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College of Arts and Letters | Michigan State University

 
In the Spotlight

On this page we feature a member of the Second Language Studies Program. Right now our spotlight is on Dr. Amanda Temples, MAFLT assistant professor and SLS affiliate!


June 2015

Amanda Temples

Amanda Temples

Like many of us who call ourselves applied linguists, my academic journey has been a blend of carefully premeditated decisions and complete serendipity. Whether I am talking to insiders or outsiders, defining what I do at Michigan State, not to mention who I am and hope to be professionally, is a bit complicated. It may help to take up the idea from communities of practice theory that our identity is a nexus of multimembership – we are the intersection of all the communities in which we are participating at any given time. In that light, my primary community at MSU is the Master of Arts in Foreign Language Teaching (MAFLT) program, which I joined as core faculty in 2013. At the same time, I have led a number of workshops for the Center for Language Teaching Advancement (CeLTA), and I am grateful to be an affiliate of the Second Language Studies (SLS) program.

Beyond the community of MSU, I am a graduate of Georgia State University’s Applied Linguistics program, an experienced language teacher, an inveterate language learner, and the mother of two small boys. My research interests include identity and culture in language learning, especially in regard to less-commonly-taught languages and heritage language learners, so my own experience teaching language, studying LCTLs, and determining what heritage and opportunities I want to pass on to my boys has only served to deepen my understanding of the processes that my informants have experienced.

Of course, I would not have predicted any of these outcomes when I chose to major in theatre many years ago at Davidson College. At the time, I was convinced I would go into acting or directing, but my faculty made it clear that I should strive for graduate school rather than the limelight. I founded and directed an international play festival for my senior project, and within a year of graduation, I was headed overseas to teach English in the Czech Republic, one of the countries that festival had featured. My interest in theatre history took me to a country whose first post-communist president was a playwright, my directing skills opened up my first opportunity to teach at a university, and my pedagogical abilities gradually grew. However, after four years teaching in Czech and later Serbia, I realized that I needed to return to the U.S. and focus on my own academic development.

The first few courses of my master’s program soon confirmed that my new trajectory would involve studying core aspects of linguistics, language teaching methods, discourse analysis, and other approaches to researching language in use. When I decided to continue from the master’s to the doctoral program at Georgia State, I was fortunate enough to become one of the first graduate fellows in the university’s Language and Literacy Initiative, which aimed to bring together students and scholars in a number of fields that study language development for fruitful interdisciplinary conversations and collaborations.

Thanks to that fellowship, I soon began the microethnographic study of a group of young learners of Arabic and their families that would become my dissertation. Those learners provided an intriguing lens for studying not only the processes of language learning but also the careful investment of time, energy, relationships, and other resources that an ongoing commitment to learning a heritage language demands, especially when it is also a critical language.

Along the way, I also engaged in separate studies of language and identity construction in fully-online graduate courses. Ongoing opportunities to teach included courses in English for academic purposes in the GSU Intensive English Program and in programs at Georgia Tech and Emory University as well as sociolinguistics courses for undergraduate and master’s students. The year I finished my PhD, I was pleased to receive an award for excellence in teaching from my department and a graduate student award from the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL). I continue to combine teacher development and research as I work with language teachers in the MAFLT and other programs.

While the move to Michigan State was serendipitous in its own way, ultimately it made perfect sense. Through teaching in the MAFLT program, I can deepen my understanding of the challenges that aspiring foreign language teachers face while also taking up the gauntlet thrown down by the academy’s increasing reliance on online instruction. Our MAFLT students are located all over the U.S. and in many other countries, and most of the courses I teach are fully online. However, I have also taught face-to-face in the MA TESOL program, and my door is open to SLS students who want to discuss exploratory approaches, qualitative data analysis, and academic socialization.

The immersion in a world-class community of scholars focusing on all aspects of linguistics and language development that my position here affords has been a pleasure over the last two years, and I am sure the same will continue to be true.

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