Professor Liana Wagle shares her love of language through teaching
by Emily Beckman
Liana Wagle remembers playing “school” with her three younger siblings while growing up in Balgach, Switzerland; she was always the teacher.
She has now taught at Butler Community College for 19 years, and currently teaches French, German, Italian and Spanish.
For the first six years of her childhood, Wagle travelled to Cercivento, Italy often. She had family there, including her grandmother and aunts.
“I was thrilled and excited and happy. And I was never homesick, because Italy is my home, too,” Wagle says.
She remembers walking through the town with her grandmother, who, because she was a widow, typically wore a black dress with a colored apron over it. This was standard among elderly women there.
The scents of coffee and minestrone soup would flow from houses with open windows and doors. She explained that people would leave their windows and doors open so they could greet passersby.
Something that Balgach and Cercivento had in common was that the children “played outside from early morning until late night.”
Wagle recalls that there were over 90 children on her street in Balgach.
“That was just like being on a playground all day long; rain or shine,” she says.
Life in Kansas
Just after finishing her international business studies at age 20, Wagle traveled to Kansas to be an au pair. This allowed her to take care of a family’s children while living with them for free and strengthening her knowledge of the English language.
After six months, she returned to her home in Switzerland. But while in Kansas, she met the man that would become her husband and decided to create a life in Wichita.
Now, a portion of her family, including children and grandchildren, are here.
“I like being here because the people are friendly,” Wagle says. “The Alps are not here and it’s not Switzerland; but as the years [have] passed I have put down roots here.”
In the last decade, she has been able to visit to her European homes almost every year. And when she does, there are certain places she goes and activities she likes to do.
“In Switzerland, it’s being in the kitchen with my mom and watching her cook or helping her cook,” Wagle says.
Barbecuing and hiking with her sisters are also on the list.
“In Italy it’s going to the graveyard to visit my family,” Wagle says. “The graveyards in Italy are very, very beautiful; very ornate and people take care of them with fresh flowers.”
She goes there with her cousins, as visiting the graveyard is a family activity.
Visiting her family is a very special time for her, as she does not see them often.
“When I’m homesick I go there, I visit very intensely and then I come back here,” Wagle says.
Love of languages
Her first language was Italian. Then Friulano, a language spoken in the northeastern part of Italy where her family is from.
Next she learned Swiss German, followed by High German.
“I took to languages very easily,” Wagle says. “I think it’s because I grew up in a multilingual home … it must have played a role.”
At age 10, her aunt who lived in Paris at the time, decided that Wagle should learn French.
“…I was so fascinated by a different language that I wanted to know more and more about the language,” Wagle says. “I just kept telling my aunt to teach me more.”
She began learning English at age 14, and Spanish at age 16.
While she is now fluent in all seven, Wagle still strives to better each language that she speaks.
“In order to do that, you have to spend time with [the languages],” she says. “I keep myself busy reading the newspapers – Spanish, French newspapers every day.”
In addition, she talks to her family in Europe daily via phone, skype, WhatsApp or whatever is available.
“We send each other pictures and videos,” Wagle says.
She has shared her knowledge of languages with others through translation and teaching.
On occasion, she has helped families translate documents, including letters from the first world war and a book about the second world war.
“It’s helping people know what’s written about the documents that they have in their hands, Wagle says. “A lot of valuable information is in those letters that is pertinent or valuable to those families.”
She has a clear passion for teaching. Her favorite aspects being “the interaction with students and watching their progress.”
Wagle enjoys teaching at Butler because of the atmosphere. She also notes that the teachers have high standards and that the teaching is high quality.
“It has a small school atmosphere and it feels kind of like a family because people are treated nicely [and] respectfully,” Wagle says.