Sarah Ryan, Interpretation and Translation Training Specialist, presented a 2-day, virtual medical interpretation training to 13 bilingual Erlanger employees. The training specifically focused on learning and implementing specialized Spanish vocabulary for diabetes, cardiovascular health, and women’s health. This was not a certification course, but certification next steps were discussed for those attendees that were interested.
TLC is pleased to report that our students from our spring term ranked our language classes 4.91/5.00 in our end of term satisfaction survey. An amazing 93% ranked us a 5.00.
“I like the small size of the class; the balance of listening, speaking, and writing practice; and the teacher’s style and personality,” wrote one student.
“This class is always a highlight for me each week. It’s been a lot of fun spending time with other people at my language level so that we can interact with one another,” writes another student.
We are thrilled that we are meeting your language learning needs and appreciate everyone who submitted feedback. Thank you!
Congratulations to the 21 Court Interpreter Students who completed the TN State Court Interpreter Ethics and Skills Building Workshop at the Tennessee Language Center on June 7, 2021. The workshop is the first requirement to becoming a Certified Court Interpreter in the State of Tennessee.
The students were from the U.S., Spain, and Mexico and representing the following languages: Spanish, Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Arabic, Portuguese, and French. These students will now be put in direct contact with the TN Administrative Office of the Courts , which will guide them through the remainder of the court interpreter registration and, eventually, certification process, after which they will begin interpreting in courts and attorney offices statewide.
TLC, in collaboration with Vanderbilt University Medical Center Interpreter Services graduated eight students from the 80-hour, 15-week program on Thursday, June 3. Languages represented include Spanish, Russian, and Arabic, and participants connected from across the state and beyond.
Only Together Conference 2019
Last month, Woodmont Hills Church hosted the Only Together Conference aimed at connecting Nashville’s refugee service groups to each other. It presented a great opportunity to learn more about the refugees who make Nashville their home and the services available to them, to network with other agencies and to share about TLC’s programs. Erin Keafer, Assistant Director of English Programs at TLC, highlighted our ESL to Go program, which takes the classroom to refugee communities and helps to eliminate the transportation barrier. Since many of the volunteers in attendance teach informal English to the refugees who they mentor, we wanted to remind them what it’s like to sit on the other side of the desk.
When we talk about teaching our new neighbors English, it’s good to be reminded of how humbling the process of learning a new language as an adult can be. We thought it might be better to show rather than to tell, which also gave us an opportunity to talk about our Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) and World Language courses. I presented a German lesson using NO English! “What?!!”, you say, “How is that possible??” Well, it’s the difference between explaining the grammar in English or teaching the target language phrases in context. Your brain is MUCH more engaged when it has to work not only to remember the phrase but to understand its meaning based on context. This is what sets our communicative approach apart from traditional teaching methods.
Many of our ESL students don’t share the same primary language in the classroom, so we must teach them in English using different methods that explain the meaning of the words rather than just presenting the vocabulary in the language they are most comfortable speaking. If you have ever experienced teaching or learning a new language using the communicative method, it sounds much easier to do than it is—both as a student and a teacher. The TESL program at TLC helps set teachers up for success using these effective teaching methods.
So let this serve as an invitation. Come learn a language with us or learn how to teach a language — we’d love to help! Only together can we make a difference.
Learn more today by visiting www.tlc.tennessee.edu or calling us at 615-741-7579.
Assistant Director, Foreign Languages
Phone: 615-741-7579 x119
As a child I was always fascinated with languages and culture, but I never thought I would be able to learn a language myself. I thought that was only for people with family from other places or people that moved out of the country. I took a German class in high school and a French class in college, but to be honest, I don’t remember anything. It was after I went to Guatemala on a mission trip and visited Spain with my best friend that I really found the motivation and dedication to learn a new language. I adored both places that I visited, so naturally I chose Spanish. I googled classes one day in my free time, and I chose TLC because it looked organized, professional and effective. Not a week after that, I started my 1.1 Spanish class with Maya.
This began my journey with learning Spanish, and I instantly fell in love. A whole new world of language and culture was opened up in front of me. The teaching methods that Maya used and still uses are effective for all learning styles and her activities always apply to the grammar/vocabulary point of the class. I love the amount of conversation that we have. Part of the fun of language classes is that you talk about your personal life and the personal lives of those in your class with you. I have made friends that feel like family. Thursday night class is a highlight of my week!
At this point, I have been studying for two years, and I am astonished at my progress. With Maya’s help, instruction and constant encouragement, I have been able to achieve more in learning Spanish than I ever anticipated. The positive impacts of learning Spanish have been numerous. I am better able to communicate with my friends who don’t speak English. I am grateful for the friendships that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I have also taught English as a second language in the past. Knowing Spanish has helped me so much in helping students sign up and feel connected with me as we start the journey of learning English together. From patients in my previous medical clinic, friends from other countries, students learning English and the ability to communicate when I travel, I am grateful for this skill. If you are considering learning a new language, I would highly recommend Tennessee Language Center. They strive for excellence in communication!
Submitted by TLC student Liana Brisbon
My family and I moved to Tennessee last August from Ohio. I don’t usually advertise this fact, but on one particular morning, I happened to put on an Ohio shirt before heading off to work.
Recently, a Career Coach from Vanderbilt University Career Center, Danielle Bolling, had contacted me about how Vanderbilt University and the Tennessee Language Center might work together. We set our meeting for Friday, May 31st, but little did we know…
The day of our meeting arrived, the same day that I threw on my Ohio shirt, and coincidentally, the same day that Ohio State would play Vanderbilt in the NCAA baseball tournament. During our meeting, Danielle wanted to know about the services we offer at TLC in order to pass the word on to the students she advises.
I told her about our world language and English classes as well as proficiency exams for those learning a language. We offer Teaching English as a Second Language and Language Instructor Fellowship programs for those interested in teaching a language, and our Interpretation and Translation Services assist those needing documents or services in a secondary language. We also offer training to become a court or medical interpreter in addition to our corporate offerings.
Throughout our meeting, Danielle thought of several other connections at Vanderbilt and opportunities to incorporate TLC and its services when advising students, especially those pursuing a World Language degree.
Unlike the baseball game, Vandy did NOT beat OSU that day; the two decided to work together!
That’s all for now. And remember, an accent is a sign of bravery.
My name is Heather. I’m new around here and I’d like to tell you a story. This story is the kind you can’t really plan, but are happy to be a part of. I have come to be the interim Director of the Foreign Languages Department here at TLC. We are a small department, Maya Campbell (the tall one) and I (curly hair).
I was sitting in my office one day attending to business as usual, when I hear a gasp, “It’s him!”
“Who?” I ask
“Nate from Españolistos!”
Maya enthusiastically jumped up from her seat to peer around the corner. At this point, I feel like I should know what’s going on but don’t. I want to share in Maya’s excitement, but cannot figure out why we’re peering around corners at the front desk. Maya took the time to explain that she recognized Nate’s voice from the podcast her class voted on.
That could probably use some explanation at this point, too. Nate and his wife, Andrea, have a business called “Spanishland School”. As a part of what they do, they produce a podcast. They have developed a brand based on thinking like a native, with Andrea as the primary and native instructor and Nate, her husband who learned conversational Spanish through the help of various Spanish teachers, language exchanges, and Spanish Podcasts.
Maya, an instructor here at TLC, was looking for a Podcast to incorporate into her curriculum. Instead of just informing her class which podcast they’d be using, she turned it into a SPANISH debate. Students picked which podcast they wanted to represent. They each made a case for their pick and defended their stance. She did this with 3 classes and “Españolistos” was the overwhelming winner!
So back to the story, we continued to peer around the corner at the front desk, not wanting to interrupt their business with TLC, but also not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to introduce ourselves and explain how helpful their podcast has been. I’m not sure what kind of impression we made, but Nate and Andrea graciously agreed to a sit-down with us.
Over some most delicious fast-food chicken, we deliberated how we could work together. Some might see us in competition until you consider that language is best acquired from multiple sources. Well-formed partnerships can foster more opportunities for students to learn, which is the ultimate goal!
We look forward to Nate and Andrea’s visits next week and hosting workshops for them, and Maya may even get to make a guest appearance on their podcast!!
Until next time and remember, an accent is a sign of bravery.
Who Learns Languages Faster: Adults or Kids?
Lin is a 5-year-old Chinese girl, and she invites her 27-year old mom to learn English with her.
“Oh sweetie, mommy is too old to learn a new language!” Her mom, Wei, replies.
“That’s not true!” Their English teacher claims and they decide to do an experiment.
Lin and Wei have an instructional English class in China for one hour.
Guess who learns more?
27-year-old Wei learns more.
This advantage of faster learning persists even after 5 years, when they both keep learning English as a foreign language in China.
In a parallel universe, Lin and Wei directly immigrate to America. They don’t have time for classes so they are learning English in the non-instructional immersion-context of their daily lives. Guess who learns more in 1 year?
Wei, mom, learns faster in the first year, but Lin, daughter, catches up in 2 years and eventually surpasses her mom overall in 7 years; though it does not mean 12-year-old Lin can write a resume or publish a paper like her mom.
In another alternate universe, Wei might start learning English in America at 22 and reach native-like proficiency. Such a universe exists, but is less common.
The fear of being too old to learn a new language
We cannot tell you how many times we have heard the complaint “I am just too old to learn a new language!” Perhaps you’ve even thought this yourself. What if we told you your age could actually be an advantage in language learning?
Though human’s general learning ability declines as people age, including language learning ability; the fear of simply being “too old” has its root in the “critical period hypothesis“, which assumes irreversible biological changes prevent you from being a successful language learner as you get older. In other words, it’s the “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” mentality. This, however, is merely a hypothesis.
We do know that age can be associated with many factors. For instance, in the example above, Wei’s well-developed Chinese interferes with English learning, or Wei’s mind is too crowded with family and work to make room for pure language learning, or Wei’s strong identity as Chinese prevent her from speaking a second language, or Wei’s concern with grammar surpasses her will to try to speak.
Not only do we have good reason to be more optimistic about language learning as adults, this kind of pessimism can also hurt our ability to learn. After all, how can you learn a language if you perceive yourself to be incapable of doing so?
Lin vs. Wei: Who is a better language learner?
Instead of a one-dimensional bar diagram (figure 1), language learning is a multi-dimensional radar chart (figure 2).
Figure 2. Lin Language development Wei’s Language development
As we can see, Lin and Wei have different language learning advantages.
As an adult, Wei is better equipped with knowledge about language because of her well-developed first language, Chinese. She already knows basic language concepts such as “verb” “noun” and “sentence structure”, and can apply such knowledge into English learning, since languages do share a deep, common base. Lin, on the contrary, is still developing her first language and mapping out the panorama of language (figure 3).
Figure 3. Wei Lin
Wei also has a faster learning rate. She learns more content than Lin in a class (25 min) or in immersion, non-instructional environment (up to a year) because of cognitive maturation and previous language knowledge. In short, adults are better at problem solving which helps them decode languages. This initial advantage can be lost in 3-5 years in immersion context, though. In foreign language context (studying a language in a classroom setting in a country where it is not the majority language), however, the advantage persists (figure 4).
Wei has stronger motivation because of clear goals. Lin may only be motivated by sweets and praises from teachers; Wei may seek a career opportunity or a new possibility for life. Ultimately, motivation to learn a language determines a lot in successful language acquisition.
Wei’s cognitive maturation is also a powerful aid for language learning, especially when the language learning tasks involves complex thinking. For example, in instructional context, Wei usually comprehends and applies grammar rules faster than Lin. Dealing with language tasks that involve cognitive capacity, adults usually excel children.
Lin’s ultimate attainment (overall language performance based on fully-developed language proficiency) can reach native speaker level, while it is harder for Wei, especially in terms of pronunciation. However, pronunciation really comes after communication, and many people assume too little tolerance and patience from native speakers. Studies also suggest that children are better at learning language implicitly, just like the way they learn to ride a bicycle. But how we learn a language does not equate with how well we learn it.
There are, however, some simple tactics for language acquisition children naturally use adults can try to help in their language learning process.
What Adult Students Can Learn From Children
- Communication before grammar
There is trade-off between accuracy and fluency – put communication first because that’s what language is for.
- Verbal Repetition of words & sentences as many times as possible.
It helps commit words to memory and practice pronunciation.
- Learn through topics that interest you
Why do you think toddlers have no problems remembering names of 20 different dinosaurs?
- Connect language learning to the actual world
If you want to remember “grapefruit” in Chinese, eat it when learning to say it; learning household items in German? Label everything in your house!
- Use your time wisely – small Link, high frequency
Give yourself plenty of time and learn over a long period in small amounts to ensure that the new information is retained long-term and is easy to access. Taking months and years to work on our language proficiency, with frequent revisions, repetitions, working on one thing for a longer while, and going back to old things has a positive effect on our long-term outcomes.
- Stick with it!
Don’t give up, don’t take breaks, don’t postpone or delay, keep going, just like kids do!
As I’m writing this, we are wrapping up registrations for another term of classes, and I’m finding myself talking about our courses and teachers to many prospective students. I often get asked if the teacher in a selected class is a native speaker of the language they teach. It’s a simple yes/no question but I have so many problems with it!
The question usually comes from the underlying assumptions that native speakers…
A) are better teachers
B) know the language more extensively
C) students will learn to speak the language with their teachers’ native accents.
Because English is the most widely taught foreign/second language in the world, the issue of native-speaker preference is already being tackled in that universe and there is a lot we can learn from it, but let us take a moment here to discuss what we know from working with teachers of different languages and tackle the three assumptions mentioned above.
There is no research that supports the assumption that native speakers make better teachers; there are no studies or statistics showing that students learn more, better or faster from native vs. non-native speakers. Where learning is concerned, other characteristics of a teacher are a much better measure. You will find that a teacher’s personality traits like patience and creativity, as well as, positive attitude and personal investment in teaching are the main predictors of students’ overall success.
Good teachers are those who are trained to teach foreign languages, have a passion for it, are kind and respectful towards their students, and continue to grow professionally. Both native and non-native teachers have the opportunity to become exquisite teachers, and the mere fact that someone is a native speaker doesn’t bring them any closer to being a good language teacher.
On average, indeed, native speakers know more of the given language than non-native speakers, but only if we control for education levels. If we, however, compare a well-educated non-native speaker with a native speaker with less education, we will find that the non-native speaker will speak more intelligibly and will be able to use the language correctly in a wider range of situations, including professional and formal circumstances.
Something else worth noting is teaching a language requires what we could call “meta-knowledge” of the language, or some rudimentary linguistic awareness of the language. Let’s observe some examples of different language features that must be taught to students: the passive voice in English or German, the subjunctive in French and Spanish, the gender-number agreement in Russian and Polish. Native speakers of these languages use these features in their language every day but of course they never think about them. If asked, “why do you say it this way” they may have no idea. Alternatively, not every non-native teacher would do a good job teaching a class about it (see point A), but every one of them would know the concept of “passive voice, subjunctive, etc.”, why it has to have a place in the curriculum, why it needs to be used, and what is the difference between the passive and active voice – just to use this one example.
So what a teacher needs regarding language knowledge is both the functional ability, which is similar type of skill to riding a bike – you don’t know the mechanics of the bike or anatomy behind your muscle movements but you can ride a bike; and the analytical ability, i.e. having the awareness of each grammar point, sentence structure, fine differences between similar words and so on. On average, non-native teachers will have higher level of awareness of grammar and structures of the language than native teachers, but native teachers will have, on average, higher functional ability.
The trouble with accent is that although some (very few) people will actually pick up an accent from another speaker or their teacher, and to a minimal degree all of us can and do even in our native language (i.e. we try to accommodate the speaker by speaking similarly to them), most of us are not able to mimic perfectly the pronunciation or intonation of someone else, especially in a foreign language. If we were able to pick up accents just like that, I would now (after living almost 4 years in the United States!) have a perfect local accent. I don’t and I won’t, although I listen to and speak with Americans all the time. Typically, your accent in a new language is determined by your first language: most of us, saying things in a new language, sound like we are speaking our native tongue with new words and sentence order! Your accent will also be determined by other languages you learned or use. Finally, we might hear a little bit of your teacher in you, but probably no more than a tiny percentage.
This is all to say that having a native speaker as a teacher does not in itself give students any particular advantages.
Some teachers actually say being non-native is an advantage in a classroom!
But ultimately, rigorous training, actual and certified language proficiency, as well as personality and attitude should be the only selection criteria when hiring instructors in all language teaching institutions, for both native and non-native teachers.
TN Language Center
The Tennessee Language Center (formerly TFLI), an agency of the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Public Service established in 2018, is dedicated to responsive service of the public sector, the business community and private citizens in realizing their intercultural communication goals.