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Dr. Mark Himmelein Presents at LINC Luncheon

April 30, 2014

Dr. Mark Himmelein, professor of German and department chair of foreign language at the University of Mount Union, presented “More than Nouns and Verbs: Teaching Culture through Language,” at the last LINC luncheon of the season Tuesday at Mount Union.

Himmelein graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in German and business administration. He then received a Master’s degree in German and educational administration at the University of Pittsburgh and went on to earn a Doctor of Philosophy degree in foreign language education at the University of Akron. Himmelein has been a member of the Mount Union faculty since 1995.

According to Himmelein, foreign language education in the United States has been an uphill battle for a number of years as people can function properly without having to use a foreign language. In addition, students are often discouraged to find that learning a new language is challenging and doesn’t happen overnight. Himmelein said the best way to teach a foreign language is to include cultural applications in the learning process.

“We can have meaningful language instruction and really teach about other cultures at the same time,” Himmelein said. “These skills, regardless of what language you study, are transferrable to other situations … it’s not a class about language, it’s a class in the language about everything else.”

Himmelein said foreign language instructors should teach three skills – intercultural awareness, intercultural understanding and intercultural competence.

“It’s not just enough anymore to teach the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of the language – we need to teach the ‘how’ as well,” he said. “It’s the ‘how’ that students will be able to apply outside the classroom. They may not necessary remember the language, but these skills are going to stay ingrained in them.”

Himmelein said the skills needed to learn a foreign language can easily be transferred to communicating in other foreign languages as well.

“If you study correctly, you’ll be more prepared because you’ve been pre-conditioned to be able to understand how one communicates with another culture,” he said. “You’re going to be infinitely more prepared because you’ve been preconditioned to be able to understand.”

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