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Langton Selected Recipient Of Prestigious Language Fellowship

Published: September 4, 2012

English’s LeeAnne Langton was recently selected as a recipient of a prestigious Senior Language Fellowship offered through the U.S. Department of State and Georgetown University that will support 10 months in Tanzania’s St. Augustine University training English teachers and developing curriculum.

“This is wonderful,” said Langton, who earned her Master of Arts in Linguistics from CSULB in 1995 with highest distinctions. “This is a dream come true for me. I worked in East Africa as a member of the Peace Corps and, when I returned to the U.S., I enrolled at CSULB’s graduate school. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to go back. When my daughters went away to college this year, I was recruited for the fellowship by the State Department. The CSULB English Department gave me permission to accept and I’ve been excited ever since.”

One reason for her distinction, she feels, is her fluency in the Bantu languages of Swahili, used as the lingua franca in East Africa, and Shingazidja, spoken in the Comoros Islands. “I think it was the combination of my knowledge of these languages as well as my work in heritage language literacy and student success here at CSULB that earned me this fellowship,” she said. “Plus, I specialize in additive ESL (English as a Second Language) and teaching English alongside other languages and not at the expense of other languages. I hope my work in Tanzania will promote bi-literacy and multi-literacy. I want to support teachers teaching Kiswahili and English simultaneously.” Langton also knows French, German Japanese, Spanish and Vietnamese. She was distinguished with the CSULB University Honors Program’s Most Valuable Professor award in 2011 and has served as a mentor for CSULB’s Partners for Success Program.

Langton took her first step on the road to Tanzania this summer when she attended a fellowship orientation in Washington D.C. The program included meetings with the Bureau of African Affairs to discuss specific educational and diplomatic goals for East Africa.

“They provided me with information about resources I didn’t even know existed,” she explained. “I made contacts with people I’d only read about and with scholars in my languages. I was introduced to regional language officers including one at the home embassy in Tanzania. I learned about policies and procedures that will govern my 10 months in Africa. In addition to the fellowship’s funding, there also will be a grant to support the establishment of a language-teaching program at St. Augustine. And I networked with people from all over the world. That was very inspiring.”

Langton described her new Tanzanian home of St. Augustine University, a secular and private institution for higher learning owned and managed by the Catholic Church, as a place to test the skills in curriculum development she acquired at CSULB.

“I see this as an opportunity for the exchange of ideas,” she said. “I’m not going there to co-opt the university’s program with my program. I’m going there to bring any resources I have to assist with their needs.”

Langton’s summer orientation stressed a low-tech approach to education. “Power in that part of the world is unpredictable and it was explained to me that I ought to be prepared to use any and all resources available,” she said. “I want to establish a rapport with my teaching counterparts. An average day for me will combine teaching and curriculum development.”

Expectations are high. “Participants in this fellowship are expected not only to present at ESL conferences but to be the plenary speaker,” she explained. “We are expected to publish, to develop and sponsor scholarships, including Fulbright Scholarships, for the teachers we meet. We are expected to create grants. Suddenly, I find I have access to resources and money I would not otherwise have access to. I look forward to empowering other teachers. That means a lot to me. And I want to be the type of role model that I have had here at CSULB, including such people as English Chair Eileen Klink, Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Studies and Academic Advising Lynn Mahoney as well, and Tim Caron.”

Lee Anne
LeeAnne Langton

Langton feels she is already reaping rewards. “Participating in a fellowship like this gives my work a kind of gravitas it didn’t have before,” she explained. “This fellowship already is rewarding because I find myself repeatedly being told that what I can actually do is more important than what I publish (although that is expected, too). Being recognized by this fellowship has raised the bar for me professionally. I feel like this is a win for all lecturers like I am who are committed to our most marginalized students but whose work is not always held in very high esteem.”

Her road to CSULB began as a student. “After I received my bachelor’s degree in linguistics from UCLA, I went to work for the Peace Corps and, when I returned, I was choosing between UCLA and CSULB. Then I became pregnant,” she recalled. “I saw right away this could be a game changer. When I talked to UCLA about accommodating my high-risk pregnancy, they could not have been less interested. But when I spoke with English Chair Eileen Klink and then Linguistics Chair Stephen Ross, I got the opposite reaction. I remember Eileen telling me, ‘We love babies!’ I enrolled as a student at CSULB because I found here a student-centered, holistic approach to education that won my love.”

When Langton returns to the U.S. in November 2013, she hopes to bring with her a stronger voice for ESL students and lecturers at CSULB. “I also want study the gender gap in education and how to better help my heritage language students,” she said. “I’ve come to understand that ESL is a universal issue and a tool for economic development. I really think my participation in this fellowship will strengthen my commitment to education and my pedagogy. I think this fellowship will make me an even more creative and effective teacher.”

Langton encourages other CSULB faculty members, especially lecturers, to seek out and apply for fellowships. “If there are faculty members here sitting on the fence about applying for this kind of support, I think they ought to go ahead,” she said. “Yes, it means leaving the comforts of home for 10 months but my recent orientation taught me a lot about being FAT (flexible, adaptable and tough.) This is not an easy, cushy or glamorous assignment. We are being sent to the farthest reaches of the world beyond even the Internet. But we have a lot to offer and there is a lot for us to learn a lot outside of the ivory tower.”