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Sabbaticals benefit teaching
Posted September 23, 2005

Andrea Labinger, professor of Spanish and Honors Director, and Kim Martin, professor of Anthropology, spent a year on sabbatical, which benefited their students’ education and their teaching effectiveness, but also enhanced their field of study.

Labinger has taught at the University of La Verne since 1981. Her most recent time away from ULV marked her third sabbatical.
During her time, Labinger translated several books into English for publication.

Part of Labinger’s sabbatical included several weeks in Argentina, where she discussed her translation with the original author.

Labinger’s travel will greatly benefit her students in “Hispanic Readings: Argentina Literature” this semester. Her firsthand experience has made a concrete difference in her approaches to teaching.

Labinger’s interest in translation began nearly 10 years ago on a group trip to Mexico.

She drifted into a tiny bookstore and randomly picked up the book “La Bobe” (which means “grandma” in Yiddish) by Sabina Berman. Riveted by the book, Labinger longed to share her finding. She asked for the author’s permission to translate the book from Spanish to English, but was turned down.

Out of interest, she translated the book on her own. She returned to the author asking for her to reconsider.

After having a friend read the translation for her, Berman agreed for Labinger’s translation to be published. Labinger found an agent and her career in translation took off.

“It all started with falling in love with a book,” Labinger said.

Labinger encounters many challenges when translating a piece of work.
Aside from the practical challenges of getting the work published, she faces the deeper challenge of remaining faithful to both the reader and the author.

“The challenge is to make it as though it was written in English without sacrificing the special flavor that makes it what it is,” Labinger said.

She seeks to find the balance of keeping the book’s unique qualities and allowing the reader to identify and understand the culture.

“If you lose either one of those (the reader or the author), it’s not a successful translation,” Labinger said.

Labinger said translation is a constant decision-making process in choosing whether to sacrifice poetry, rhyme, meter or metaphors to allow the reader to understand the author’s message.

She is able to find the voice of the author through her personal relationships and conversations with them and understand their original meaning. For example, in one of her most recent translations “La Selva” (meaning “The Rainforest”) by Alicia Steimberg, published by the University of Nebraska Press and set for release in 2006, Labinger knew the author’s gestures and personality.

“I’ve worked with all living authors, so I have the advantage of having that person to talk to,” Labinger said.

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Fred Yaffe believes Labinger’s sabbatical work will benefit not only ULV’s library and students, but also other areas of the foreign language field.

While Labinger was translating books, Martin spent the majority of her sabbatical in Europe continuing research she has worked on during the past five summers.

“My data collection involves talking to mainstream European business and professional people about their attachment to their ancestry and heritage,” Martin said. “As a cognitive anthropologist, my goal is to better understand how people construct meaning, in this case what their ethnicity means to them.”

Martin began teaching full-time at the University in 1991 and her recent departure marked her second sabbatical.

Martin used part of her time catching up on recent studies and on research in her field, including neural physiology, non-random network theory and cognitive blending theory.

She also got up to date with current publications on the concept of ethnicity in Europe and gained new insight on the continent’s social and political events without the U.S. media’s influence.

Based in Amsterdam, Martin also gained opportunities to visit France, England, Ireland, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

Martin’s time also included taking a group of ULV students on a ten-day trip to Oaxaca over spring break, working on a book and delivering two papers at conferences.

“Sabbatical gave me the chance to reflect on my priorities in balancing teaching, research, administrative and committee work and personal life,” Martin said. “I was able to catch up and to refresh myself physically, psychologically and emotionally. I will be a better teacher, researcher and colleague because if it.”

Martin said her sabbatical time enhanced her teaching effectiveness through the richness of cultural experiences she was able to explore.

“These insights will now be part of what I have to offer students in classes I teach, and this experience is extremely important to my research, giving me a chance to absorb information, attitudes and perspectives in ways that I have not been able to achieve in past short forays into European culture,” Martin said.

Both Martin and Labinger agreed every professor should explore the benefits of time on sabbatical.

Martin said sabbaticals benefit a professor by allowing them to “refresh, rethink, reorganize priorities and catch up” on things that could not be accomplished in a normally hectic academic year.

“Sabbatical time gives a chance for faculty to enhance the quality of the classroom when they come back, so they are more effective,” Yaffe said. “Their research transcends beyond the classroom and it allows them to explore what’s going on in their field.”

Nicole Knight can be reached at nknight@ulv.edu.

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