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The position is for a full-time faculty professorship in my field (humanities). I was one of 10 invited to apply.

My first two interviews went very well. I have been told that I am the only candidate to be invited for a campus visit.

It's a really good opportunity, one that I have yet to find closer to home. On that note, it is an opportunity to move away from my country (Canada). The cost of living is too much.

The catch: I am expected to eventually be able to teach in spanish (they are fully aware I only speak English). The university has been nonchalant about what this will look like because they have never done this before. They are approaching it as we will work out the finer details later. I don't want to come across as unappreciative or annoying, but finer details are important to me and to my decision. I don't know what the salary would be for the time I am learning Spanish, and if this would be enough to cover cost of living.

The trip: The university is covering my flight and accomodation. I am not sure about meals. I will deliver 3 seminar lectures (in English) and meet with the humanities facility and students. I have also been told they want to show me around so I can picture living and working there.

They really hope I love it.

Questions: What should I expect from this campus visit? Does 2 weeks seem like a long time for a campus visit?

Learning a new language well enough to teach humanities seems like an impossible feat. I'm scared of failing and letting them down. It's such a big risk for both sides. If anyone has had to learn a new language for a professorship before, what made you succeed? What made you fail?

Any advice would be great, thank you!

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    You work hard at it, that’s what you do. Being immersed in the language helps. Have you learned a second language before?
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 30 at 16:37
  • 10
    This is a lot of questions in one. Mar 30 at 16:43
  • Do you speak any languages other than English, ideally another Latin language? You mention Canada, do you happen to speak French, for instance? Learning another Latin language well enough to teach in will be far easier for someone who already speaks one. Also, how old are you as that makes a very significant difference to your language acquisition capabilities. I picked up Spanish in less than a year of arriving in Spain in my 20s, but while I moved to France in my early thirties, my French never became anywhere near as good as my Spanish.
    – terdon
    Mar 30 at 20:24
  • Too many questions. The only relevant one I see is the one about you learning another language at a very high level. It requires time and hardwork, but it can be done. The other questions are more about working place expectations, personal skills, psychology rather than academia. The trip mentioned in the question is not even related to these topics. I vote to close.
    – EarlGrey
    Apr 3 at 9:42

2 Answers 2

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Yes, two weeks is a long time. A couple of days is more typical. They will probably cover most of your expenses and there will probably be several supper invitations. Hopefully you will have a lot of conversations with people in the department. I'd guess that many (most?) of them are happy enough speaking English in informal conversations.

If you decide to take such a position, start language study immediately at home, perhaps a course audit at your home institution. Then, when you are immersed in the language and culture, it will go easier.

While on the visit, try to get a sense of the cost of living there, perhaps visiting a rental agency or speaking with faculty about what you can expect.

It sounds like they are very interested. They are probably willing to negotiate within reason on salary and such. If they've come this far then it might be hard to disappoint them.

You will probably have a chance to meet some students, perhaps at different levels. Take an interest.

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  • "If anyone has had to learn a new language for a professorship before, what made you succeed?"

In mid-90s, in Boston, I met a prominent Russian spacecraft engineer, whose English was below basic, but who miraculously managed to get an adjunct teaching position at a second-rank university in the downtown. Don't ask me how the poor guy managed to pass the interview, but the fact is that he was supposed to teach some introductory science course for non-science majors -- and he very evidently couldn't do this because of his disastrously poor language command.

Luckily, he had a wife with a Masters in English. Every day, they will sit, together, for hours, preparing the lecture for the next day -- where `preparing' means: literally writing it all down, not only formulae but also all sentences. And then the poor fellow will learn it all by heart, some 10 - 15 pages. I should add that the guy was almost 60. (Take my word, learning by heart 10 pages at the age of 60 is far not the same as at the age of 30.)

This was hell, but together they coped. Next year, he was given the same course, and it was much easier. Eventually, he became a good lecturer.

PS
If you ask me how that guy had managed, in the first instance, to pass an interview for that job, my guess would be that, with his wife's help, he wrote a coherent story in a good English -- and learned it by heart.

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