¡Hola! My name is Tim Foster, third-year graduate student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese here at Vanderbilt. As a scholar, I’m interested in Early Modern literature and culture of Spain and its Transatlantic colonies. I’m also becoming more involved with various Digital Humanities ventures, including TEI and digital mapmaking. As an instructor at Vandy, I have taught elementary Spanish language, and will be teaching advanced elementary Portuguese in the Spring. A side interest personally, academically, and pedagogically has been the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, which I have done on my own, and as a course assistant on Vanderbilt’s Maymester trip last Spring through the class “The Way of Saint James: An Epic Trail to the Essence of Spain”. An exciting part about this course was the opportunity to introduce students to culture and improve language in an embedded real-world setting, where the rubber meets the proverbial (and literal) road. Seeing the confidence that a successful encounter with a native speaker can have on a language-learning student is one of the greatest joys for an instructor, and the greatest endorsement for the value of meaningful study abroad and other personal experiences with foreign language.
Bringing that same experience back to the classroom can be a challenge, but in the digital age as technological and interpersonal barriers fall, we have never been more poised to take advantage of real-world language learning opportunities. In a language classroom bounded by grammar, grades, and a finite semester, instructors can only do so much to introduce students to learning a language. I believe it’s my job as a language teacher to assist students in finding the resources they are most likely to continue to engage with beyond the confines of my classroom, whether it be foreign-language films, books, apps, podcasts, or video games, conversation partner chat sites, study abroad courses, or even just foreign-language Wikipedia pages (¿how many teachers get to encourage their students to use Wikipedia?). The more I can do in the classroom to get students interested in pursuing these media on their own time for their own life goals, the better I will have achieved my aim to teach them language not just for a semester, but help them find the tools they want/need to use to engage with language for a lifetime.
This is an exciting time to be a language student and teacher, and we at the CSLS are excited to share our year with you. ¡Bienvenid@s!