In Focus: Robert Train

Modern Languages

What is your research focus? and, what is it about this particular research focus that inspires you?

My research is about teaching and learning. Despite the conventional distinctions that abound in our culture (e.g., 'researchers' vs. 'teachers' vs. 'students'), I've never thought that research, teaching, and learning could or should be separated. Multiple sides of a same passion: my research is at the heart of my teaching, and teaching is the core of my teaching; and learning is a basic connection between me and students.

Broadly speaking, I research how language and languages shape who we are as human beings. More specifically, my research is text-based, multilingual, interdisciplinary and socially engaged in bringing together insights from sociolinguistics, applied linguistics, anthropology, philology, history, education, literature, and postmodern theory to consider the contours and consequences of ideologies, practices and policies surrounding language and specific languages in the lives of speakers within and beyond the classroom. For the past several years I have focused on investigating the foundational texts of Spanish language education in the United States from a postcolonial perspective. That means that I have been collecting, reading, transcribing and analyzing texts, mostly in Spanish, Latin, and English from 1492 to 1850. For example, I have looked at early missionary accounts of indigenous languages and letters from school teachers. I have also examined royal decrees, legal digests, federal legislation, the minutes of town council meetings and other texts related to language and education policy under Spain, Mexico and the United States. Fundamentally multilingual, my research has also extended to texts in French, Portuguese, Greek and Italian. For many older books and manuscripts, I can find them online or in some cases I travel to major research libraries in California, such as the Bancroft Library (Berkeley), and the Huntington Library (LA), or smaller collections like the Sutro Library (SF) and the Seaver Center for Western History Research (LA). My research is like a treasure hunt: when I find something new, sometimes even a long-neglected or largely-forgotten letter or book written by someone long gone, that tells me something I never even thought of or something I've been hoping to hear.

How has the library helped you achieve your goals in this area?

The library at SSU is at the heart of my professional life. I use all of the fantastic services offered: our regular collection provides me the basic works from a variety of fields; our Automated Retrieval System (ARS, ha ha!) brings me little used but often valuable books from the unexplored corners of our library; the small Special Collections gives me access to selected texts related to local history; Link+ and Interlibrary Loan, along with the library's databases collections, are my connection to a vast network of libraries and resources around the US that allows me to conveniently obtain almost any published book and article I need.

I love our library and its wonderful staff-not because I spend all my time there, in fact I cherish the few moments I have to spend there during the always busy semester, sometimes just the time to pick up a book from, or look up something in the reference section before class-rather the library connects me to our campus and also takes me elsewhere...into the world, not out of it.