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Gerburg Garmann takes UIndy students on guided multilingual Red Line tour

Students on Red Line tour

Dr. Gerburg Garmann teaches LANG 398 at UIndy which rotates between French, German and Spanish. Students learn the basics of second or third languages in order to experience the value of the multilingual context and expose students to other languages. The course aims to help students gain knowledge in specific vocabulary sets as well as basic dialogue experiences.

In September, Dr. Garmann took her students on a multi-lingual guided tour of the Red Line in Indianapolis. Below is her description of the tour:


Students explored and enjoyed many stops between UIndy and the Julia Carson Transit Center downtown (and during the return journey). As part of their quad-lingual (English, French, German and Spanish) scavenger hunt, they had to mimic and engage in real-life situations, such as asking for information about the Red Line, counting and naming restaurants, researching cultural and historic sites along the way, immerse themselves in biographical explorations (e.g., “Who was Julia Carson?”), and reflecting about the advantages of public transportation. Students loved this real-world, action-oriented approach to multilingual learning, and experienced a degree of focalization which exceeded by far that of a regular classroom setting.

Additionally, our outing drew a lot of interest from other passengers on the bus who commented very positively on such a real-life-to-language-learning-approach.

Not only were my students being instructed in multilingual code-switching (i.e., starting out in one language, answering in another, commenting in a third, and understanding the relayed information in a fourth!) , but they excelled in asking about many topics (the weather, emotions, observations inside and outside the bus), and answering in many languages side by side.

In the weeks to come, students will fine-tune their task-based multilingual skills in class without directly noticing all the grammatical points they’ll cover trans-lingually this way!

Imagine asking for directions for the Red Line and the various stops on the way downtown, about favorite restaurants, upcoming cultural events, in French, receiving an answer in German, and adding further details to what to pay attention to while traveling on the bus, in Spanish! The benefits are multi-faceted: Exploring neighborhoods close to UIndy via public transportation, cutting down on the individual carbon footprint, learning various languages simultaneously, and building a solid reservoir of situational multilingual engagement… I could not be happier!


Thank you to Dr. Garmann for sharing her experience!