The reason this is a nice semester is that I do not have any freshmen. Even in my most basic course, which is the last course to the language requirement, 50% of the students intend to continue further and so are not trying to stall on work, but want to make progress so they can start strong next semester too. And I have complete control over materials for this course, so I can use whatever I think is important and works. This makes a very great difference. And the students really are college students, so they have study skills, and it is actually possible to focus on cultural content and intellectual development, bringing the language along with it, so I get to actually engage and am not expected merely to impart mechanical information.
I like to acquire new systems so I should like to show people how to do this, but I find that many refuse to see the charm and pleasure that inhere in language acquisition, at least for me. Most people are not like this, I have learned. I am also not like most language professors I know. They tend either to be native speakers, so they are located more as English professors are, or to have acquired one foreign language completely, so they are dedicated to it. I never did this and I do not think I would have majored in a language. Had I not done literature, I would have done linguistics or area studies, and I can see studying one language if it were very different from mine, but rather than study a single European language I would have gone to another discipline entirely.
I have been noticing that this is a different orientation or location. I did not notice it in jobs where I taught mainly majors and graduate students because there, you are your specialties, you are not necessarily the discipline itself. Here, one is the discipline itself and I notice I do not fit into it as easily as the others do. They are Hispanists and are also invested in Hispanism as an identity, and I am in Comparative Literature and Latin American Studies and I am not trying to affirm a particular cultural identification.
It really is another vantage point and I remember as well that in graduate school the linguistics and literary theory people were recognizable to each other among the crowds of national language people because we were the ones who liked abstraction. Perhaps it is this characteristic that makes law seem such a natural field to me, while it seems so alien (from what I can gather) to so many.
So, does it take a certain temperament to be in a national language and literature and do I not have it? I speak about four foreign languages really well and I can read more, so perhaps the truth is that I am a language militant (which I mean in a nice way) like Shedding Khawatir but that I deny it. My ideal vacation is to be on foreign language immersion in a new language and I am not joking. Why then is it so cumbersome to me as a teaching field?
It seems to me people should already know how to acquire languages and go off and do it discreetly in a way that works for them, and come to me as intermediate students at least. No: there are so many courses I would like to give, that ideally all the language courses and all the courses on Spain would be given by someone else. Then I could teach where I am valuable.
Perhaps all of this really is that I am just not that interested in beginners or in the textbook industrial complex or in teaching the unwilling or in negotiating curriculum with conservative language teachers — but the fact is really that I have other interests and priorities. I can hear people already pronouncing odious phrases: “It is your bread and butter, dear!” “What? You think you are too good to do that?” and so on.
But do English professors get browbeaten if freshman composition is not their first priority or major interest? Are history professors told they are not real historians if their favorite course is not World Civilizations I?