that I have gained is to challenge the limits, and to outrun them.
I took classes in Language Teaching and International Studies. I worked on various projects like incorporating literature into English language teaching, education and culture in Kenya, as well as creating direct types of assessment. The most valuable thing I have gained is that language teaching can be fun. I have learned how to use different scaffolding activities in teaching language, classroom management techniques, key assessment principles, and skills in creating and/or adopting assessment tools and procedures for the language classroom.
I took two classes in LTS and one class in Linguistics. The classes in both programs provided me knowledge that I can apply in my teaching career. My favorite class was Teaching Pronunciation, which I took last term. I like this class most because I did not only learn the contents but also had opportunities to practice. Besides, I like observing the techniques that Dr. Patricia Pashby used in class. I found those techniques useful and worked well with my students.
Apart from teaching and learning, I worked as a cultural ambassador in the ICSP at UO. I presented Thailand and Thai culture to school students and senior communities in Eugene. It is a great opportunity to meet and talk with local people outside of the university and have productive cultural exchanges.
Any plans for the future, or final thoughts you would like to share?
My gratitude goes to the Fulbright program for giving me a chance to come to the US, meet amazing people, and share my story.
When I go back to Pakistan, I will resume my teaching, but there will be entirely different teaching methodologies. I will be working on making classes more student-centered where students should take responsibility of their learning. I learned a lot about testing and assessment this last term, and it has completely changed my perception towards language teaching. I am really looking forward to using the new teaching and testing trends which can ensure learning for not just a fleeting moment but for a life-time.
Irene leaves us with her favorite quote:
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King Jr.
I believe that despite the obstacles we face when pursuing our dreams, we should always be focused and keep working to realize them.
All of these experiences make me eager to go back and share them with my colleagues and students back home. I also want to better develop teaching methodology and education in my home country.
What is your position at the University of Oregon?
I’m the director of the Yamada Language Center, which is one of the best jobs on campus. I get to work with faculty and students working in one or more of the 20+ languages offered at UO, whether that’s the four students taking Persian or the thousands who are taking Spanish, or the one instructor in Swahili or the many dozens in Romance Languages. Our staff of 15 tries to support their efforts by offering flexible classroom and self-study spaces, resources for language practice and development, and training in both pedagogy and technology use. Lastly, I get to join the heads of other language units in advising our College of Arts and Sciences deans on language, linguistics, and general humanities matters.
How are you associated with LTS?
I’m an ardent supporter of LTS, and even though I don’t teach in the program very regularly, I’ve been able to work with numerous LTS students over the years. I usually serve as a reader for at least one student’s Master’s Project a year, and I’m the supervisor for the Fulbright Language Teaching Assistants (FLTAs) who take courses in LTS and teach in YLC’s Selfstudy Language Program, LT 199. I also regularly work with LTS faculty members Deborah Healey and Robert Elliott on course development and CALL projects for departments such as NILI or AEI .
What other projects are you involved in?
Well, I’m currently one of the conveners of the UO Language Council. UOLC is a collaborative effort of faculty, administrators, students and staff to support and inspire language study on campus and beyond through professional development, innovation, and outreach. It’s a wonderful chance to work with folks across the spectrum of CAS, International Affairs, Professional Schools, and Admissions, each of whom has an impact on who ends up in our language. classes. I also have a nearly 10 year-old speech-based software project, ANVILL, that grew out of my work as Norman Kerr’s advisor on his LTS Terminal Project in 2007. It continues to grow and improve because there have always been brave LTS alumni willing to try it out, take it out into the field, and guide us in its development. Thanks to them, it’s now used in about 10 countries in addition to the US. They still send us suggestions for improvement!
What do you enjoy most about working with language educators? (video response)
Norman Kerr graduated from LTS in 2007. His MA project was titled, “Preparing University Students for Self-Directed Study: An Online Chinese Course”. Below he talks about how his experiences in LTS and also in subsequent teaching career led him to his current job at the Yamada Language Center at UO.
What is the work that you are doing now?
I’m currently working for the Yamada Language Center at the University of Oregon as a CALL expert and analyst programmer. We develop web applications for language teachers not only at the University of Oregon, but also around the world. We just released a new version of our application, ANVILL (A National VIrtual Language Lab), that provides teachers with several speech-based tools for online and blended learning classes.
In what ways did the degree from the LTS program help prepare you for this position?
There are several ways the LTS program helped me succeed in my current job, and also at my last job as a EFL teacher in Taiwan. The first was providing theory and practice at curriculum design. With my current job it’s been very useful for understanding how to build software that can be used to either supplement the main class curriculum or as the sole curriculum for the class.
The second way it prepared me was by giving me the chance to co-teach with an experienced ESL teacher here at UO, particularly since I went into the program with no teaching experience. This was very helpful in getting my first EFL job in Taiwan.
Lastly, the CALL classes were very useful, not so much from a technical perspective, since I already had an extensive technical background, but in providing an overview of different CALL technologies and the ways to integrate these technologies into the classroom. It has been immensely helpful to know what software is already available and what purpose/problem that software is trying to solve, when developing new language learning applications with new and upcoming technologies.
Why did you initially choose to pursue an MA degree in Language Teaching?
I’ve been passionate about language learning for a long time. My bachelors degree was in Chinese, and I’ve also spent time learning Thai and Spanish. My initial reason for choosing the LTS program was mainly to enrich my own language learning skills and to extend that passion into a career that gave me the ability to work and travel and continue to learn languages.
Do you have any advice for LTS graduates who might pursue jobs other than language teaching after their degrees?
My advice, based on my own experience, is that it’s worth spending some time actually teaching before going into a different or related field. I gained a great deal from the three years I spent teaching in Taiwan, and I’m constantly putting to use that knowledge and experience, particularly in understanding the teaching process and classroom requirements for an audience I’m no longer exposed to on a daily basis, but are the end users of the software I develop. Having a mixed background of both technical and pedagogical was essential in getting my current job.