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Language Teaching Studies MA Program: For teachers of many languages

Roger Aiko Summer 2009Although the Language Teaching Studies (LTS) program is equivalent to a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) for those who specialize in English, it offers much more than a typical TESOL program. LTS is for teachers of world and indigenous languages as well, which creates a level of diversity in students, perspectives and expertise not often found in more narrowly focused language teaching programs. In any given year, students in the program have goals of teaching Korean, Spanish, Ichishkíin (Sahaptin), Turkish, Farsi, Arabic, Chinese, Thai, German, and Japanese, among others.

How does it work? The core courses of the program – Second Language Acquisition, Teaching Culture & Literature, Language Teaching Methods, Language Teaching Practice, Curriculum Design and Materials Development, Testing and Assessment, Computer-Assisted Language Learning, and the Master’s Project – are not language specific. When completing their assignments, students apply the concepts and principles covered in the courses to the language instruction setting of their choice.

In addition, these students take courses specifically focused on the linguistic, cultural, and pedagogical aspects of the language they plan to teach. For example, those working in Korean, Chinese, or Japanese can now enroll in new courses in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures.

Another key element of the program is its focus on supporting teachers of endangered indigenous languages. Janne Underriner, Director of the Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI), as well as NILI Associate Directors Joana Jansen and Robert Elliott, help support students working with language preservation.

Roger Jacob entered the program in 2009 and worked on developing materials for teaching Ichishkíin (Yakima Sahaptin) to high school student at the Yakama Nation Tribal School in Washington State. He hopes these materials will also serve “to improve Yakama natural and cultural resource management.” While here at UO, he assisted instructor Virginia Beavert in her Ichishkíin course, an experience he considers as invaluable. “Tuxamshish [Virginia Beavert] is the reason I am here at the UO. I have been a student of hers for some time, and jumped at the opportunity to continue my learning from her at Oregon.” One of the benefits of working in the class was the chance for Roger to overcome some problems with fossilization he had been experiencing with the language.

Nilay Sevinc worked at the Yamada Language Center as a tutor in the self-study Turkish class for eight terms and also served as the self-study coordinator there. She was then invited to join a group of professors from universities in the U.S. to create a series of graded readers for Turkish learners.

Nilay teaching 2009After graduation, Nilay headed to Turkey for the summer to teach Turkish classes (beginning and intermediate level) to American university students in a program established by the Turkish American Association.

Zahra Foroughifar was also busy teaching and working with Farsi instructional materials as soon as she arrived at the UO. As a tutor in the self-study program at Yamada Language Center, her challenges included developing materials that could attract students with different learning needs and interests. At the Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS), she edited Persian reading assessment items and was a pilot coordinator for less commonly taught languages (LCTL): Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Swahili, and Yoruba. She recruited and worked with instructors to administer Computerized Assessment of Proficiency (CAP) tests in these languages. Zahra’s goals were to “…teach Persian in the U.S. and be directly involved in developing materials (including books, assessments, and electronic tools) for this beautiful language.” In fact, she is now a PhD candidate in the Linguistics Department.

Nadia Allhussain, who had interests in teaching both English and Arabic, worked at CASLS as a “text finder,” searching for, revising, and editing materials for advanced Arabic learners. During one term, she observed and assisted in an Arabic course at the UO, which was helpful preparation for her MA project, a materials portfolio of online Arabic listening materials.

Summer Huo, having enjoyed her experiences as a Chinese language tutor at Brigham Young University, entered the LTS program with plans of becoming a Chinese instructor. She became involved in an interesting project at CASLS, developing materials for a virtual Chinese immersion camp taking place in Second Life, an online virtual world. Learners of Chinese meet and interact with native speakers online for three hours a day to complete a series of tasks together. Summer’s focus has been on creating activities related to overcoming pollution and improving the environment.

Aiko Ishii and Chisato Masuda taught first- and second-year Japanese courses in the East Asian Languages and Literatures Department at the UO during their time as LTS students. Interested in both English and Japanese, Aiko’s interest was to teach Japanese to immigrants in Japan, but she also liked the idea of traveling all over the world to teach Japanese as she is “interested in knowing other cultures and meeting people from different backgrounds.” Chisato appreciated the opportunity to immediately apply what she learned in her LTS courses to her Japanese lessons. She explains, “One thing I really like about the LTS program is that it has flexibility in selecting which languages to teach.”

This article was adapted from the LTS newsletter of Summer 2009, pgs. 9-10, which can be found here.