The Adventure of Language

A member of the Spanish and Portuguese department and a teacher at the Spanish School, Ana Martínez-Lage passed away on January 15, 2013, after a long battle with cancer. She will be sorely missed.

She arrived at Middlebury in the fall of 1996 and retired from the College last fall so that she could spend more time with her family. During her years on the faculty, Ana proved to be a gifted teacher and scholar of language pedagogy. Her research in linguistics and curricular development brought her national recognition and had a significant impact on the teaching of languages at Middlebury. She was also a pioneer in the use of digital courseware materials and led the development of the online Spanish immersion program for Middlebury Interactive Languages, a contribution that may well have a lasting influence on language education far beyond Middlebury.

Born in Pamplona, Spain, and educated at the Universidad de Navarra and at the Université des Sciences Humaines in Strasbourg, France, Ana received her PhD in 1992 from Penn State University in Spanish applied linguistics/second language acquisition. Before taking a position on the Middlebury faculty, she taught at George Mason University and directed their Spanish Basic Language Program. 

She was first introduced to Middlebury College through her teaching in the Spanish Language School. When Ana did join the Middlebury Spanish department, it was, one of her senior colleagues noted, “with the understanding that she would try to look at our teaching methods and work with us in introducing new teaching strategies.” Ana accomplished this goal with skill and diplomacy and soon became known on campus as an invaluable resource for language faculty. She received tenure in 2002 and was promoted to full professor in 2011. She served as chair of the Spanish department, director of European Studies, and was a member of several important College committees, including the Educational Affairs Committee.  

When she was appointed to the Monterey Institute of International Studies Program Task Force in 2002, it was with the hope she would help develop a linguistics program for Middlebury, which she did. Teaching was an essential part of Ana’s life, and the classroom was a space that brought her and her students much happiness. She taught a full range of courses in the Spanish department and was an active scholar, with her work published in scholarly journals, book chapters, and several textbooks. Her first-year Spanish textbook, Tú dirás, coauthored with several colleagues, has been used over the years in more than 200 colleges and universities nationally.

Ana had a deep love of languages and, most of all, loved teaching language to others. She made language learning an adventure—for her children, her friends, and herself. During one of her academic leaves, she studied Basque, with moderate success, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience. When she went to dinner parties at friends’ homes, the night often ended with dictionaries out and everyone looking up the etymology of words. She was a generous colleague and mentor; one year, she organized a session at her home in Shoreham to demystify the tenure process for faculty coming up for review. Ana left her mark on Middlebury, and she will be remembered.

She is survived by her daughters, Amalia Herren-Lage and Marina Herren-Lage; her father, José Manuel Martínez-Lage; and her siblings, Pablo, Pedro, Juan, Jaime, María and Belén.

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