The visiting lecturers in our department are passionate about language, and have devoted their careers to teaching it. This year we have a new Visiting Lecturer of Latvian so we thought asking some questions would be a good way to get to know Solvita Pošeiko.
Q: How long have you been teaching Latvian?
A: I have been teaching Latvian as a foreign language for five years. This includes courses of various levels (A1-C1) and lengths for exchange students at Rēzekne Academy of Technologies (a regional higher education institution in Latvia) in order to provide them with basic Latvian skills for living and communication in Latvia. I have also given private lessons to adults from various countries (including USA, China). I have taught intensive Latvian for two consecutive years at the Latvian Language and Culture Summer School at the University of Latvia. The Summer School brings together students from foreign universities as well as heritage Latvians.
I spent one year teaching first-year and second-year Latvian at the Foreign Studies University in Beijing (China). Latvian is taught there every workday during the academic year. I am very happy that now one of my Chinese students is teaching Chinese with Latvian as the language of instruction in the Language Center in Riga and studying at the University of Latvia. She has also participated in one national project on the creation of an electronic dictionary, checking transliterations of Chinese–Latvian personal names.
Q: Why do you think students should study Latvian?
A: As a linguist, I would like to firstly highlight the linguistic reasons for learning Latvian. The first reason is related to language history. Latvian as a Baltic language is one of the most archaic of the living Indo-European languages. This could be very interesting to language translators, because Latvian seems to retain many of the features of the earliest Proto-Indo-European language. Over time, Latvian has been developed by the influence of the German, Russian and Polish languages, and by close contact with Estonian and Liv, which are Finno-Ugric languages. Therefore, knowledge of Latvian provides access to deeper studies of ancient linguistic features of Indo-European languages (especially sounds) and old texts partially in Latvian (e.g., dictionaries, textbooks and poems created also by Germans or Poles). Many texts are still not explored enough or at all in the context of language development or language contact.
The second reason is related to our current social life and linguistic habits. Modern applied linguistics shows the tendency to discuss the lesser-used languages in terms of language ecology and global multilingualism. The most significant idea is that large language speakers with knowledge of smaller languages are more successful in the labor market because of their ability to apply the multilingual repertoire for different purposes. They can read field-related texts and follow news of area of interest, directly communicate with a target audience (e.g. business clients, cooperation partners), as well as translate and interpret into unusual language combinations. Multilingual employees usually are also more flexible in moving from one place to another. In Latvia, there are many affiliates of various international companies.
However, Latvia has a rich cultural history in terms of folklore and folk songs, with over 30,000 different recorded melodies for these songs. By learning the Latvian language, it is possible to expand one’s creative and musical knowledge. Nowadays, Latvian literature can compete with the best world literary traditions, particularly with the application of feminist theories and post-modern experiments of textual forms. As we know, the best way to get to know the literature is to read it in the original language.
Q: Why did you choose to come teach at the University of Washington?
A: My main reason for coming to teach at University of Washington was fact that this is the only university of the entire United States where it is possible to study Latvian. My choice was positively influenced by stories I heard about professor Guntis Šmidchens’ enthusiastic work on Baltic Studies here.
Q: What is your goal during your time at the UW?
A: Along to teaching Latvian, I have two big goals. I really would like to finish my book based on my dissertation “Languages and its functionality in the urban public space: Linguistic landscape of the Baltic states” (2015). It is about languages on public texts of various sociolinguistic domains in terms of language policy and glocalization, and linguistic landscape method and interdisciplinary theories. However, the book is not only about languages and sociolinguistic ideas, but also about locals, their language choice and interests (both linguistic and non-linguistic), attitude toward languages visible and invisible in the linguistic landscape, and feelings in the city.
The second aim is more practical. I would like to prepare and then test an additional textbook for Latvian as foreign language learners. It will follow the ideas of communicative method and consists of authentic samples, public texts from Latvian cityscapes: posters, advertisements, direction signs, and graffiti. Therefore, I am very interested in learning from more experienced colleagues – language teachers and academics.
In both cases, I appreciate the abundant book collection on sociolinguistics and applied linguistics at the UW library.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I do not have a lot of free time but when I have, I gladly read Latvian novels, listen to doom metal and try to get out of the city. I really enjoy nature at all times of the day and in all seasons. I have begun to dance again at the Latvian Center in Seattle, something I haven’t done since high school.