Language learning is so much more than just a class.
It encompasses learning about a culture different from one’s own. It allows learners to engage and communicate with others who may seem different from themselves or who live thousands of miles away.
Assistant Professor of Spanish, Angela Pacheco-Gonzalez, teaches and witnesses language learning on a daily basis.
With a Colombian father and Spanish mother, Pacheco-Gonzalez grew up immersed in two different Hispanic cultures. The majority of her childhood was spent in Colombia while her high school and college years were spent in Spain.
“Usually the Hispanic world is separated between Spain and Latin America,” Pacheco-Gonzalez said. “I’m very aware of both sides.”
This awareness has contributed to the quality of her teaching in that she knows and understands the individual cultures of both Spain and Colombia and what life looks like in those countries.
Pacheco-Gonzalez puts a lot of thought and effort into helping her students understand the cultures of Spanish-speaking countries in addition to the language.
She often wishes that her students could travel more to the countries they are learning about to fully embrace their unique cultures. Since this is oftentimes not possible, Pacheco-Gonzalez must get creative.
Whether that is through having her students attend a mass service to aid understanding of Catholicism, watch documentaries about various cultures or read stories based on her own experiences, Pacheco-Gonzalez is always finding new ways to engage her students.
“I love spending time with my students and getting to know them,” Pacheco-Gonzalez said. “I find it very rewarding to see my students improve their language skills. It’s almost like a magical thing to see somebody not speak anything about a language and then all of a sudden, they can kind of have a conversation.”
The benefits of language learning are numerous. She explained how learning a language forces one to use aspects of their brain that they don’t normally use.
Pacheco-Gonzalez added that not only is it good for your brain and mental health, but language learning is fun and can allow people to have a sort of “secret code” with one another.
She finds that language learning is a gift from God and can be used to advance his kingdom. It connects people together, helps establish lifelong relationships and aids in the understanding of a culture different from one’s own.
“If you speak a language, you really get to understand the people, understand their sense of humor and the way they say things,” Pacheco-Gonzalez said. “It gives us that awareness that we have brothers and sisters everywhere.”
Prior to working at Taylor, Pacheco-Gonzalez worked at Purdue University. She settled in Indiana after deciding she wanted to move out of Spain and applied to several programs and internships, hoping to get accepted into one.
The Spanish government had an embassy in Indianapolis at which Pacheco-Gonzalez ended up receiving an internship. This allowed her to make the big move from Spain to Indianapolis.
She viewed this opportunity as God-given and felt extremely grateful.
“It wasn’t hard to adapt in any way,” Pacheco-Gonzalez said.
She believes this ease in adapting to a new environment was due to her moving from Colombia to Spain. When her family moved to Spain, Pacheco-Gonzalez had to adapt and navigate many new things. Consequently, adapting came naturally by the time she arrived in Indiana.
During both of her moves, she noticed that there are so many similarities between people, despite their different cultures, lifestyles and backgrounds.
“I feel like a lot of times, we are trying to figure out people, but people are people everywhere,” Pacheco-Gonzalez said.
She noticed this same thing when she arrived in Upland in 2018.
Pacheco-Gonzalez came to Taylor excited about the opportunity to intertwine faith and learning. Before applying to the position, she put a lot of thought and prayer into her decision, asking God if it was his will for her life.
Today, she is so grateful to be at a place like Taylor and is inspired and motivated by the everyday growth and cultivation experienced within the Spanish program.
“We may be a little bit of a small department, but there’s an immense impact in it,” Pacheco-Gonzalez said.
Pacheco-Gonzalez strives to do her very best for her students each day.
Her students are her number one priority; she hopes to promote a love for language learning and do her best to help students become bilingual.
“Hopefully they have a good memory of me, besides struggling with conjugations,” Pacheco-Gonzalez said.