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Exploring the World One Word at a Time
08.28.13 |
“One of the things that happens when you study another language and live in another culture is that you come to understand the world in a different way,” says Dr. Kathleen Tacelosky, chair of languages and associate professor of Spanish. “You begin to let go of what you maybe didn’t even realize are culturally bound approaches to life. That intercultural competency is applicable to many life situations, because once you let go of the notion that there’s only one way to approach the world, you’re equipped to handle all kinds of situations differently.”

Tacelosky is well positioned to know how studying language can expand one’s worldview. After growing up in a military family that moved more than 30 times, she has lived and taught Spanish, ESL, and linguistics in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain, Japan, Germany, and Peru. In 2010, she was awarded a Fulbright grant to continue her community-based linguistic research and teach in the Languages Department at the Universidad de las Américas in Puebla, Mexico.

“As a linguist, one of the ways I like to point out to students cultural differences is through the language itself,” she says. “For example, in Spanish there are a lot of different ways to talk about death, because in Spanish-speaking cultures, it’s not taboo to speak about death. So if you’re in a Spanish class and you’re reading a story or a book, you’ll find there are cultural implications to some of the ways that death is discussed.

“It’s subtle and small yet very powerful,” she continues. “There’s another way of approaching the world, and it comes out in the language. So as we learn these languages we come at things from a different and hopefully more open-minded way.”

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