English as a Second Language

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Steve Lasswell




Like all of us, I have had a number of experiences that contributed to my choice of a profession and the way I conduct myself in it, but when I review my quarter of a century teaching ESL at SBCC and consider what aspects of my background have had the greatest influence on my professional life, three in particular stand out. The first of these was my first traveling to different continents – South America, Africa, and Europe – by working passage on various cargo ships. This travel aboard Venezuelan, Danish, Norwegian, and German vessels and my subsequent biking tour through many countries certainly broadened the horizons of a 26-year-old who until then had never been outside of North America, intensifying an interest in new cultures and languages that has grown into a lifelong fascination. The second key experience was living in a country different than my own – (West) Germany -- and acquiring a second language well enough not only to communicate in it, but to enter university and complete a Master`s degree and also, not incidentally, to find and marry the love of my life (certainly the greatest enrichment of all!). This second-language experience has made it possible for me to empathize with the trials and joys that our students encounter along their way. As well, living in Europe for ten years afforded me an opportunity to travel extensively on that continent and to make cultural discoveries that have set the direction of my life both personally and professionally.

Finally, having relocated to Santa Barbara in 1986, I enrolled in the Linguistics department at UCSB and completed my Ph.D. studies by writing, as my dissertation, a reference grammar of a historically significant language that is now threatened by extinction – a process that has given me insight into the multiplicity of factors that impinge on the development of language in society. In addition to starting teaching ESL at SBCC (February 1988) during my graduate studies, I was very pleased to teach German in Continuing Education for six years during the 1990`s. This latter was invaluable for vivifying my more theoretical perspectives on functionality in language learning – and not least for making me acquainted with the needs and motivations among the population of our adult learners in Santa Barbara.

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