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Professor unfolds international language journey for herself, students

Edna Lima is an associate professor of instruction and director of Instructional Design & Global Outreach Online Programs at Ohio University. But her career started at home in Brazil. Growing up, Lima often heard English on the radio and in other types of media.

“I’ve been in love with English ever since I was little,” Lima said. 

She said she would think to herself “I love this, and someday I’m going to speak this.” As she grew up, “the dream became bigger,” she said. 

Eventually, she became an English teacher in Brazil for 11 years. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in English/Portuguese at the Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil. Her dream then drew her to pursue a master’s degree and a doctorate at Iowa State University for applied linguistics and technology. 

“So I have two hearts, right?” Lima said. “My heart is divided between Brazil and the U.S.”

Language is “everything” to Lima. Her varied and long experience with applied linguistics gives her an insight into the science of language. 

“It governs the way you think, the way you learn and the way you teach,” Lima said. “I don't know if people realize that linguistics is something you do every day if you speak a language. It’s how you grew up learning, how you started talking, and how your language developed. It’s just how physics governs us every day, right? So too does language and linguistics.”

She has since been working at OU for 10 years. Being a teacher’s assistant at Iowa State University, and a former student herself, she finds it important to help her students with their studies. She tells students to “Come tell me what it is that you need and I'll find a way to help you out.” 

As a non-native speaker of English, Lima understands some of the hurdles that international students may face in addition to their studies. 

“For the locals, the native people, you are already used to the culture and the system,” Lima said. “So for us, the language is a big problem. But I would say adjusting to the environment is way more complicated. You have to consider your cultural background or your religious beliefs.” 

Lima went on to explain how her style of teaching can differ from what some international students may be used to. 

“My students sometimes tell me ‘Professor Lima, my country still has the traditional style of teaching’ and they get very disoriented because I'm here putting them into groups to write assignments together,” Lima said. “So they're like, ‘This is out of my comfort zone.’ But I’ll teach you how to do it. So we have to adjust to all of that before we can be successful with our content.”

Lima may be only one out of many professors in the language department at OU, but overall Lima said OU is a welcoming university, and all units work hard on being diverse.

“We are all scholars, we want to contribute to the world,” she said. 

In order to communicate with one another across the world, Lima said the research today in spoken English is focused on being comprehensible. 

“We call it mutual intelligibility,” Lima said. “The idea is: do we understand each other? That is the point: communication.”

Whether one is an international student or not, or a member of the faculty, language and mutual intelligibility can promote connection. 

“I think being connected we are able to give and receive, and with that, we improve the future of our kids, undergraduate students, and graduate students,” she said. “So, I think about connections.”


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