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Tyler Lear: Building Fluency in Multiple Languages

“Since coming to Regensburg, I’ve discovered just how important it is to really master other languages.”

When Tyler Lear ’13 arrived in Regensburg, Germany, in March 2012 as a study abroad student, he decided to take a Russian class in addition to his German classes. On the second day of the term, another student in his Russian class asked Lear if he had taken any other foreign languages at the university. When Lear told him that, aside from his German studies, he had not, the other student seemed confused. Lear then explained that he was an American exchange student. The other student—a German national—had apparently assumed that Lear was also German, given his mastery of the language.

While on Transylvania’s campus, Lear has taken advantage of many opportunities to polish his German speaking skills, including living in the International House and joining the German faculty and other students for the lunchtime Stammtisch, where only German is spoken. But he was still somewhat taken aback that his verbal skills were sufficient for him to blend in so easily among the Germans in Regensburg.

These skills will be invaluable for Lear, who hopes to become a professor of German. He has been inspired by the classes he has taken from German professors Rick Weber and Stephen Naumann, as well as the opportunity to get to know the professors personally. Lear has found them supportive and always able to offer “realistic and helpful advice.” As a professor himself, Lear hopes “to provide an experience similar to the one I’ve received at Transylvania.” 

It was Transylvania’s ample study abroad programs and the promise of a close association with the faculty that helped convince Lear to attend Transylvania. “After visiting a German class with professor Weber during my senior year of high school, there was no going back.”

Transylvania’s liberal arts emphasis has also allowed Lear to study other languages while on campus, including Spanish and Chinese. “I never really expected to enjoy Chinese as much as I did. It was a class I chose to take on a whim because it sounded interesting, and the entire program was brand new. Professor Qian Gao managed to create a classroom environment that was fun and engaging, while also making one of the (supposedly) most difficult languages in the world exceptionally easy to learn. It also helped me realize that, as different as Chinese may seem compared to every other language in the world, there are more similarities than differences.”

It’s safe to assume that Lear’s future will include travel to other corners of the world. And, no matter where he ventures, odds are good that he’ll be mingling with the locals, speaking their language, and occasionally failing to tell them that he’s American.

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