Talia Bugel joined COAS’s Department of International Language and Culture Studies in 2006. A prolific academic with numerous awards, conference presentations, invited lectures, and publications, Bugel uses her research findings to improve her classes through her preferred teaching pedagogy: service learning (integrating community service into the classroom). In her most recent publication, “Translation as a Multilingual and Multicultural Mirror Framed by Service-Learning” (2013), Bugel claims, “I have found that teaching translation skills in the service-learning setting encompasses the entire spectrum of my academic subject.”
This article examines how language attitudes affect how—or if—an individual decides to learn a language. People with negative preconceptions of a language are less likely to learn the language well, but positive associations with the language can motivate them to learn. Positive language attitudes involve connecting with native speakers, establishing a sense of community. Bugel holds that language is not simply a tool for communication, but rather a part “of who we are, including our intellects, beliefs, feelings and identities.” In her classes, Bugel employs service learning to create connections through communication. For example, in her translation classes, students don’t just translate general texts “for the sake of training and practice,” they work with members of Fort Wayne’s Hispanic community, potentially developing positive relationships and a sense of communal identity.
The benefits of Bugel’s service learning approach extend beyond campus. Her students work with the teachers, parents, and children at Merle J Abbett Elementary, a school in urban Fort Wayne with a large percentage of students classified as English Language Learners (children who are not fluent in English and usually come from non-English-speaking homes). As part of their class, Bugel’s students work as translators for Hispanic parents during the school’s parent-teacher conferences. This type of service learning has extraordinary benefits for the community as well as the students: Abbett is provided the much needed translators who help parents and teachers communicate about the children’s education, and the translation students develop their language skills while interacting with a Spanish-speaking community.
Bugel has used her classroom success to present at several conferences and publish a peer-reviewed article. She has also become the campus liaison to Indiana Campus Compact (ICC), an organization dedicated to service learning. Bugel’s service learning experiences have impacted her academic path, and she encourages all faculty and students to get involved. Both ICC and IPFW’s Office of Service Learning provide support for service learning to faculty and students. For more information, contact Talia Bugel, Debra Barrick, or visit IPFW’s service learning website.