Professor Gita Martohardjono Draws Attention for Language Research

Indonesian. German. Italian. English. French.

Gita MartohardjonoThese are the languages spoken by Associate Professor Gita Martohardjono (Linguistics), director of the GC’s Second Language Acquisition Lab, who was spotlighted in a recent feature article.

“I feel like my life is just my work and my research, but I like it,” Martohardjono told ScienceLine. “And I guess I like it because so much of my work relates to my personal life.”

The chair of the Linguistics program, Martohardjono studies how the languages we know affect the languages we learn — and how those new languages affect our earlier ones in turn, as the article notes.

She also works with New York City and New York State to provide services to children classified as English language learners.

Martohardjono was born to Javanese parents in Jakarta. Her father was an Indonesian diplomat, her mother spoke seven languages, and the pair was often abroad, according to ScienceLine. Though she considers Indonesian her “family’s language,” German is the first language she recalls speaking at home.

“It’s not an accident that I became interested in second language acquisition and bilingualism, because of my language history,” Martohardjono said in the article. “I never considered myself having a first language.”

After earning a Ph.D. from Cornell University, she taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Queens College, and — for the past 12 years — the Graduate Center, where she also serves as associate director of the Research Institute for the Study of Language in Urban Society.

“Nothing beats real people. Nothing beats immersion,” Martohardjono told ScienceLine. “You can’t just learn the language. You’ve got to learn the culture too. If you really want to become fluent in a language, you have to immerse yourself in the culture.”

Submitted on: JUN 8, 2016

Category: Diversity | Faculty Activities | General GC News