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Istvan Kecskes

The Language of Learning


For UAlbany linguist Istvan Kecskes, the world is his classroom.

Driven by his love of language and the belief that language is the key to multicultural understanding, the Hungarian-born teacher, researcher, and author has been at the forefront of the University at Albany's growth in international education since his arrival on campus in 1999. Throughout his career, he has crafted ways for his students to live and study around the world.  His summer school on language in Barcelona is the latest in his long-held passion to use language to immerse students in different cultures.

"Education should include these kinds of possibilities. We have to do our best to give our students chances to travel, to get out. They come back with ideas, they do things a little differently. They do things a little better," said Kecskes (pronounced KECH-kes).

In addition to the new Barcelona program, he started summer schools in China and academic partnerships with universities such as Sorbonne in Paris, University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain, and Stellenbosch University in South Africa. He leads the School of Education's efforts to internationalize the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program, giving students opportunities to study overseas for UAlbany credit.

He speaks Hungarian, English, Russian, German and the beginnings of what will soon become fluent Chinese. The professor of Educational Theory and Practice is the editor of the world's premier academic journal on multilanguage understanding and communication, Intercultural Pragmatics ("pragmatics" in this sense is the use of language in cross-cultural communication). This influential periodical regularly publishes the world's experts on the role of language in society, culture, and learning -- experts he mines for presentations at his linguistic courses and conferences.  It all, and always, comes down to his students.

Susan Gallagher, working on her TESOL master's degree, is taking advantage of one of Kecskes' programs by teaching in Turkey. She said, "It is a dream come true for me to have the opportunity to teach abroad and it is these kinds of opportunities that make the TESOL program at UAlbany unique."

"Multiculturalism here is mainly based on what we see from immigrants to this country," Kecskes said. "We are in a somewhat reduced world, the multicultural in America is expressed differently. It has its own face. But if our students go out in the world, they see it, they experience it. I want them to be able to think globally."

Christopher Onuorah, '12
UAlbany Student

University at Albany sophomore Christopher Onuorah abides by one personal rule: Be content but never complacent.

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