June 06, 2018

Learning a second language didn’t always come easily to Mats Haaland ’13.

After struggling to learn and speak Spanish in high school, Haaland decided to try a new language at Susquehanna.

“I was nervous to study a modern language again, so I chose Italian due to my interest in the country’s history and culture,” says Haaland, who ended up double-majoring in Italian and history.

“I always knew I had an interest in history, but studying Italian was a surprise for me.”

Haaland credits the content-based teaching method embraced by Daryl Rodgers, associate professor of Italian, for helping him more readily learn the language.

“It was eye-opening for me to have some success when taking Italian under a different approach,” Haaland says. A content-based approach teaches a variety of subjects-such as economics or literature—entirely in Italian.

During the fall of his junior year, he had what he calls the defining experience of his undergraduate career—living with a host family and studying for a semester in Ferrara, Italy.

The challenge of keeping up with university-level classes in a second language would inspire Haaland’s career choice. He earned a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language (TESOL) and now works at an American curriculum school in Guangzhou, China.

Haaland taught English as an additional language (EAL) for two years, and is now the EAL coordinator charged with implementing immersion language programs.

“My experience learning Italian inspired me to learn more about the process of second language acquisition, and it is satisfying to think that I can help our school’s students to learn and grow as bilinguals by creating a language-rich environment,” he says.