Helen Alcala, M.A.Associate Professor of Foreign Languages
Office: Winslow Academic Center
Degrees: M.A., French, Middlebury College; M.A. English as a Second Language, University of Massachusetts; B.A. Spanish, Middlebury College
Helen Alcala has taught for more than four decades, first on the high school level and then for nearly the last three decades at the college level. In the early 70s, she co-directed the Sociedad Hispana, a cultural organization in the Central Massachusetts area, and also held the position of publicist. The goals of Sociedad Hispana were to promote Hispanic culture, serve professors, teachers, and students of Spanish in the greater Worcester area, and help plan cultural and educational programs within the Hispanic community. The Sociedad also hosted a radio program, "Hora de las Americas," and co-sponsored a Summer Language and Cultural Institute at Worcester State College.
Helen has also twice been a Fulbright Exchange Professor with the Centro de Idiomas in Orizaba, Mexico where she taught ESL. As a result of connections she made during her first Fulbright exchange, she founded Shoulder to Shoulder, a community service partnership between Lasell students and two communities in Veracruz, Mexico. In the summer of 2002, she was the recipient of a grant for the first ever bilingual NEH Institute entitled "The Americas of José Martí/Las Américas de José Martí." During this 5-week Institute (last week in Cuba), participants learned about Martí's evolving ideas about the United States and Latin America, and at the same time what these ideas signify in the light of contemporary history and culture of the Americas.
What do you feel is important for your students to understand when learning another language?
"Language is more than just learning foreign words to describe objects and situations we can already describe in English. From the first day students learn that 'casa' is not only a different word from the one we usually use: 'house,' but is quite a different concept. 'Sugar cane,' rather than a short piece of something resembling a wooden flute, becomes a metaphor for 7 days of hard work and little pay. Real language learning is best if students spend time in a foreign country where they must sink or swim negotiating meaning in a world vastly different from the one in which they live."