Dr. James G. Mitchell
Professor, Modern Languages
My overarching research specialization is second language acquisition, specifically aspects of classroom acquisition and second language pedagogy. For instance, I have done longitudinal studies of attitudes toward Italian acquisition and how those attitudes change over time with greater experience learning the language. Lately, however, my research agenda has been focused on the use of second languages and the portrayal of second language speakers in popular television in the U.S. as well as the attitudes these representations convey about the groups they purport to depict. My recently published book, "Watching in Tongues: Multilingualism on American Television in the 21st Century," collects my work on these issues over the last decade. I am also interested in other issues related to second language use in media and society, such as how Spanish was employed by would-be presidential nominees during the 2020 campaign to appeal to Latinx voters or how Spanish is used is English-language comic books.
Learning a second language represents a key area of study in Salve Regina's Core Curriculum. Learning another language serves to broaden students' horizons and to deepen their intellectual curiosity. Indeed, second languages offer students more options for the pursuit of knowledge. Not only do speaking, understanding and/or reading a second language enable students to access people and texts that might otherwise remain unexplored, learning another language implies the acquisition of cultural understanding. Students gain exposure to other ways of life and to other perspectives on a variety of subjects. Thus, they are more ready to understand and accept difference; they learn to embrace the diversity of the world community. These lessons carry over to life outside of the classroom, creating a community of open-minded scholars interested in the exchange of ideas presented from different points of view. Moreover, when students encounter cultural differences, I encourage them to analyze their own cultures and their experiences within those cultures. Thus, they become engaged in a reasoned discourse about their own cultural sensibilities. I encourage them to think critically and discern their own point of view. I work with my students to build these evaluative skills because such skills will serve them well beyond Salve Regina, enabling them to pursue lifelong learning. By learning another language or taking courses in linguistics, students leave my classroom with greater sensitivity to the world around them, ready to engage in other intellectual pursuits with a more open mind and a more thoughtful approach to learning. In fact, these lessons, which enhance students' ability to see the world from a variety of perspectives and improve their capacity to learn, make language instruction an essential part of all students' education. I, too, am a perpetual language learner. I am constantly working to improve my mastery over the languages that I know well and to acquire other languages on my "life list" that I hope someday to learn. With new additions over the years it seems this task will be a lifelong challenge. In addition to my love of learning languages, I am fascinated by popular culture, especially television, and the ways in which everyday life is reflected and refracted back at us from the plasma or LCD screen. I have been an active athlete since junior high and continue to play tennis in community leagues, though my first love is cross-country running. I am also an avid theatergoer and enjoy both plays and musicals. I acted quite a bit in my younger days and hope to return to the stage someday soon. Until then, I enjoy sharing the spotlight with my students in class.