Middlebury

Juan Carlos Morales, MA German ’12

July 27, 2012

Juan Carlos Morales presented a more comic take on language as a piece of his identity. While growing up in his native Nicaragua, he tried to sing duets from the sound track of Grease in English with his cousin. (Morales sang the John Travolta parts, in case you were curious.) Even then, he didn’t just want to know the words. He wanted to understand them.

And, once we understand, Morales claims, language liberates us to surprise others and often ourselves. For instance, he still gets a kick out of every time he walks into a classroom and introduces himself as a walking cultural intersection: “You can imagine the looks on my students’ faces when I come in and say [in perfect Japanese], ‘Watashi wa Juan Carlos Morales desu.’ ”

Morales urged the audience members to challenge conventions with their newfound language abilities: “I hope all of you are out there to confound expectations.” He also encouraged listeners to build careers they’re passionate about and claimed, “If I won the lottery, I wouldn’t stop teaching languages—and I’d go to Middlebury more often."

Juan Carlos Morales, a native speaker of Spanish, is director of curriculum and content as well as world languages and cultures at the College Board in Atlanta, and is the lead for Advanced Placement exams in language and culture in Spanish, German, and Latin. This summer he is completing his MA in German at Middlebury and has also studied at Florida International University, Stanford University, Amherst College, and Karl-Eberhard Universität in Germany. Morales has acquired proficiency in five languages and studied an additional four. The recipient of numerous awards and honors in the language field, he has taught at several institutes, schools, and colleges in the U.S. as well as in Japan.