Thursday, March 1, 2012

A New Language Instructor

Journalism student Matthew Olsen has submitted this story on one of the many new faculty members who arrived at Mount Angel Seminary this year.

Anna Lesiuk: A New Language Instructor on the Hill
by Matthew Olsen

Mount Angel Seminary has welcomed a few new instructors to its staff this year.  Anna Lesiuk is one of the new instructors at Mount Angel Seminary.  Last semester Dr. Lesiuk taught two courses in Spanish and a course in Latin for Reading.

Dr. Lesiuk started working at Mount Angel Seminary in August as the new school year began.  She comes to Mount Angel Seminary from her previous university, the University of Oregon.  Dr. Lesiuk taught Italian for four years at the University of Oregon while she worked on her doctorate in Romance languages. 

After the initial interview, there were still a few more questions to be answered.  This was done through email, and the questions and answers went as follows: 

How do you approach teaching a language?

Here at the seminary, I am teaching Spanish and Latin, and since one of the languages is "dead" and the other alive and well, my approach differs from classroom to classroom.  With modern languages it is important to insist on the active, communicative skills, so I am trying to encourage the students to speak in class as much as possible.  I am also trying to speak Spanish as much as possible, including, for example, giving directions in Spanish.  I usually avoid giving grammatical explanations in the target language in 1st and 2nd year courses.  (Explaining grammar in the students' native tongue is helpful at the earlier stages of the 2nd language learning process.)

With my Latin for Reading course I am trying to cover some basics of Latin grammar and to introduce students to the idea of reading simple texts in Latin: basic prayers, elements of the Latin Mass and well-known excerpts of the Vulgate.  We focus on the passive skills necessary for reading with comprehension which, in the case of a highly inflected language like Latin, involves, among other things, some memorization of paradigms for declensions and conjugations.

What drew you to the study of languages in the first place?

It is probably my innate curiosity: I have always wanted to be able to eavesdrop on people's conversations, even if they should be speaking a foreign language . . . But seriously, growing up in Europe you are often exposed to different languages and you certainly have plenty of opportunities to learn them, if you only feel inclined to do so.  You usually study two foreign languages in high school and often there are opportunities for travel to other European countries as an exchange student.  Also, I like to read and I have discovered that I much prefer original texts to translations.

What is the subject of your dissertation?

I am writing on Renaissance humanism in the Romance-speaking area (that is, French, Spanish, and Italian lands).  I am trying to enter into conversation with some mainstream interpretations of the Renaissance humanism by re-reading 3 texts of the traditional Renaissance corpus as well as a couple of less-known authors, usually absent from what is typically considered the "canon."

What do you find the most challenging about your work at the seminary?

I like the atmosphere at the hilltop.  It is a truly pleasant place to work.  As for the challenges, I think, in my profession, there is only one real challenge, and it is always the same regardless of where you teach.  It is trying to be as effective, engaging, and supportive an educator as you can.

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