October 19th, 2007 00:46 EST
Foreign Faculty at UCF
In UCF`s physics department, 22 out of the 38 faculty members know English only as a second language.
According to Michael Johnson, an associate dean of the College of Sciences and head of the physics department, non-fluent English- speaking professors and teaching assistants are sometimes the best qualified.
Johnson said, It would be a disservice to a student if we hired a professor or a T.A. with bad qualities. "
Teaching assistants must pass a 20-minute audio-taped language test. According to the UCF graduate teaching assistant requirement website, students who are non-native speakers of English must pass the SPEAK exam before they are permitted to teach as a Graduate Teaching Associate or Graduate Teaching Assistant. "
Johnson also said that having a foreign teacher is beneficial because it will open a student`s mind.
American students grow up in a homogenous society, " Johnson said. Students will benefit from these differences. "
Johnson added that it is common for students taking science, math and modern language classes or majoring in a technical or engineering field, to encounter such professors.
Tyler Pickett, 20, an aerospace engineering major, had three non-English speaking professors. In his first class, his German I professor, was so soft-spoken that he was inaudible in a large classroom. " He had an Indian T.A. who taught Physics I and II and a Chinese professor who taught differential equations. Pickett said he could barely understand what they were saying.
Pickett said, It`s not like they were bad teachers or anything. You just couldn`t understand them and that made the class boring. There was just a lack of interest among the students, and about four-fifths of the class was either asleep or trying to get other work done. "
Laura Donini, a 19-year-old social work major, agrees with Pickett.
Nobody ever came to my chemistry class, " Donini said. The class was basically dead and everyone who did attend looked bored. "
Donini took a concepts of chemistry course, which she needed to fulfill her requirement as a nursing major. Donini said her professor`s accent made it difficult to understand him. She also added that when he lectured he did not explain things. She said this made the online assignments and tests harder because she did not know what to do.
Donini said, He didn`t seem to care that the students were bored or not doing well. He just went on and on in his own little world. I tried to concentrate, but I got discouraged so I spaced out. "
Kiminobu Sugaya, a professor of biomedical studies, offers students having problems some advice. Sugaya, originally from Japan, has been working at UCF for three years. He teaches neuroscience, engineering and biomedical science classes. He said those students who do not understand their professors should always ask questions or ask for something to be repeated.
Sugaya said, I`m Japanese, and I know it is sometimes difficult to understand what I am saying. But I always tell students from the very first day of class to ask me immediately if they have problems. Always, ask again. "
Vicky Brown, of the University Ombuds Office agrees. Students can turn to her if they are having problems or a general complaint with any field of UCF. She said that students can help themselves if they approach the professor or her early in the semester.
Every single case is different, " Brown said. Some students may have a bad ear or some teachers may not be fluent in English at all. "
One of these students, Mallory Flores, 20, a liberal studies major, enjoyed her professor and principles of biology class.
Flores said that she loved the class because of her professor`s organization and positive attitude.
Flores said, There were times where I couldn`t understand my professor but she was very helpful when I needed it. She taught with enthusiasm and was always in a positive mood. That`s what made going to class fun. "
As for professors, Sugaya offers them advice as well. He suggests that professors seek training if they are having trouble communicating with their students.
Sugaya said, I taught at University of Illinois at Chicago, and they offered courses for teachers who are not fluent in English. Professors or T.A.`s should turn to these courses for language training if they are having problems. "
Donini and Pickett offer advice to professors as well. Both suggest having more teaching assistants who can answer questions and help. They added that professors having trouble communicating post PowerPoint lectures and notes online.
Johnson offers students one last piece of advice, If you are having trouble, don`t just drop the class. Stick it out. You can and will get used to the class."