February 3, 2015

Greetings from the Chair of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

We’ve come to the midway point of another exciting academic year. Despite the bitter cold temperatures that we experienced during the Winter of last year, the members of the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures managed to not only survive but also thrive.

As we begin 2015 I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for all their hard work and contributions to the intellectual life of the Department.

First, I’d like to heartily congratulate Dr. Priya Wadhera, who has been accepted for tenure. We look forward to many years of her fine scholarship, wonderful energy in the classroom, and enthusiastic participation in university service.

Kathy Kannengeiser, who accepted a position with another department at Adelphi, left us at the beginning of the Spring 2014 term. She was an indispensable member of our department for twelve years. We thank her for her many years of service and will miss her!

We have been very fortunate in hiring Ms. Carmen Castellón as the new assistant to the Department. She has worked diligently during the very busy Spring and Fall semesters to make sure that our classes and activities were taken care of. ¡Gracias, Carmen!

The Department is a comprehensive, full-service foreign language department. It offers challenging and rich programs of study in a variety of languages: Chinese, French, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. Under the guidance of a highly qualified and dedicated faculty, students may earn minors in French, Italian and Spanish, and baccalaureate degrees in French and Spanish. The Department continues contributing to the University, and the community at large by providing instruction in foreign language and culture to students from across the University. We also offer French, Italian and Spanish tracks for the International Studies major. There is a European Studies minor and a Latin American Studies major and minor. The Department also offers a Translation Certificate Program that just started this past Fall 2013.

In closing, I wish to share some compelling findings about language-learning to do with deaf learners of sign language in Nicaragua.

“How Language is Essential to Learning Math”
Summary excerpted from articles in Time and Education Week.

A series of studies conducted between 2006 and 2010 in Nicaragua by researchers Elizabeth Spaepen and Susan Goldin-Meadow have revealed interesting insights regarding language acquisition and its link to skills in math. Spaepen and Goldin-Meadow tested several deaf “homesigning” Nicaraguan adults on their basic math abilities. “Homesigners” are those who communicate using informal, made-up hand gestures that often do not have distinct grammar rules or words for larger numbers. It was found that these homesigners had significant difficulties understanding and communicating numbers larger than three, mainly because they did not have the vocabulary to describe those numbers. They could count objects by using their fingers, but they could not grasp the concept of seven being less than nine, or five being more than three.

When deaf people in Nicaragua who learn standardized sign languages were tested, they were able to communicate larger numbers because they had learned a counting routine as children, much like hearing children do with spoken language.

This research is significant for linguists, those who study human development, and teachers at foreign language immersion schools, as it links language acquisition in young children to their ability to develop math skills later on in life. It is essential to learn the words for numbers and understand the significance of their sequencing and value. Neuron activity in different parts of the brain when performing counting tasks also vary in children with different native languages. For example, English speakers’ brains are more active in language centers, while the brains of Chinese speakers are more active in the visual/spatial centers.

This is yet another great example of how learning languages changers your brain for the better!

Raysa Amador
Languages, Literatures, and Cultures Department Chair
Science Building – Room 216B
p – 516.877.4054
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