Nicoleta Bateman is a Professor of Linguistics and Chair of the Liberal Studies Department at California State University San Marcos, which she joined in 2007 after earning a PhD in Linguistics from the University of California, San Diego. She is a first-generation college graduate who grew up in Romania. Her research interests include phonology, practical applications of linguistics in K-12 teaching, the scholarship of teaching and learning linguistics in higher education, bilingual acquisition, and heritage language acquisition and maintenance. You can read more about her work at her website.

The LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month. Click here to see previous Member Spotlights.

When did you first join the LSA?  

I first joined the LSA as a graduate student in 2001, and attended my first LSA annual meeting in San Francisco the year after.

How have you been involved with the LSA since you joined?  

Until the last few years, my involvement was limited to attending some of LSA’s annual meetings. About 5 years ago, as my research became more involved with linguistics in K-12 schools, I discovered that there was an LSA committee that focused on this very type of work, the Linguistics in the School Curriculum Committee, or LiSC. I joined the committee in 2017, was Junior Chair in 2020, and I am currently Senior Chair of this committee. I am also a member of the Linguistics in Higher Education Committee (LiHE). Working with LiSC has been a very rewarding and enriching experience because of the new relationships I have been able to develop with teachers and linguists who are passionate about sharing their love of linguistics, and the critical role of linguistics, with young people. I have been inspired by the work that Suzi Loosen, Amy Plackowski, and Cristina Procaccino have done with their high school students, and I am sure that this is just the beginning of what we will see of their work in coming years. It feels like I am in the right place.

What are you currently researching/working on?

Currently I have two active research strands. One is heritage language acquisition, with a focus on heritage Romanian. The other is linguistics in K-12 education. Some of my most rewarding research has been working with 8th grade students for a couple of years, incorporating linguistics in project-based learning. I learned so much from the students and from working with my partner teachers, particularly Kelly Jacob at High Tech Middle North County. This is not something I had ever considered doing while I was studying linguistics, and now I cannot imagine not doing it. I hadn’t even heard the word “linguistics” until college, so it is an honor to be able to talk and do linguistics with younger students.

What is your personal favorite linguistic article or study? 

I teach primarily future educators, so I have a few articles that I rely on to help my students connect linguistics to their future professions. Siegel’s (2006) Language ideologies and the education of speakers of marginalized language varieties: Adopting a critical awareness approach; Polinsky and Kagan’s (2007) Heritage languages: In the “Wild” and in the classroom, and Fillmore and Snow’s (2010, 2018) What teachers need to know about language. These are all accessible to a wide variety of audiences and help students see why linguistics is critical to their future professions as educators, and just to their lives in general in today’s world.  

What advice would you give newer LSA members and graduate students?

I would encourage LSA members to become involved in LSA committee work. When I was a graduate student and first attended the LSA, I found it both exciting and intimidating. Everyone appeared so together and sure of what they were doing, and I wondered if I would ever feel that way. Some twenty years later (!!), and after working closely with other LSA members on various committees, I can say that everyone has similar struggles and doubts, and that you will find a lot of support and encouragement when you work together with others. Stay curious and ask the questions that you think may be silly. It’s refreshing when those same questions are echoed by other like-minds, and you can brainstorm solutions together.

What, in your opinion, is the most important service the LSA provides to its members? To the field?  

Connection and collaboration. I think that once you realize that the LSA is a place where people with similar goals can come together to brainstorm new directions in research and outreach, share ideas and challenges, you learn that you are not alone in whatever situation you find yourself. Maybe you are a faculty member at a university where linguistics is not prominent, or a teacher in a middle school or high school and no one understands why you want to teach a linguistics course, or maybe you are a high school student who wants to study linguistics, but your school doesn’t offer a class. The LSA can be that place where you meet people in the same boat, and rowing together can keep the momentum going. I have learned so much from collaborating with people I have met on different LSA committees, such as LiSC and LiHE, and my work has been enriched as a result. This can advance not only your own individual work, but the field itself. In the last few years, even during the pandemic or maybe even especially then, I have seen a lot more linguistics work being advanced in high schools, preparing the next generation of linguists.