The poet Yoko Tawada uses the staple remover as a metaphor for the process of learning a foreign language. Whereas words and ideas are fastened tightly together in the mother tongue, in the foreign language a space is opened for creative and intellectual play. The thrills and insights that can arise through engagement with language within this playful space are something I try to impart to my students in both the study of language and of literature. Learning a new language, like interacting with a literary or artistic work for the first time, involves new modes of perception, new ways of understanding, and new conceptions of being. Today the real-world situations in which students will find themselves after finishing their education and leaving the classroom increasingly demand multilingual, multicultural, and multimodal competences. Whether they are traveling abroad, attending lectures at graduate school, or working in a company, students will be asked to communicate in new situations, which will require them to infer cultural expectations about how they are to act and think from the actions of others. In my my teaching and mentoring, I hope to help students to find their own staple removers, so that they can discover new ways of thinking, understanding and expressing themselves.
One of my primary pedagogical interests relates to the potential of literary language in language learning and teaching. Together with my colleagues, Carl Blyth and Joanna Luks, I have worked on the project Foreign Languages and the Literary in the Everyday (FLLITE). You can find a collection of teaching professional development resources and materials developed as part of this project at the FLLITE web site: fllite.org.