Ellis Schriefer

Ellis Schriefer, Stanford University

Ellis is a fourth year PhD candidate in ILAC at Stanford University. She studies contemporary Spanish social movements, urban activism, and community-established public spaces (espacios autogestionados), with an emphasis on understanding how diverse communities establish a sense of collective identity through their social practices and cultural production.

Ellis holds a BA in Spanish from the University of Otago (New Zealand), and an MA in Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literature from New York University.

Using the LiQ Archive to Teach Languages

The esteemed linguist John McWhorter once wrote, “language is like a lava lamp. The ‘lava’ slowly swirls and clumps and rises and falls in its fluid in an eternal, mesmerizing flow. Although constantly changing, in no sense is the clump of lava decaying—if one piece is beginning to drip or split into strands, we can be sure that a few inches away, other pieces are joining together. At any given point, we do not see the present configuration of the lava clump as somehow “better” than the one thirty seconds ago—the joy is in the infinite variations that the clump can take while at all times remaining consistent in its expressive motility.” In other words, languages are alive and dynamic, and while this makes them exceptionally fun to teach, it also raises challenges as to how to effectively convey this depth and complexity to our students.

As a Spanish instructor, my role is much larger than simply teaching conjugations and vocabulary. Rather, I strive to provide a bridge for my students to access other cultures and gain insights into the experiences and histories of different people and communities. To show the richness and diversity of the communities that speak Spanish, I am always on the lookout for authentic sources that illuminate real Spanish, not the curated and immaculate language we can sometimes find in traditional textbooks. I want my students to get a taste for the national and regional cultural differences or customs that permeate into the language, from distinct word usage to unique expressions, idioms, and pronoun usage. This is what makes LiQ such an asset for language pedagogy. Languages cannot be taught in a vacuum, and the archived stories are a testament to this. These accounts give my students a chance to read and relate to a diverse range of authentic experiences by real Spanish speakers, nurturing empathy, cultural appreciation, and understanding. 

Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is an initiative sponsored by the Poetic Media Lab and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford University.

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