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Modern Languages professor learns new pedagogies via TLI Grant

Óscar Iván Useche, Assistant Professor of Modern Languages, now incorporates new methods of pronunciation instruction into his Spanish classes.

Learning a language is a difficult endeavor. Once the basic elements are covered, other challenges emerge: for example, how to correctly articulate words and sounds in order to achieve meaningful communication. Pronunciation is not only about phonemes; it is also about intonation, stress, and rhythm. All these variables matter in communication as they alter meaning. In the Modern Languages Department, we want our students to be able to understand all of the different components of the second language they have chosen to learn, so they are able to communicate effectively whenever the opportunity arrives. The challenge of pronunciation cannot be overlooked.

Teaching pronunciation is not an easy task and requires specific instructional approaches in the second-language classroom. Thanks to TLI funding, Dr. Useche attended a specialized workshop dedicated to teaching pronunciation in the Spanish-as-a-second-language classroom. Imparted by a recognized expert in the field, the CSIC (Superior Council for Scientific Research in Spain) researcher Dr. María Juana Gil Fernández, this workshop provided participants with the basic principles of phonetics in Spanish, their major differences with the English phonetic system, and with a review of activities to improve students’ ability to successfully manage this linguistic component in class.

Participation in this workshop will allow Professor Useche to progressively incorporate pronunciation as a learning goal in all of his classes. Improvement of this skill is not easy to measure, as it requires continuous assessment throughout the second-language learning process. His goal is for students to be able to recognize and produce the language within the correct intonation patterns after the first year of instruction. This will make their later participation in upper-level classes both easier and more productive.