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UNM-LA Community Education Classes Will Explore Language, Culture and Literature

on August 15, 2013 - 8:37am

UNM-LA Community Education Classes Will Explore Language, Culture and Literature

By Eva Artschwager

This fall, UNM-Los Alamos Community Education is offering two new classes that have a lot in common. Although one is a language class in Basic Portuguese and the other a literature class in the Latin American Short Story, both use language as a starting point for a deeper exploration of culture and history.

The Basic Portuguese class, taught by Cynthia Bell-Santos, introduces students to the elements of the Portuguese language and discusses language as a tool for exploring Brazilian culture.

According to Bell-Santos, understanding the reciprocal relationship between language and culture is an important factor in learning any language. She believes we see culture embodied in language, through the unique sounds, phrases, and emphases that each language provides. But cultural understanding is also important for becoming a successful communicator in any language, she adds.

For this reason, the class will spend time considering cultural sensitivity, stereotypes, and the deeper levels of culture that exist in any region or locale. The class will also teach basic terms and expressions, including greetings and question phrases, as well as conversational elements for travel, shopping, dining, and sports.

Throughout the sessions, students will participate by expressing ideas, becoming engaged observers, and practicing new words, phrases and the unfamiliar sounds of the language. The class will conclude with a sampling of traditional Brazilian foods, brought in by the instructor.

Like Bell-Santos, Renae Mitchell has a strong interest in understanding the culture of a region through the unique perspective that language and literature provide.

In Mitchell’s class, Latin American Literature, students will use short fictional works to gain insight into the creative experiences of Latin American writers and to better understand the culture and history of different historical periods.

“The creative process enlightens the writers’ own experiences and allows them to transfer that understanding through their fictional works,” says Mitchell.

The class begins with readings from the pre-colonial Aztec and Mayan cultures, pieces that are rarely taught in a literature class.

Additional short stories from the colonial and post-colonial periods, including short fiction by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, will round out the class readings.

“Anyone who enjoys fiction or is curious about Latin American history and culture would enjoy this class,” Mitchell said.

The instructor will provide all reading for the course in translation; students wishing to read the works in the original language are welcome to do so.

Experienced instructors with impressive credentials and strong publication records teach both classes.

Bell-Santos received her Doctorate of Educational Administration from New Mexico State University and has experience that includes 13 years of teaching and translating English and Portuguese at the University of Brasilia.

Mitchell earned her Doctorate in Comparative Literature/Latin American Studies from Penn State University and has taught a range of language and literature classes over the past nine years.

Basic Portuguese meets 6-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning Aug. 27.

Latin American Literature meets 5:30-7 p.m. Thursdays, beginning Aug. 29.

Note: The start date of the Latin American Literature class is Aug. 29, not Aug. 22 as was indicated in the Community Education Fall Schedule of Classes.

For more information on either of these classes, contact Eva Artschwager at 505.695.5797 or eartschw@unm.edu.

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