Today we hear from Anthony Rinaldi, a recent alumnus who completed a major in Linguistics and also completed the Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) program.
So where are you and what are you currently doing?
Since August 2015, I have been a JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program participant in Toyama City in the Toyama Prefecture in Japan. I work as an ALT (assistant language teacher) at a high school, so I spend most of my time planning and teaching classes, managing my school’s English club, and assisting with other English-related competitions and events in the community.
Could you tell us more about your experience studying linguistics at the University of Oregon?
I’ll always remember taking LING 201: Language and Power with Spike (Gildea) during my sophomore year. I became interested in English grammar during middle school, but Spike’s class made me realize how much of a prescriptivist I had been. Since then, instead of twitching when coming across something “non-standard,” I’ve found language variation extremely enjoyable to dissect.
The other memory that sticks with me is the study group that formed during my junior and senior years. There were a handful of us undergrads who thought it would be great idea to complete both the grammar track and the sound track in the same year. Needless to say we spent many late nights together, furiously glossing, panicking, reading IPA transcriptions under our breath, panicking, and glossing again. I can’t imagine going through the linguistics program without that group of people. We still try to keep in some kind of touch today. So, if you’re a student in the linguistics program, MAKE A STUDY GROUP. It just might save you from insanity.
How do you think a major in linguistics has helped you in your current work?
My major in linguistics has definitely helped my current work. In particular, being aware of native language interferences and the stages of second language acquisition have been a great help to me. Not only do I have a better understanding of my students’ struggles with English, but I also have a better idea of how to help them overcome them.
Also, in a more general sense, my major in linguistics has given me confidence at work. I heard that my school’s administration got excited when they found out their next ALT had a linguistics degree, so I feel it gave me more credibility as a fellow teacher in my coworkers’ eyes, instead of just being another native English speaker.
Can you talk about any other stuff you did at the UO that complemented the major in linguistics?
In addition to the linguistics program, I also completed the Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) courses, and worked for the American English Institute (AEI) as a conversation partner. There are many fields of linguistics, but if you’re interested in language acquisition or teaching, I cannot recommend these programs enough. The SLAT course offered the most practical classes I’ve ever taken, and the AEI’s conversation partner program was a wonderful opportunity for teaching practice and cultural exchange—not to mention the friends I made! I owe much of my success today to my 3+ years as a conversation partner.