Bro. Herman Johnson, O.P. is a two time Xavier graduate having obtained both a Bachelor's degree in Spanish Education and a master's degree in mental health counseling. His continuous study of theology is represented in his Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees, having obtained both of them from the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, CA. The teaching of college level Spanish is at the heart of all Bro. Herman's academic pursuits. He holds a Doctorate in the Teaching of Spanish from Columbia University Teachers College, New York and is an active member of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.
As a member of AATSP, he has presented a number of times at their annual conferences, most recently in Acapulco, Mexico. His research interest has been on a range of topics in the field of Second Language Acquisitionand its implication for large first year college classes. Recent workshop themes have been on the use of charts and succinct outlines in large classes to strengthen and dramatize aspects of syntax, verb conjugation and vocabulary. Also every year he critiques and evaluates Spanish language texts for a major publisher.
In describing his work at Xavier in the Spanish classroom, he states, "I love teaching Spanish in the Xavier environment."
Spontaneity and flexibility are the heart of my teaching method. I attempt, using the text as a base, to present the material in a well-balanced scope and sequence carefully controlling vocabulary list. Often I attempt to customize the material progressing smoothly from mechanical through meaningful to open-ended. Since Spanish is my second language, I lean toward the school of thought that we can only gradually acquire a language. This acquisition can be aided when one is comfortable enough about the structure and taught the basics intermingling his or her native tongue with fundamentals of the second language. Some native speakers of the second language have disagreed. However, research has pointed out that exclusive use of the second language, as several methods require can be problematic for older learners. "Difficulty with memory and apprehension difficulty occurs when material is not meaningful. If an adult learner is unable to comprehend all that is said, they are less likely to abstract and guess at the meaning of the words, even with visuals and props (Joiner 1981)" Training the mind to Spanish syntax (word order) is a big task by itself because adults "acquire word order in stages" (Gonzalez 1997), in a process and reflective mode. As such, directives and instruction begin in English and change to Spanish at the appropriate time.
Brother Herman is a native New Orleanian who has traveled extensively throughout the world, including annual summer trips to Spanish-speaking countries. He feels that travel is essential to cross-cultural understanding and frequently travels to France to enhance his own learning of the French language.