Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Thor Sawin

Assistant Professor

As a scholar, I am most passionate about the value of multilingualism, specifically equipping international organizations with policies to improve the language acquisition of their personnel, and which don't devalue local languages at the expense of English.

As an instructor, I am most passionate about equipping language professionals to understand the beauty and creativity of linguistic structure, and its relevance to language pedagogy.

I am most excited about the student population at MIIS- individuals who desire to cross cultural barriers and to face the challenges of being on the front lines of culture contact.  I am excited to both learn from and pour into students who love language, and who leverage their language skills to practice xenophilia, the act of loving and serving other peoples and cultures. 


I am interested in the sociolinguistics of globalization - primarily the phenomenon of adult language learning and its attendant power and identity issues.   The uses and development of English repertoires in an increasingly mobile, multilingual and digital age fascinate me.   Within globalization, I am especially interested in helping international organizations better equip their employees to acquire the language skills necessary to carry out their goals.  This includes applying second language acquisition theory to language learning in field-based and non-classroom settings.   I have also researched language repertoires and translanguaging in digital social media.

Recent Accomplishments

Defended doctoral dissertation "Second language learnerhood among cross-cultural workers" at the University of South Carolina.   June 2013.

Awarded the Michael Montgomery Award for Excellence in Teaching, University of South Carolina.  April 2013.

Invited to participate in academic spring school "English in a Multilingual World" at the University of Freiburg in Germany, organized by the International Society of the Linguistics of English. April 2013.

Previous Work

Aug 2010-Jul 2013  Instructor, Linguistics Program, University of South Carolina, Columbia:  Taught Introduction to Linguistics at the undergraduate and graduate level, English Linguistics and Language and New Media

Aug 2011-Dec 2011 Adjunct Faculty, Department of Intercultural Studies, Columbia International University, Columbia: Taught Second Language Acquisition Theory in Pedagogy

Feb 2008-Jul 2009  Faculty, Department of Language Education, Handong Global University, Pohang, South Korea:  Taught academic English and German

Aug 2006-Jan 2008 Faculty, Department of Western Languages, Yanbian University of Science and Technology, Yanji, China:  Taught academic and conversational English, French grammar

Aug 2003-Aug 2006 Faculty, English Department, LCC International University, Klaipeda, Lithuania: Taught linguistics and translation courses, four-skills English and German


B.S. Geography/Linguistics, Michigan State University, 2000

M.A. Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, Michigan State University 2003

M.A. Linguistics, Michigan State University, 2003

Ph.D. Linguistics, University of South Carolina, 2013


"The Habit of Meeting Together: Enacting Masculinity in a Men's Bible Study"  Crossroads of Language, Interaction and Culture.

"Second Language Learnerhood among Cross-cultural Workers." Doctoral dissertation: University of South Carolina.

I am also currently working on the following articles: "The Moral and Political Economy of Code Choice in Eastern Europe", "Trilinguals in the Indexical Field of Facebook", and am co-authoring a paper on "Attitudes about Aptitudes in the Development Community." 

Course List

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

LNGT 1006 - Language and New Media      

Language and Media
Social networking, microblogging, and content-sharing platforms are a mainstay of contemporary information flow yet offer and indeed require new ways of using language, approaching textual identity, and modeling author-reader relationships. In this course we will establish which innovations are truly novel, which may endure, and how human language may be changing. We will first examine public discourse about new media for insights into social beliefs about innovation, youth, and authority. After learning a suite of tools from contemporary sociolinguistics, we will conduct student-originated research on language phenomena of interest in new media. (This course counts as an elective towards the minor in Linguistics)


Winter 2017

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EDUC 8578 - CALLPedagogy:MobilAppsSocMedia      

This seminar will focus on the possibilities and pitfalls of using mobile devices in the language classroom, and in an individual’s own language-learning process. Our technological focus will be primarily the cell phone, but many of the applications available for mobile phone are designed to work on tablets as well. The focus of the course is less to learn specific applications, as new applications will have emerged by the time you graduate from MIIS. Rather the class will be aimed at helping teachers think through what stages of the language acquisition and language teaching process are most amenable to incorporating mobile phones, and how to mitigate the breakdowns and inequalities that technology use introduces into learning ecosystems.

Spring 2017 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop, Spring 2018 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop

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EDUC 8670 - Practicum Capstone      

The Practicum Capstone combines reflective practice and professional development in preparing students for a career in language education. Participants integrate theory, research, and conceptual foundations into a coherent and well-informed approach to planning and executing lessons. They also incorporate these three components when developing and deploying instructional materials and assessment instruments. Activities and products prepare participants for entering the language teaching professional and performing admirably therein.

Practicum Capstone Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs):

Articulate their approach to language learning and teaching with explicit reference to sound pedagogical principles

Demonstrate their expert knowledge of language, learning, and teaching

Select appropriate materials for effective language instruction

Plan productive instructional units and lessons to maximize second language learning in all skill areas

Assess student learning meaningfully using a range of formative and summative tools

Reflect critically on their teaching practice in order to build on their strengths and address areas for improvement

Fall 2017 - MIIS

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ICCO 8531 / DPPG 9535 - LangIntrcultrlSocialImpactWork      

Language in Intercultural Social Impact Work

This course is designed to equip future cross-cultural social impact professionals, particularly those whose jobs requires communicating across linguacultural boundaries, to make informed decisions about language learning, language practices and language policy in their contexts of service. Participants will carry out research on language dynamics in an actual setting where development professionals are active, learn some field methods for language learning, and develop and advocate for effective language policies in order to further the goals of responsible and responsive development.

Spring 2018 - MIIS, MIIS Second Half of Term

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LING 8500 - Language Analysis      

Serves as an introduction to linguistic analysis. Includes projects based on fieldwork in phonology, morphology, syntax, discourse, and pragmatics. Discusses importance of language awareness. Includes pedagogical strategies for consciousness-raising.

Spring 2017 - MIIS, Fall 2017 - MIIS

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LING 8530 - Structure of English      

Examines the syntax and discourse of modern English for ESL and EFL teaching. Spotlights practical applications for the classroom. Prerequisite: Language Analysis

Fall 2016 - MIIS, Spring 2018 - MIIS

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LING 8531 - Pedagogical Grammar in FLT      

This course is designed to provide teachers of different languages with opportunities to investigate and practice pedagogical subject matter knowledge and grammar teaching strategies in the language that they teach. There will be a number of different languages represented in the class, which will afford multiple opportunities to explore, investigate, and share a variety of pedagogical perspectives and linguistic experiences.

The course will combine a focus on recent theoretical approaches to grammar (cognitive grammar, construction grammar, systemic – functional grammar) with innovative and practical approaches to teaching and learning in an authentic, action-based and interaction-rich setting.

Spring 2017 - MIIS

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LING 8630 - Second Language Acquisition      

Surveys, in seminar format, research in second-language learning relating to language teaching and learning. Discusses the role of affective variables, interaction, learner strategies, and learner factors in the language acquisition process. Prerequisite: Language Analysis

Fall 2016 - MIIS

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LING 8640 - Applied Linguistics Research      

Requires original research to be conducted by the student on issues such as language attitudes, cultural variables, language learning, or other topics from sociolinguistics and second language acquisition. Introduces a range of research methods, including exposure to various data collection and analysis procedures in both the qualitative and quantitative research traditions.

Spring 2018 - MIIS

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LING 8670 - Applied Linguistics Capstone      

The Applied Linguistics Capstone is designed to help TESOL/TFL students refine their skills as applied linguistics professionals. Course participants will develop either a curriculum project, a, empirical research report, or an assessment tool, using original data that they have collected and analyzed. The course also aims to induce students to reflect on their previous coursework, as well as explore and clarify their future plans for careers as language teaching professionals.

Applied Linguistics Capstone Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs):

Understand processes of inquiry relevant to language education

Plan research activities for designing curriculum and language instruction, assessment, or empirical investigation

Execute data collection procedures

Analyze data using appropriate quantitative and qualitative methods

Synthesize and report findings clearly, convincingly, and creatively for a professional audience

Apply research skills in educational settings

Spring 2017 - MIIS

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