Professor Rew-Gottfried wins Fulbright to Denmark

Professor Rew-Gottfried Wins Fulbright
Chris Chan

Professor Rew-Gottfried Wins Fulbright (Quinn Lake)

Lawrence’s Terry L. Rew-Gottfried, a professor of psychology, recently received a Fulbright award for his work in the study of linguistics. He has taught at Lawrence University since 1985, having received his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Minnesota. The Fulbright Awards allow distinguished professors to teach at foreign universities in order to promote international intellectual discourse. Rew-Gottfried is one of two professors to be named 2001 Fulbright Award winners from Lawrence University, the other being Classics Professor Daniel J. Taylor. Rew-Gottfried will spend the 2001 fall term teaching at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.Rew-Gottfried recalls a colleague telling him in December that a Fulbright position was available in Denmark. Rew-Gottfried filled out a CIES form (Council for International Exchange of Scholars), and forwarded the form and another application to an American reviewing committee. After waiting for over three months and receiving no response, in late April he received a letter informing him that he had won.

Although Rew-Gottfried is not fluent in Danish, he is studying hard in order to improve. Fortunately, he will teach his course in English. The language barrier will also be a challenge for the rest of the Rew-Gottfried family. “Given his age, my youngest child will probably have the easiest time,” commented Rew-Gottfried. To make the situation even easier, a great deal of the Danish population is fluent in English. Interestingly, many Europeans speak English far better than most Americans speak foreign languages. He added, “The Danes take second languages very seriously… European teachers do a great job of teaching foreign languages.”

Rew-Gottfried’s class will be about the psychology of language and speech perception, but he says the main focus will be on phonetics, the study of pronunciation and how sounds are generated. Since it will be a fairly advanced course, Rew-Gottfried says it will cater to Danish students who are seriously studying English as a second language. The class will have a special focus on speaking rates and identification of vowels, and will be quite similar to a class that Rew-Gottfried teaches at Lawrence on the same topic.

Rew-Gottfried predicts that an English course taught by an American professor will be a new experience for many Danes. Usually, he explains, English courses are taught in the British style. British and American styles of English are actually very similar, save for a few terminology cases. Rew-Gottfried identifies the principal difference as accent. From a phonetics perspective, accent is very important. British vowels are pronounced quite differently from American vowels. For example, he explained that the words “bat” and “bet” are very similar in length and spelling, but the main phonetic difference is in vowel quality and duration. The difference is even more observable when the words are spoken in a British accent.

The opportunity to explore a long-nurtured interest–the learning of a second language–excites Rew-Gottfried. He and his family will leave for Denmark in July, get acquainted with Denmark, and class will start in September. The Rew-Gottfried family will return in December. Rew-Gottfried is eager to begin this new academic venture, saying that he’s “glad to have a chance to look at people learning.”