You can go deeper when you understand how language and culture interact — creative projects become richer, and business agreements are negotiated with respect and understanding.

Angèle Kingué

“Our human journey is to expand — to fill our lungs to the utmost capacity — so we can become fully present as we connect with others,” says Professor Angèle Kingué, French & Francophone studies. This idea informs her work as she teaches language and literature, shares her research on how to teach the layers of culture that extend across the African continent, writes and assists in the translation of her novels from French to English.

Kingué says that translation magnifies the variety of ways concepts are expressed in different languages. “The difference is very stark,” she said. “You almost end up with two texts by the end. My novels tell stories that reflect my own African reality — not stereotypical images of Africa, but the cultural complexity of those countries I’m writing about. It’s not enough to get an approximate sense of what was said. You must create a picture that conveys a worldview.”

Kingué shares that vision with her students, emphasizing how language and culture are central to communication in an interconnected world. She says that while technology brings people together, it isn’t a substitute for learning how to talk with one another. “Language learning helps you better understand various ways of being in the world,” she says. “You can go deeper when you understand how language and culture interact — creative projects become richer, and business agreements are negotiated with respect and understanding.”

This is one of the reasons Kingué has spent 15 years directing the Bucknell en France study-abroad program. “If you go to another country and immerse yourself in that language and culture, it gives you more of an edge as you learn about others and about yourself,” she says.

She approaches teaching much like a study-abroad experience. On the first day of her Francophone Africa course, she spends 30 minutes speaking in her first language, Bangwa, using short commands and gestures to help students understand what to do, like sit down or hand her an object. “It helps them see that this language they have never heard conveys meaning just like their language conveys meaning,” she said. Throughout the course, she challenges them to develop a context for the continent that they can take into their lives beyond Bucknell.

“This type of exploration allows us to understand that the world is bigger than we are,” Kingué says. “Then, when we encounter otherness, we have the capacity to recognize that we don’t know everything, which allows us to listen and observe. From that foundation, we make much better decisions about ourselves and about others.”

Posted Sept. 22, 2016

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