STATEMENT OF GRANT PURPOSE
Rebecca Davis, Germany, English Teaching Assistantship
My experience with foreign language study has proven to me that an understanding of cultural context and values is just as important as grammar and stylistics in the mastery of a second language. During my English Teaching Assistantship in Germany I would like to incorporate technology and media resources, such as relevant newspaper articles and television programs, into the classroom learning experience in order to foster intercultural and communicative language learning techniques. For the student of a foreign language, the ability to use the developing linguistic ability within the framework of current cultural context provides a new and interesting outlet. The placement of language learning within a socio-linguistic context stimulates argument and gives students the resources to continue language studies independent of the classroom.
In addition to expanding the linguistic capabilities of my students, an English Teaching Assistantship will provide the opportunity to enhance my German language skills to a degree that is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain in the classroom. As a professor once told me, "We are limited in what we can think by our education." Since language often reflects cultural values and thought patterns, living abroad will allow me to steep myself in German language and culture, introducing new ways of thinking and approaching situations that only intimacy with a new culture can afford.
The Fulbright program will give me the opportunity to enhance my appreciation for German culture, while fostering true intercultural communication. Just as many Europeans propagate the stereotype that all Americans eat fast food, many Americans' knowledge of Germany extends only to Oktoberfest, fast cars, and Nazism. My short expedition to Germany in 2007 and the cultural knowledge which I have gained in my German classes has opened my mind to the rich intellectual past and deep respect for nature that still resonates within German culture today. Experiencing this tradition of Geistwissenschaft and Naturwissenschaft first hand will allow me to bring an authentic intercultural perspective to the United States, just as I hope to be a paragon of cultured America while abroad.
My experience with both learning foreign languages and helping non-native speakers develop their English skills has piqued my interest in formally studying second language acquisition. My time outside of the classroom will be spent volunteering in English classes of several grade levels in order to observe various stages of second language acquisition. I plan to focus on the effect of age on L2 (second language) learning, including accent acquisition and stages of grammar comprehension. Germany will provide a unique field in which to study phases of second language acquisition because of the young age at which many German schools begin foreign language classes, as well as the number of years which German students study foreign language. Upon my return to the U.S., I plan to enter a master's degree program for TESOL/ESL. I will use my experience in the classroom, both within the confines of my English Teaching Assistantship as well as my volunteer experience elsewhere, to enhance my study of foreign language acquisition and to write my master's thesis.
Rebecca Davis, Germany, English Teaching Assistantship
When I started taking beginning German courses to fulfill my foreign language requirement, little did I know that the German language would become one of the focal points of my undergraduate career. With less than a year left until I graduate with a German minor and my hopes set on teaching in Germany through the Fulbright program next year, I cannot help but think how unexpected a turn my life has taken. Nevertheless, I feel that an English Teaching Assistantship is simply the culmination of my studies thus far.
When I was in middle school my mother went back to school to become a teacher. Since I am an only child and my mother was a single parent at the time, it was a journey we took together. I went to night classes with her while she got her degree, and later I went to classes that she taught. Her experience as a teacher and my own experience growing up in the public school system made education one of my passions. For most of my life, it was my own education I was passionate aboutI threw myself into my studies, and even from a young age I knew that the education one receives is directly proportionate to the work which one is willing to dedicate to it. Now that I am older, the education of others has become important to me, and thus it is this philosophy and commitment to learning that I wish to convey to others.
An English Teaching Assistantship will allow me to share with others the enthusiasm for learning that I have cultivated in my own life, particularly with respect to foreign language study. Having completed four years of Spanish, a year of French, and almost four years of German language classes, I have had exposure to many of the common difficulties that occur while studying a foreign language. This experience, along with the volunteer tutor position in which I help many non-native speakers improve their English writing skills, has given me hands-on training with overcoming such problems in a variety of ways. I plan to use this background in foreign language acquisition to create an engaging learning experience tailored to the needs of my students.
My position as a volunteer tutor in the Reading and Writing Center on campus has given me the opportunity to improve the writing skills of a wide range of learners, including graduate students and freshman, native speakers and students who have just recently arrived in the U.S. Through this position I am continually gaining further insight into problems which non-native speakers face in second language acquisition, as well as practical experience in helping students solve such issues. For instance, many non-native speakers I work with are recently arrived from Asia, whose languages are unique in their lack of articles. It was a challenge to explain the use of articles to someone who has never worked with that part of speech before; however, helping students identify and resolve problem areas is a rewarding experience which I plan to incorporate into my teaching style while I am abroad.
Unfortunately, I have had little time for clubs or service organizations while at college; due to financial constraints, I have had to work nearly full-time all four years. However, I always put forth my best effort in the endeavors for which I have time, which is my impetus for success in both academic and vocational pursuits. At the beginning of the Fall 2009 semester, I was offered a position as a supervisor at a local restaurant franchise. This position cultivates my leadership skills, teaches me to cope with constantly changing demands, and often affords me the opportunity to teach others (though in a non-academic setting), since I often provide on-the-job training for new employees.