Course: LIN 250
Instructor: Kalin, Gor
S 2019

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

Language in Its Contexts is true to its course area: as a social analysis class, it extensively explores the plethora of ways that human language is viewed, perceived, impacts perception, and impacts identity in not only varying social or cultural contexts, but also political or historical circumstances. Professor Kalin and Gor develop the weekly topics such that they begin concerned with purely cultural or social contexts more focused on natural consequences like human language acquisition and how language impacts our thoughts. As the semester progresses, topics become increasingly concerned with political interferences and changing historical perspectives on issues, like sociolinguistics in courts and the English-only movement. Much of the course is driven towards deconstructing misconceptions about language or how language impacts us, which has become heavily politicized and thus often twisted, and building views on language that are rooted in empirical studies and scientific understanding. The class is setup such that students have to put in minimal effort outside of the must-do’s (such as reading the relatively low-load 30-60 pages/week, and attending lecture) to learn the content, and this very much reflected my own experience. A particularly useful resource for me personally was asking the multiple guest lecturers invited to speak more comprehensive questions that inevitably rose when dealing with as profound questions as how what we say impacts what we think.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

The course was taught such that the various components were very much in harmony and used experiences from one another. Professor Kalin and Gor kept precepts small such that each student had more space to talk, and varied discussions between small groups in precepts and then whole groups. Professor Kalin even kept lectures engaging with activities, student led discussions, and sometimes directly inviting students to participate, such that learning was happening practically as well as theoretically. Students were expected to participate in precept with questions, personal experiences, and reflections, which were common to generate as we all interact with language daily. Assigned readings were always directly discussed, if not in lecture than surely in precept. The 30-60 page reading prediction was quite accurate, and relative to 100-150 page readings in other social science/humanity classes, it was a generous amount. Students should ensure however that they at least read these sources carefully for meaningful discussion to get the most out of precept, given that these readings are relatively short. There was no lab component.

Learning For and From Assignments

The papers in the class varied greatly in their intended student output, but were clearly detailed in their expectations, with the Professors being very open and invitational for students to learn more, whether about topics or grading criteria. Paper topics did however, if the person did not already have some type of unconventional relationship with language, require some thinking and personal researching. However, the Professors were very available and enthusiastic about assisting students in this process. The final paper however did not require personal research, but rather analytical skills rooted in the topics learned over the course of the semester. Given that the exam was open note, the most effective method of studying was to review the general lecture notes given through blackboard that detailed the most important concepts of each lecture, which you were expected to have for the exam. The readings matured your understandings of these concepts, and so keeping up with or reviewing them leading to the exam would be an effective strategy. Readings, thus, could best be cemented if properly considered and discussed in precept, as the precepts in this class very much seemed designed for this reason.  

External Resources

Given the scope and work load of the class relative to the multitude of resources, guest lectures, office hours, and past examples of work given by professors, external resources were truly not frequently used and perhaps not necessarily needed to succeed in this course. However, certain students did take their beginning papers to Writing Center appointments, which may not have been as useful given that they were linguistically analytical, which may not be a skill the average writing center tutored is prepared for.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

The class is one that radically changes the way a student may approach or think about language and the role it plays within their own life and the world around them. The class did not carry with it any hidden expectations, although many students that were bilingual or had diverse cultural experiences often found themselves more enthusiastic about the learning. The Professors really invested an incredible amount of time, care, and energy into the student experience, and it showed with the continuous full attendance and reciprocated participation from students.
Language in Its Contexts

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