The crowd gave a round of applause in Auditorium 209 of Bryant Hall for 2016’s Humanities Award recipient as he wrapped up his lecture on linguistics.
John R. Gutiérrez was recently named the Humanities Teacher of the Year by the University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts and the Mississippi Humanities Council. Gutiérrez gave his lecture, ‘Untapping a Linguistic Resource: Teaching Spanish as a Heritage Language in the United States’, in celebration of the award and Art & Humanities Month on Wednesday night.
Andy Mullins from the Mississippi Humanities Council gave some brief details about the award and its recipient, and Donald Dyer, the UM chair of modern languages, introduced Gutiérrez.
Gutiérrez’s lecture focused on heritage languages, which are the languages someone learns at home as a child that are considered monitory languages in a society. He went on to educate the audience on linguistics and registers to describe why people speak the way they do in particular settings.
“How we talk is influenced by several situational factors, including setting and purpose of communication, the person being addressed, the social relations between us and to whom we are speaking and the topic.” Gutiérrez said.
Although Gutiérrez said he wants heritage language instruction to be a part of the national teaching agenda and that learning English should not mean forgetting the heritage language, he said this does happen and he wants people to be able to maintain their heritage languages.
Among the family members, friends and colleagues in attendance were students interested in or already taking courses with Gutiérrez.
Natalie Busby, a freshman history major, said the lecture illuminated the intricacies within her own culture.
“I’m from El Paso, which is about 80 percent Hispanic, and there are a lot of differences in the way language is spoken between my friends who are immigrant and heritage speakers,” Busby said. “I’m a mom-native speaker, so it was really interesting to learn why those differences exist from the lecture.”
Holly Prather, an international studies and accounting major, said she really hadn’t thought about the differences in other heritage classes until Gutiérrez spoke about them. She said she agreed with Gutiérrez’s plans for teaching heritage Spanish in colleges and universities.
“It would be really cool to see more colleges in areas, especially where the Hispanic population is very large, adopt the heritage teaching, and I hope Ole Miss does something like it,” Prather said.
Gutiérrez ended his lecture encouraging the university to move forward with its role in diversity by putting the teaching of heritage languages into use.
“The time has come for Ole Miss to untap this linguistic resource,” Gutiérrez said. “Doing so will not only help the university advance itself to increase diversity but will enhance the significant role Ole Miss is already playing in increasing the pool of language other than English being spoken in the United States.”