Faculty Spotlight: Anel Brandl

| Thu, 10/27/22
FSU teaching faculty member Anel Brandl.
FSU Modern Languages and Linguistics teaching faculty member Anel Brandl. Photo by Rebekah Moseley.

Teaching faculty member Anel Brandl is an instructor of Spanish and Linguistics at Florida State University’s College of Arts and Sciences and is the assistant director of the Spanish Basic Language Program, a part of the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics. She is the core developer of FSU’s Spanish heritage track, the new courses for heritage speakers and learners, and the Spanish for Specific Purposes courses. Brandl is also a founding member of the Spanish Heritage Language Direction Network and has a deep interest in Spanish heritage bilingualism. Her recent work focuses on heritage language maintenance via instruction, and language acquisition and processing in Spanish heritage speakers.

Tell us a little about your background and what brought you to FSU.

In 2004, I came to FSU to pursue a master’s degree in linguistics. From this, I earned a Ph.D. in second-language acquisition in Spanish and was hired to eventually be the assistant director of the Spanish Basic Language Program.

What in particular makes you passionate about these research topics?

The reason why I pursued this area of research is because 43 percent of the world’s population is bilingual and multilingual. We are seeing an increased number of these multilingual populations showing up in our classrooms. As an educator, I found it essential to understand our bilingual students, how they process their two languages, and how this will influence their learning in our classrooms. I aim to help them realize how valuable their heritage is and how valuable it is to be bilingual.

What do you want the public to know about your teachings? Why are your topics important?

I want the public to know about the importance of inclusive teaching. Inclusive teachers are essential because they foster a welcoming space in which everyone feels safe. Anyone who teaches inclusively knows that students from different communities help create an enriching learning environment, and I believe that it is important to let these students know that their multicultural identities are an asset.

You are a founding member of the Spanish Heritage Language Direction Network. How does this position help with the work you bring to FSU?

This is a network of program directors and coordinators of Spanish heritage programs from around the nation. I represent FSU, and what we seek to do with this collaboration is to better serve the heritage bilingual students in their campuses and help different directors design asset-approach classes in their Spanish heritage language programs. We are a newly created network and are adding new members constantly.

Who are your role models? Are there certain people who have influenced you most in your life and career?

My role model is definitely María Luisa Parra, senior preceptor in romance languages and literatures at Harvard University. She has had many years of experience in the field of second- language acquisition and child bilingual development, and has also worked very closely with immigrant families and children in the Boston, Massachusetts area. She is the founder of this initiative to teach Spanish as a heritage language and founded the Multilingual Family Resource Center there at Harvard. I’m really impressed with everything she has been able to accomplish, and although I can name many others that inspire me in my field, she is definitely the biggest role model to me.

What is your favorite part of your job? What is the most challenging part of your job?

My favorite part about my job is teaching! I tremendously enjoy my role as an instructor and love to get to know all the heritage speakers who come to my classroom. Working really closely with my students means investing a lot of time, but I always see it as an amazing opportunity to help them transform their own misconceptions about their heritage language and how that heritage language can serve them in their professional life in the future. The moment when my students realize that their bilingualism is not a limitation, but something that is so positively valuable, is what I consider to be the most rewarding part of my job.

Of course, teaching inclusively can come with many challenges. Students often come to my classroom with an internalized negative image of their bilingualism, and overall, of their own values. This could have been reinforced by their immigrant families or by outside communities, whether it be emphasizing monolingualism or pushing the kids to just stick with English and forget about their heritage language. I do everything I can in the classroom to help my students see these parts of themselves from a different and more positive perspective.

How do you like to spend your free time?

My free time is spent entirely with my two favorite heritage speakers, Adam and Ethan, who are my two sons. One is five years old and the other is seven. They are very active boys, so I don't have much free time besides this, as everything I do at home is devoted to raising happy bilingual and bicultural children.

If your students only learned one thing from you, what would you hope it to be?

I hope that when they leave my classroom, they will view themselves as having a unique perspective. I hope that they know how the bilingual perspective can help them in many ways, including benefits they can get professionally, academically, and in their life in general by maintaining their bicultural and bilingual identities.