UNA professor speaks students' language, among numerous others

By: Jason Lankford

Posted: 3/11/10

Dr. Craig Christy has a fascination with the phenomenon of human language and how we communicate. He hopes that his students will share this enthusiasm for the subject. He feels that it is indispensable for students to learn a foreign language.

"It is important to expand your horizons, your intelligence and challenge your beliefs about the way the world works," Christy said. "Nothing gets you to that point faster than the study of a foreign language."

Christy believes that each language has a different take on reality. Language guides the way that we think about the world and it is important to avoid chaining ourselves to one specific way of thinking.

"As long as you're a goldfish swimming in a bowl, you'll never know what's outside the bowl," Christy said. "You won't know how language is directing or limiting your thought. Why would you want to settle for one way of looking at the world?"

Christy has taught at UNA since 1988. He is a professor of German, Linguistics and International Studies. He holds a Ph.D. in German Language and Literature from Princeton University.

The origins of Christy's fascination with foreign languages date back to his childhood. His mother was originally from France and grew up near the Franco-German border. He learned French and German from her. He is fluent in both of these languages and dabbles in Chinese, as well as various Scandinavian languages.

Christy is eager to encourage students to take advantage of opportunities to study abroad. He believes that where you study is almost as important as what you study.

"We see your study of a language as a beginning," Christy said. "What we want you to do is go abroad. Then it really means something to you. When you go abroad, you live it, breathe it and learn one-hundred times faster than you do with a book. You not only gain knowledge, but experience another way of life."

Christy says that his extensive travels in various countries have provided him with a wealth of insights into different cultures and real-life examples that he has been able to use in teaching his classes as a supplement to the text.

"We all enrich our lives when we experience the lives of others," Christy said.

In the 20th century, an academic trend was introduced that eliminated foreign language as a requirement of the curriculum at many universities. Christy is pleased that colleges around the country are reversing this trend now and making foreign language part of the core curriculum once again. Christy hopes that UNA will eventually follow suit.

One thing that makes UNA unique compared to many other institutions of similar size is the diverse amount of critical language courses taught here. Critical language classes include Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Swahili and Turkish.

These classes are actually taught by UNA students who are native speakers of the language. Instruction in the classroom focuses primarily on the development of oral communication skills through conversation with the instructor. Mastery of the grammar must be accomplished through self-motivated study outside of class.

The ability to speak in these languages has the potential to open up many job opportunities. According to Christy, the government is desperate for people who speak them. Many positions are available in the corporate world as well, as many companies are seeking to expand their operations to other countries.

If you are interested in obtaining more information about offerings in the foreign language department or wish to learn more about opportunities to study abroad, you can stop by Dr. Christy's office in Room 204 of Weslyan Hall.
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